Press Releases

Joint Statement Regarding North Dakota PSC Dismissal of Case Against Meridian Energy Group

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Sarah Eddy, 312-795-3710

Scott Skokos, 701-224-8587

Joint Statement Regarding PSC Dismissal of Case Against Meridian Energy Group

Bismarck, ND—In a decision today, the North Dakota Public Service Commission (PSC) dismissed the complaint of the Dakota Resource Council and the Environmental Law and Policy Center against Meridian Energy Group, jeopardizing the PSC’s regulatory jurisdiction in the process.

This decision ignores the clear statutory and constitutional mandate for the PSC to act as an independent regulator of North Dakota’s utilities. The PSC’s siting laws are the bedrock of sensible utility siting in North Dakota, including not just for oil refineries, but also for wind, solar, electric transmission, power plants, and pipelines.

Rather than considering the case on its merits, the PSC today chose to dismiss this case without even granting a hearing, concluding that the PSC lacks any authority whatsoever to determine through formal proceedings whether Meridian needs a siting permit to construct a major oil refinery. The PSC chose to rely on an affidavit of Meridian’s CEO to conclude that the company does not need a permit. In other words, the PSC has taken the position that if a company states that it does not need a permit, then the PSC will trust the company at its word. The PSC’s decision ignores its duty as an independent utility regulator and the rights of North Dakotans to seek formal determinations from the PSC. This is a pivotal decision that could broadly affect the PSC’s ability to regulate everything from electric rates, to coal mines, to wind siting, and oil refinery siting, and it should concern all North Dakotans.

The Dakota Resource Council and Environmental Law and Policy Center are conferring with their legal counsel and reviewing next steps, including a review of this decision in district court.

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NEW ELPC REPORT: Indiana Clean Energy Business Supply Chain Report Finds 89 Companies, Good for Hoosier Economy, Good for Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ELPC REPORT:  89 Indiana Clean Energy Businesses –

Good for Indiana’s Economy and Environment Together

 

INDIANAPOLIS – A report released today by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) highlights 89 Indiana companies engaging in accelerating wind power and solar energy as manufacturers, developers, designers, contractors, installers and professional and other services, These companies are employing more than 10,000 Hoosiers across the state.

“Indiana wind power and solar energy development are good for business growth and the environment together,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of ELPC. “Renewable energy development creates manufacturing jobs, including for the tower cables and wires to the protective covers that shield blades from harsh weather, for skilled workers in places like Bremen and Elkhart, and for Indiana construction workers doing the installations.”

The report identified that clean energy supply chain companies are widespread. Wind power and solar energy businesses are located in all 9 congressional districts, in 40 of the 50 state senate districts, and in 56 of the 100 state house districts.

However, Indiana has recently taken major backward steps on its clean energy policies, such as eliminating retail net metering by July 2022 for distributed solar energy generation, and ending its mandatory energy efficiency resource standard that created jobs and saved people money on their utility bills.

“The report demonstrates that Indiana changed course and is moving its clean energy initiatives in the wrong direction,” said Learner. “State leaders must take strong targeted policy actions for Indiana to regain momentum and advance clean energy growth that will lower Hoosiers’ utility bills and reduce carbon pollution.”

Additional groups that participated in ELPC’s report included Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana, Hoosier Environmental Council, Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance and others. The report calls for Indiana to adopt new policies to support accelerated growth of renewables and energy efficiency to remain competitive in the growing clean energy economy. Some of those policies, addressed in the report, should include:

  • setting strong clean energy targets by adopting a mandatory renewable energy standard
  • developing a stronger Integrated Resource Planning Process (IRP);
  • providing stronger tools for clean energy financing by reinstating net metering;
  • enacting a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program;
  • requiring utilities to comply with the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA)

“Energy is an important part of the infrastructure that businesses look to when deciding where to open up shop,” said Janet McCabe, Senior Law Fellow at ELPC, former US EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, and assistant director for policy and implementation at Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute. “We know many businesses have embraced sustainability and placed a priority on renewable energy. Indiana has the companies and workforce to bring more solar powered businesses here and to develop more wind energy across the state using parts manufactured by Hoosiers.”

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BLM’s Misguided Rule Weakens Methane Flaring Reduction Standards that Avoid Waste and Protect Public Health and Our Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes

Bureau of Land Management’s Misguided Rule Weakens Methane Flaring Reduction Standards that Avoid Waste and Protect Public Health and Our Environment  

Statement by Howard A. Learner

In response to the Trump Administration’s rollback of the existing Methane Waste Reduction Standards avoid waste from oil and gas drilling on public and tribal lands in North Dakota and across the country, Environmental Law & Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Administration is turning its back on common sense methane reduction standards that reduce wasteful energy flaring and protect the public from harmful smog-forming pollution. The current standards call for the use of known technologies and good industry practices to reduce wasteful methane leaks. The new rule would allow more flaring of methane gas—a valuable natural resource. Flaring harms human health, wastes energy resources and costs Americans $1 billion in wasted energy and pollution.

“In North Dakota this rollback will mean more wasted natural gas, less money for impacted communities, and more air pollution from oil and gas drilling on public lands.

“The Bureau of Land Management is ignoring the strong support from more than half a million Americans who favored the existing Methane Waste Reduction Standards and oppose its repeal. The Trump Administration apparently doesn’t care enough about wasting energy, protecting public health or collecting fair revenues from the oil and gas industry drilling on our public lands,” Learner said.

Click Here to read the full rule. 

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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Misguided New Oil & Gas Proposal Weakens Strong Methane Reduction Standards that Avoid Waste and Protect Public Health and Our Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 10, 2018

Contact:
Judith Nemes, Environmental Law & Policy Center, JNemes@elpc.org (312) 795-3706

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Misguided New Oil & Gas Proposal Weakens Strong Methane Reduction Standards that Avoid Waste and Protect Public Health and Our Environment   

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to the Trump Administration’s proposed rollback of existing methane waste reduction standards in connection with oil and gas drilling across the Midwest and the country, Environmental Law & Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Administration’s ideology is trumping common sense methane reduction standards that avoid energy waste and protect the public and our environment from dangerous smog-forming pollution. The current standards call for the use of known technologies and good industry practices to reduce wasteful methane leaks. The new proposal would allow more methane leaks that harm human health and our climate, and waste energy resources.

“The existing EPA standards for new and modified sources of dangerous pollution in the oil and gas industry resulted from an extensive public process and include reasonable cost-effective measures that some companies are already using and some states are already requiring. One study concluded that compliance with the existing standards would generate nearly 5,400 jobs annually in leak detection to reduce emissions at covered facilities. The Trump Administration is again proposing to weaken a sensible federal standard that avoids energy waste and protects public health from smog and reduces harmful climate change pollution,” Learner said.

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View the EPA’s proposal here.

ELPC Supports Specific Components of Illinois EPA Volkswagen Settlement Fund Plan

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:
Al Grosboll, Environmental Law & Policy Center, AGrosboll@elpc.org (217) 652-3866

 

ELPC Supports Specific Components of Illinois EPA Volkswagen Settlement Fund Plan

STATEMENT BY AL GROSBOLL LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR & SENIOR POLICY ADVOCATE ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency today released its final plan for spending the state’s $107 million share of the $2.7 billion Volkswagen Mitigation Trust funds. The Environmental Law & Policy Center has been active in discussions about the plan. Al Grosboll, ELPC’s Legislative Director and Senior Policy Advocate, said in response to the final plan:

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center is supportive of specific components in the Illinois EPA plan,” Grosboll said. “While ELPC will continue to raise some questions about the Agency’s plan, we are pleased the IEPA included funding for electric school buses and electric charging stations for light-duty vehicles. The inclusion of these programs reflects the Agency’s responsiveness to citizen requests and environmental concerns.”

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Environmental Groups Sue U.S. Coast Guard for Approving Northern Michigan Plan and Later Admitting Inability to Respond to an Oil Spill in the Great Lakes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contacts:

Judith Nemes, Environmental Law & Policy Center, JNemes@elpc.org (773) 892-7494

Jordan Lubetkin, National Wildlife Federation, lubetkin@nwf.org  (734) 904-1589

Environmental Groups Sue U.S. Coast Guard for Approving Northern Michigan Plan and Later Admitting Inability to Respond to an Oil Spill in the Great Lakes

Lawsuit Claims that Coast Guard fails to comply with Oil Pollution Act of 1990

DETROIT – Contradicting its certification that the Northern Michigan Area Contingency Plan (NMACP) is adequate to remove a worst case discharge of oil into the Great Lakes, (former) Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft testified under oath before Congress that the Coast Guard is not prepared for a major pipeline oil spill in the Great Lakes. The Coast Guard disregarded the law when it approved the NMACP, while then publicly admitting that the Coast Guard is “not semper paratus for a major pipeline oil spill in the Great Lakes.”

The Environmental Law & Policy Center and the National Wildlife Federation filed a lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan asking the Court to declare that the Coast Guard violated the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) when it approved the NMACP, thereby invalidating the portions which apply to oil pipelines in the Great Lakes. As a result, any individual Facility Response Plan for an oil pipeline operating in the open waters of the Great Lakes, such as the Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, would likewise be invalid. The U.S. Coast Guard in June 2017 approved the NMACP, purportedly certifying that the plan was in substantial compliance with all of its requirements, including the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

“The U.S. Coast Guard admitted that it’s not fully ready and fully able to protect the Great Lakes from a major oil spill as required for a response plan under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director and attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  “The Great Lakes are where we live, work and play, and supply safe clean drinking water for 42 million people. If the U.S. Coast Guard is unable to fulfill its emergency response duties, then our Great Lakes waters are even more at risk from a potential Enbridge Line 5 oil pipeline spill.”

In 2014, Enbridge discovered dozens of damaged areas on the 4.5-mile segment of Line 5 that runs underneath the Straits of Mackinac. Environmental advocacy groups have been calling for Enbridge to shut down Line 5 before a major break potentially sends oil flowing into Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Earlier this year, an anchor strike dented portions of the pipeline and Enbridge was forced to reduce the pressure in Line 5 by 40% as a critical precautionary step.

“The Coast Guard’s admission that it cannot adequately address an oil spill in the Great Lakes puts our most important natural resource at risk,” said Margrethe Kearney, Senior Attorney of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The Coast Guard’s failure to ensure that there is a plan in place to respond to a worst-case oil spill threatens our access to a clean drinking water supply, our irreplaceable Great Lakes and unique wildlife habitats, and the strength of our Pure Michigan economy.”

“Until we decommission this aging, risky pipeline, we need the best-possible spill response plan to protect our Great Lakes, our communities, our wildlife, and our economy,” said Oday Salim, Staff Attorney for the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center. “A worst-case oil spill from Line 5, even according to an Enbridge-funded study, could impact over 400 miles of shoreline and 60,000 acres of unique wildlife habitat as well as cause billions in economic losses and the irrevocable loss of wildlife and cultural resources.”

 

 

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EPA’s New Power Plan Will Reverse U.S. Efforts to Cut Carbon Pollution and Allow Old Coal Plants to Keep Polluting Our Air

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes

EPA’s New Power Plan Will Reverse U.S. Efforts to Cut Carbon Pollution and Allow Old Coal Plants to Keep Polluting Our Air
Clean Power Plan had U.S. poised for shift to renewable energy growth, better public health, boosting clean energy jobs

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal to replace its 2015 Clean Power Plan, which established the first federal standards to reduce carbon pollution from existing coal plants, ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Trump administration’s EPA is actively seeking to undermine smart climate change solutions and a clean energy future. The Clean Power Plan helps drive the U.S. economy toward modern renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies that improve public health and boost clean energy jobs in the Midwest and elsewhere.

“Instead, the Trump administration is putting its political donors and polluters ahead of public health, climate solutions and clean energy jobs. America’s Heartland is well positioned to lead us forward in delivering climate change solutions powered by wind power and solar energy and maximizing energy efficiency that are good for Midwest jobs and economic growth.  The Trump administration’s plan would move our nation backwards and cost American jobs.

“It’s time for America to move forward not backward with clean energy solutions to our climate change problems.”

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Press Release: Solar Industry and Illinois Farm Bureau Collaborate to Guarantee Tax Revenue for Rural Communities and Protect Farmland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Solar Industry and Illinois Farm Bureau Collaborate to Guarantee Tax Revenue for Rural Communities and Protect Farmland

New law will protect farmland and help ensure $250-350 million in tax revenue for rural Illinois

Springfield, Illinois – August 13, 2018 – Governor Rauner has signed two bills that will help ensure solar development benefits farmers and rural communities in Illinois.  The state’s solar industry worked with the Illinois Farm Bureau, local authorities and other stakeholders to shape SB 486, which creates a standard tax assessment value for solar farms in Illinois, and SB 2591, which sets standards for the construction and deconstruction of solar farms on agricultural land. The Illinois House and Senate passed both bills unanimously and Governor Rauner signed the final piece of legislation on August 10th.

The solar property tax legislation (SB 486) sets a standard tax assessment value for large solar installations, creating certainty around the property tax revenue that solar farms will pay to local taxing bodies, helping to fund schools, roads and other critical services. Under the legislation, each megawatt (MW) of ground-mounted solar installed in Illinois will generate an average of $6,000-$8,000 per year in property tax revenue. The industry expects to install up to 2,000 MW of ground-mounted solar farms by 2021, which will create a total $250-$350 million in property tax revenue over a 25-year lifespan. Under Illinois’ funding formula, approximately 70% of this revenue will be dedicated to funding schools.

“Solar energy is a rapidly growing industry in Illinois, and it’s good not only for the environment but also for the economy,” said Illinois Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), sponsor of SB 486. “It is my hope that the revenue generated from this industry can benefit local schools and communities and encourage the continued growth of solar power in our state.”

“Solar businesses are ready and willing to create new jobs, clean energy and tax revenue to support Illinois communities. This bill provides a framework for us to move forward,” said Lesley McCain, executive director of the Illinois Solar Energy Association. “The solar industry was proud to work with the Farm Bureau, county tax assessors and school districts to develop smart solar legislation that benefits all Illinoisans.”

The solar industry worked in partnership with Environmental Law & Policy Center and other advocates to support smart solar policy in Illinois.

“ELPC has helped drive clean energy development in Illinois, and we are pleased that Governor Rauner has signed the solar energy legislation that the General Assembly passed this spring,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  “The stage is set even better to accelerate solar energy development that is good for job creation and good for a cleaner energy future in Illinois.”

The farmland legislation (SB 2591) ensures that solar farms can coexist with agriculture in Illinois while providing long-term benefits to soil and water quality. SB 2591 requires that solar developers enter into an Agricultural Impact Mitigation Agreement (AIMA) with the Illinois Department of Agriculture prior to solar farm construction. The AIMA will set standards for solar construction and deconstruction and require financial assurances from developers that land will be restored to its prior use at the end of a solar farm’s life.

Governor Rauner signed SB 486 on August 10th and SB 2591 on June 29th. These bills will help Illinois reach its statewide goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025 while also driving economic development, new jobs and reducing pollution from electric generation.

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Press Release: Environmental Groups Push MidAmerican Energy to Commit to a Comprehensive Clean Energy Transition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Environmental Groups Push MidAmerican Energy to Commit to a Comprehensive Clean Energy Transition

Call for Wind XII Approval to Require Coal Retirements

 

Des Moines, Iowa — The Iowa Environmental Council and Environmental Law & Policy Center filed testimony with the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) in MidAmerican Energy’s Wind XII docket. Kerri Johannsen, Energy Program Director with the Iowa Environmental Council, provided the testimony on behalf of both groups, calling for approval of the additional wind to include requirements for equivalent coal capacity retirements. The groups also strongly recommended MidAmerican outline a process for a comprehensive clean energy transition that includes wind, solar, storage and demand side resources such as energy efficiency and demand response.

MidAmerican is touting Wind XII as the final project in the 100% Renewable Vision the company announced in 2016. However, MidAmerican has not announced a single coal plant retirement since setting this benchmark. The company owns and operates five coal plants in Iowa with a total of 3,740 MW of nameplate capacity and is majority owner of the 725 MW Ottumwa Generating Station.

According to 2016 data from the Energy Information Administration, this level of capacity puts MidAmerican’s coal fleet in the top 20 largest fleets of any utility in the country — at 19 — out of the 164 companies that own at least 100MW of coal generation. Construction of new coal plants is not cost-effective and utilities around the U.S. are announcing coal retirements on an almost daily basis. By betting on coal, MidAmerican will only climb in this undesirable ranking.

“The state of Iowa and MidAmerican’s wind energy leadership is commendable,” said Josh Mandelbaum, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “However, a comprehensive clean energy vision requires a plan for retiring dirty coal plants and replacing them with a diverse mix of renewable resources including wind, solar, storage, and energy efficiency.”

MidAmerican filed its proposal for Wind XII on May 30, 2018. Wind XII is a 591 MW, $922 million project that would be completed by late 2020.

Wind generation provides significant benefits including hedging risks from fuel price volatility and geo-political uncertainty, environmental benefits, and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.  However, as Johannsen points out, “[m]any benefits MidAmerican claims for Wind XII are unlikely to occur unless coupled with retirement of coal capacity.”

Utilities around the country have begun proposing comprehensive clean energy transition plans. Johannsen’s testimony summarizes several examples of utilities retiring coal plants and replacing them with a mix of wind, solar, storage, and energy efficiency including Xcel Energy in Colorado, Consumers Energy in Michigan, and MidAmerican’s sister Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries, NV Energy and PacifiCorp.

Iowa’s wind leadership helped the state attract companies such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook that wanted to invest in a state that offered affordable, renewable energy for their power needs. Says Johannsen, “To remain competitive, Iowa utilities must not settle for the status quo, but instead continue to show leadership in clean energy innovation or the state will fall behind other emerging leaders.”

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Environmental & Public Health Groups Challenge US EPA’s Decision to Exclude Areas from Ozone Non-attainment List that Would Trigger Clean-up

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Environmental and Public Health Groups Challenge US EPA’s Decision to Exclude Areas from Ozone Non-attainment List that Would Trigger Clean-up

 

Washington, D.C. — On August 2, the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and Respiratory Health Association (RHA) sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, challenging the EPA’s final rule, published in June 2018, that identified areas that meet and fail to meet the 2015 ozone air quality health standard.

ELPC and RHA are challenging the exclusion of certain areas in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana from the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis “non-attainment” areas that have smog levels above the 2015 standard.

“EPA has sadly disregarded the plain facts and sound science in making these designations,” said Howard Learner, ELPC’s Executive Director. “EPA has not followed the letter or the spirit of the Clean Air Act and has excluded areas involving unhealthy air quality for millions of Midwesterners. Cleaner air is essential to public health and a strong economy in our region.”

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to designate non-attainment areas in counties where air quality fails to meet federal health standards for ozone and where local emissions contribute to unhealthy air quality. The states must then take steps to reduce emissions of the air pollution that cause smog.

In 2015, EPA issued a more protective ozone air health standard, which triggered a process to identify violating areas so that clean air planning could begin. In the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis areas, EPA originally proposed more comprehensive non-attainment areas, but excluded certain areas in its final decision in June in response to requests from the states.

“We are very concerned that EPA would dial back these decisions,” said Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Health Programs at Respiratory Health Association in Chicago. “Everyone deserves to breathe clean air, and EPA’s decision puts area residents at risk of more lung infections, asthma attacks, and hospitalizations for respiratory problems.”

Ozone is formed when pollution emitted by power plants, industrial facilities, motor vehicles and other activities reacts with sunlight to form ozone. Ozone, also known as “smog,” is a lung irritant and harms people with asthma or other respiratory diseases, older adults, children and other vulnerable people. It can drive kids and sensitive adults inside on hot sunny summer days  and put outdoor workers at risk.

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