Press Releases

Press Release: ELPC Urges US Senate to Preserve Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

ELPC Urges U.S. Senate to Preserve Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

  House overwhelmingly rejects amendment to repeal energy programs

 

Washington, D.C. – During consideration of the Farm Bill (The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018), the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly rejected an amendment from Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ) to repeal the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) and other Farm Bill Energy Title initiatives by a stunning 82%. The vote was 340 to 74.

In response, Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said:

“The bipartisan House vote preserving the Energy Title sends a strong message that attempts to cut farm energy efforts should cease. Congress should step up and increase funding for effective farm energy initiatives like the Rural Energy for America Program. REAP serves all agricultural sectors and has benefited farmers throughout the Midwest and across the country.”

Representatives Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Kristi Noem (R-SD) led the House floor opposition to the measure and spoke strongly in support of these programs during the debate over the Farm Bill.

“The resounding defeat of the Biggs Amendment sends a strong signal to the Senate that these programs have bipartisan support and should be renewed with mandatory funding,” said Ann Mesnikoff, ELPC’s Federal Legislative Director.

The failed Farm Bill was defeated on a bipartisan vote of 213-198. The defeated measure would have wholly eliminated reliable mandatory funding for programs in the Energy Title, including the REAP.

REAP provides grants and loan guarantees to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to adopt energy efficiency and renewable energy. REAP has been highly popular with farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses in the Midwest, with requests regularly exceeding available funds.

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Press Release: ELPC Collaborates with Ameren Illinois on Commitment to put 300,000 Smart Thermostats in Customer Homes & Businesses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ameren Illinois Announces Commitment to put 300,000 Smart Thermostats in Customer Homes and Businesses

Collaboration with leading brands, environmental advocates  Rebates and incentives provided through Ameren Illinois energy efficiency programs 

East St. Louis, IL (May 16, 2018) – Building on its commitment to help customers become more energy efficient, Ameren Illinois announced an initiative to put 300,000 smart thermostats in customer homes and businesses. Ameren Illinois Chairman and President Richard J. Mark was joined by Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) Chairman Brien Sheahan, as well as representatives from the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and leading manufacturers ecobee and Nest in announcing the plan Wednesday afternoon in East St. Louis.

Ameren Illinois customers can purchase a qualified ENERGY STAR® smart thermostat and apply online to receive a $100 discount in the mail.  An instant smart thermostat rebate and an online marketplace will be available in the next few weeks to make the process even easier for customers to save.  Rebates are being provided to customers through energy efficiency program funding approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission under the landmark Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA).

The initiative also seeks to get smart thermostats into the residences of income-eligible customers. Those qualified can now have one of the devices installed for free as part of the Ameren Illinois Energy Efficiency Program.

“When the Future Energy Jobs Act was passed, we made a bold commitment to ensure that benefits of energy efficiency would be available to all of our customers, especially those with limited financial means,” said Mark. “With today’s announcement, we’re living up to that promise. Putting 300,000 smart thermostats in customer homes and businesses is an ambitious goal, but we’re confident that with the collaboration of our partners we can make that vision a reality.”

Easy to install and operate, use of a smart thermostat can save between 10 and 15 percent on heating and cooling costs. The devices enable customers to adjust settings on the go via smartphone apps. Additionally, many smart thermostats models can sense when the homeowner and/or residents are away from home and automatically modify the temperature, further reducing energy usage.

“Smart thermostats will empower Ameren Illinois residential and business customers to better manage their energy usage, and give them more control over their monthly bill,” said ICC Chairman Brien J. Sheahan.  “On behalf of Governor Bruce Rauner and the ICC, we applaud Ameren Illinois for continuing the state’s more than 100-year tradition of leadership on energy issues by embracing new innovation and technology, like smart thermostats, that help our state reach its energy efficiency goals.”

“Smart thermostats will help consumers to stop cooling and heating empty homes,” said Rob Kelter, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “With this initiative, Ameren Illinois is stepping up to help its customers save money and reduce pollution at the same time.”

The initiative is bolstered by the active involvement from leading smart thermostat brands, including Nest and ecobee.  Since 2011, Nest thermostats around the world have helped customers save more than 22 billion kilowatt-hours of energy and their work with Ameren is in service of this mission to bring energy efficiency to more homes across the U.S.

ecobee introduced the world’s first smart wi-fi thermostat to help homeowners save money, conserve energy and live more comfortably.  “We applaud the commitment that Ameren Illinois is making here today and are thrilled to offer the Ameren Illinois customers a better way to save on their energy bill and reduce their carbon footprint,” said Stuart Lombard, president and CEO of ecobee.

Ameren Illinois’ energy efficiency program is recognized as one of the best in the country – rated #12 by ACEEE, an independent energy efficiency organization. Over the past nine years, Ameren Illinois has helped its customers reduce their energy usage by nearly 12 million megawatt-hours, saving them approximately $781 million. This improved energy efficiency has enabled Ameren Illinois customers to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 8.3 million metric tons – the equivalent of taking nearly 1.8 million cars off the road for a year.

To learn more about the program or apply for smart thermostat rebates, please visit www.AmerenIllinoisSavings.com. Income-eligible customers can also find the home energy audit application on that website or simply call 866.838.6918.

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Press Release: Federal Judge Carr Orders U.S. EPA to Move Quickly to Comply with Clean Water Act and Protect Lake Erie

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes

Federal Judge Carr Orders U.S. EPA to Move Quickly to Comply with Clean Water Act and Protect Lake Erie from Impairment by Harmful Algae Blooms 

U.S. EPA admonished for its “whiff of bad faith” in ignoring its obligations under the Clean Water Act

TOLEDO, Ohio — U.S. District Judge James G. Carr issued a decision late Wednesday directing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to make clear, within 30 days, its position on the impairment of Lake Erie’s open waters. The Court’s order recognized that an “about face” at the 11th hour by U.S. EPA in January 2018 had effectively “adopted and endorsed” the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s argument in its lawsuit that the U.S. EPA’s initial approval of Ohio’s failure to determine open waters of Lake Erie are impaired by pollution violated the Clean Water Act.

Judge Carr held that U.S. EPA’s “legal maneuvering” in withdrawing its original decision at the last minute created a “whiff of bad faith” – after years of delay – in order to defer a final ruling at this time.

“The time for Ohio pollution reduction standards and actions is now,” said Howard Learner, ELPC’s Executive Director.  “As Judge Carr stated in his Opinion: ‘That would mean that much sooner, rather than later, the right of all persons dependent upon a clean, toxic-algae-free Lake Erie for access to safe drinking water could be accomplished and guaranteed.’

“We’re pleased that the federal district court directed U.S. EPA to comply with the Clean Water Act and make a clear determination within 30 days that Lake Erie’s open waters are impaired by pollution,” Learner said. “The court agreed with our legal position that U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA have improperly dragged their feet for years instead of stepping up to take prompt and necessary actions to protect Lake Erie from toxic algae blooms.

“The judge’s decision requires the U.S. EPA and Ohio EPA to issue strong standards to prevent pollution from agricultural runoff in order to avoid toxic algae blooms and protects safe clean drinking water in Lake Erie for people in the Toledo area,” Learner said.

Environmental Law & Policy Center, Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie and two of the group’s officers are co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Read Judge Carr’s order here.

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PRESS RELEASE: Illinois Senate Hearing Spotlights Weaknesses of Illinois EPA’s $108 Million VW Settlement Proposal Crafted Behind Closed Doors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 6, 2018

 

 Illinois Senate Hearing Spotlights Weaknesses of Illinois EPA’s $108 Million Volkswagen Settlement Proposal Crafted Behind Closed Doors

Public health & environmental groups call for greater transparency in deciding how VW funds are allocated  

CHICAGO – A Friday Illinois Senate Committee hearing on the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s $108 million Volkswagen settlement proposal highlighted speakers who emphasized the need for greater transparency and called for dramatic changes for how those funds should be spent.

The Senate Environment and Conservation Committee convened a hearing in Chicago that featured public health and environmental groups urging more of the VW funds in IEPA’s draft proposal be allocated to projects that provide the greatest long-term public health benefits.   Speakers criticized IEPA for failing to hold a single public meeting and instead conducting meetings behind closed doors.

“Illinois EPA’s plan demonstrates the flaws of drafting without public input,” said Susan Mudd, Senior Policy Advocate at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The draft plan misses the opportunity of tapping $108 million to jumpstart the transition to a clean transportation and air quality future for Illinois.”

“By crafting a secret plan behind closed doors with no public hearings, Illinois EPA failed to address long-term health threats from climate change,” said Brian Urbaszewski, Environmental Health Director for Respiratory Health Association. “Zero-emission transportation for Illinois’ school children and people using bus transit should have been given top priority in spending VW funds. We need electric vehicles to both eliminate smog and soot and reduce health threats from an increasingly unstable climate.”

Senators on the committee recently sponsored two separate bills targeting IEPA’s VW planning process. Sen. Cristina Castro introduced a bill that calls for the state agency to hold public meetings and include more participants in drafting the plan. Sen. Heather Steans’ bill requires more electric vehicles to be included in the VW plan.

One bright spot in the plan is a $10 million carve-out for electric school buses. Children are among our most vulnerable population. Every day more than a million Illinois public school students ride on polluting diesel buses and investing in zero-emission school buses is a wise use of VW funds.

Public health and environmental advocates also recommended IEPA designate fewer dollars for off-road vehicles and allocate greater sums for municipal transit buses and electric vehicle charging stations that can improve public health for more people in the state.

“The public was harmed by VW’s emission deception,” said Jen Walling, executive director at the Illinois Environmental Council. “The public should have had a chance to weigh in on the VW settlement funds prior to the draft plan being released. We are grateful to the Senate Environment committee for beginning a public, open conversation on this topic.”

Groups advocating for IEPA to devise a better VW plan include: Illinois Environmental Council, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Respiratory Health Association, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and the American Lung Association.

Volkswagen was ordered to set aside billions in mitigation settlement funds after installing devices in diesel vehicles sold in the U.S. that cheated federal emissions testing.

The public is encouraged to submit comments to EPA.VWSettlement@illinois.gov about how VW funds should be spent. The deadline for submitting comments is April 20.

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Illinois Commerce Commission Approval Puts State on the Path to Strong Renewable Energy Growth, Fixes Concerns from Proposed Order

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: David Jakubiak

Illinois Commerce Commission Approval Puts State on the Path to Strong Renewable Energy Growth, Fixes Concerns from Proposed Order

Long Term Renewable Resource Procurement Plan Sets Stage for Job Creation, Investment in Wind, Solar Energy; Programs Will Bring Clean Energy to Underserved Communities

A roadmap for renewable energy development in Illinois was approved today by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), and should help the state accomplish many of the promises outlined in 2016’s landmark energy policy.

“This Plan and Illinois’ modernized renewable energy policy put our state on the map as one of the nation’s solar leaders,” said Senior Attorney Brad Klein. “We thank the Illinois Power Agency for their work to develop a plan that will benefit all Illinoisans, and we thank the ICC for addressing shortfalls in the proposed order to pass a strong plan that will drive renewable energy development.”

The Illinois Power Agency’s (IPA) Long-Term Renewable Resources Procurement Plan outlines how the state will accomplish its goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2025, prioritizing the building of new wind and solar projects. The Plan establishes standards for the solar programs created by the 2016 law, including community solar and the Illinois Solar for All program, which will develop solar benefitting low-income communities.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center’s analysis shows that through 2030 this plan will lead to the development of enough solar energy and wind power to provide electricity to more than 825,000 homes,” said Policy Advocate MeLena Hessel.. “We’re excited because this plan takes important steps forward to ensure greater access to solar energy through the community solar and Illinois Solar for All programs.”

One highlight of the Plan is the creation of a community solar program. Community solar allows business and residential customers to benefit from solar energy even if they can’t put solar panels on their own property.

“With every policy the devil is the details, and after the law passed, we needed a strong plan to drive growth in wind and solar in Illinois,” Hessel said. “This plan is a solid step forward.”

ELPC is pleased the ICC reversed a provision in the Proposed Order that would have excluded projects built in municipal utilities and rural electric co-ops from participating in the rooftop, community solar and Illinois Solar for All programs.

“We worked closely with solar developers, environmental and consumer groups, and low-income advocates to ensure communities throughout the state achieve the promise of renewable energy,” Hessel added. “We commend the Commission for recognizing the need to expand access to these programs.”

The first two procurements under the Plan, which will be for utility-scale wind and brownfield solar development, are planned for this summer. The Plan’s solar programs will launch after the IPA hires a Program Administrator. The IPA will next update the Plan in 2019.

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PRESS RELEASE: US EPA’s Repeat Midterm Review of Clean Car Standards is Misguided and Flawed

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             Contact: Judith Nemes

April 2, 2018                                                                           (312) 795-3706

JNemes@elpc.org

US EPA’s Repeat Midterm Review of Clean Car Standards is Misguided and Flawed

Keeping the common sense clean car standards will save people money at the gas pump, reduce  pollution, and advance America’s technological innovation leadership and global competitiveness

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that its pollution reduction standards for vehicle Model Years 2022-2025 in coordination with U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) fuel economy standards are no longer “appropriate.” In response, ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The EPA’s misguided decision threatens to shift America into reverse and put U.S. automakers behind in the global competition for cleaner, more fuel efficient cars. The standards that EPA and DOT issued in 2012 were grounded in extensive analysis and remain sound.

“Weakening the standards will undermine innovation and the American auto industry’s competitiveness, stall job creation in the Midwest and lead to more trips to the gas pump for many Americans. The Pruitt EPA should have confirmed the work that US EPA completed in 2017 and move forward with US DOT to ensure that standards stay strong through 2025.”

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ELPC Statement on the FirstEnergy Solutions Bankruptcy

APRIL 1, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: David Jakubiak

ELPC Statement on the FirstEnergy Solutions Bankruptcy

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said in response to FirstEnergy Solutions filing for bankruptcy and the company’s plans to close three nuclear plants:

“FirstEnergy executives made misguided business decisions, which failed in the competitive electricity market. The costs of FirstEnergy’s mistakes shouldn’t be shifted to consumers or taxpayers by asking them to pay more for nuclear plant decommissioning costs,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

“The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has already allowed FirstEnergy to charge consumers for a $600 million bailout for its failing coal and nuclear plants. This bankruptcy shows that’s throwing consumers’ good money after bad,” Learner added.

“ELPC will work to ensure that FirstEnergy assumes responsibility for the costs of its business mistakes, and that coal plant clean up and nuclear plant decommissioning costs are not shifted to consumers or taxpayers,” said Learner.

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ELPC Asks Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Protect Consumers and Taxpayers from FirstEnergy Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Cost Bailout

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: David Jakubiak

ELPC Asks Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Protect Consumers and Taxpayers from FirstEnergy Nuclear Plant Decommissioning Cost Bailout

A Review of Decommissioning Funds Reported by FirstEnergy Indicates Significant Shortfalls, Signaling the Need for Federal Investigation, Strong Action

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) filed a petition with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to affirm FirstEnergy’s legal responsibility as parent company guarantor to demonstrate that it can pay the costs of decommissioning the Beaver Valley 1 & 2, Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, which have shortfalls in their decommissioning trust funds.

“As FirstEnergy is financially stressed and its FirstEnergy Solutions subsidiary verges on bankruptcy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must require these companies to demonstrate financial assurances that they can and will pay for the full costs of decommissioning and cleaning up their nuclear plants,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of ELPC. “Let’s not risk another taxpayer bailout with FirstEnergy’s management leaving the public holding the bag for the necessary decommissioning costs.”

Decommissioning Funding Status Reports filed by FirstEnergy Solutions show hundreds of millions of dollars in shortfalls in the nuclear decommissioning trust funds for these nuclear plants.  FirstEnergy has not recently paid into those funds. The Callan Institute’s 2017 Nuclear Decommissioning Funding Study found that FirstEnergy has a $2.75 billion shortfall for its nuclear plants’ trust funds.

“FirstEnergy is required to set aside enough money to pay for decommissioning costs in order to protect the public from situations exactly like this one,” said Learner.

ELPC filed the petition with the NRC on March 27, 2018. The petition can be downloaded at: ELPC NRC Petition Re: FirstEnergy.

 

 

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PRESS RELEASE: Senate Democrats’ Infrastructure Plan Promotes Real Investments, Not Smoke & Mirrors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Senate Democrats’ Infrastructure Plan Promotes Real Investments, Not Smoke & Mirrors

 Proposal respects need for maintaining environmental laws in planning process

 

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to the Senate Democrats’ Infrastructure Plan proposal released today:

“America’s infrastructure needs modernizing and the Senate Democrats’ plan recognizes the only way to get there is with real investments – not smoke and mirrors,” Learner said. “The Senate Democrats’ infrastructure plan offers a roadmap without eviscerating environmental laws.”

“Smart infrastructure investments including modern higher-speed passenger rail and transit for better mobility and water system improvements are both needed to advance healthier clean air and safe clean drinking water for all,” Learner said. “This is a real opportunity for achieving job creation and environmental progress together.”

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PRESS RELEASE: Environmental Groups Urge Ohio River Commission to Resist Weakening Clean Water Protections, Maintain Pollution Control Standards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Environmental Groups Urge Ohio River Commission to Resist Weakening Clean Water Protections, Maintain Pollution Control Standards

Safe clean drinking water could be threatened for millions

Columbus, OHIO — A coalition of environmental groups from states along the Ohio River is calling for a multi-state commission to resist weakening clean water protections along the 900-mile long river. The decision to scuttle 60-year-old protections would impact millions of people in the states of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.

A majority of commissioners appointed to the Ohio River Valley Sanitation Commission, known as ORSANCO, is proposing revisions to its core mission that would eliminate key Pollution Control Standards and withdraw ORSANCO from the responsibility of ensuring consistent water quality throughout the Ohio River. ORSANCO was created as an interstate water pollution control agency in part to ensure pollution dumped into the Ohio River in one state doesn’t have a negative effect on the waters of another state.

Environmental groups submitted comments to ORSANCO opposing the proposal to eliminate ORSANCO’s water quality standards during a public comment period that ended February 24.

“ORSANCO commissioners walking away from their crucial oversight role will set the stage for a ‘race to the bottom’ in controlling pollution in the Ohio River,” said Madeline Fleisher, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, one of the groups that submitted comments. “We can’t afford to lose the one watchdog in charge of making sure the entire Ohio River is safe and clean for more than four million people who rely on it for their drinking water.”

“The proposed action by ORSANCO jeopardizes water quality achievements and threatens interstate cooperation to control and continue to reduce Ohio River pollution,” said Rich Cogen, Executive Director at Ohio River Foundation and Chair of the Watershed Organizations Advisory Committee for ORSANCO.

“Every person deserves to turn on their tap and know their drinking water is safe,” said Kristy Meyer, Vice President of Policy at the Ohio Environmental Council. “The Ohio River is critical to the local economy and the quality of life in the region which is why ORSANCO should be strengthening its water quality standards, rather than rolling back protections.”

“Sixty years ago, states bordering the Ohio River had the vision to work together to put in place clean water protections that allowed the Ohio River to successfully support industry and commerce, as well as provide clean drinking water for people and a home for fish and wildlife,” said Gail Hesse, Great Lakes Water Director for the National Wildlife Federation. “This foundation of cooperation for a sustainable river has served the region well, and to scuttle it now would be irresponsible.”

“The idea of ORSANCO abandoning their oversight of uniform pollution control standards flies in the face of why the Commission was established in the first place,” said Angie Rosser, Executive Director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. “This move would undermine the ability of the Ohio to recover as a healthy river system.”

“The Ohio River is a critical natural resource with communities investing and generating millions of dollars in riverfront development and recreation,” said Jason Flickner, the Lower Ohio River Waterkeeper Director and Hoosier Chapter Sierra Club board member. “Now is not the time for ORSANCO to relinquish its important work setting pollution limits.”

“We still believe it is a very good idea for ORSANCO to ensure pollution dumped into the Ohio River doesn’t have a negative impact on waters of other states – especially in light of spills from recent times – like the MCHM spill in 2014,” said Robin Blakeman, Project Coordinator of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “Such petrochemical product spills are likely to be more, not less common in the future, especially if the massive Appalachian Petrochemical Storage Hub project becomes reality very close to the Ohio River.”

Environmental groups that submitted comments to ORSANCO include: Environmental Law & Policy Center, Ohio Environmental Council, National Wildlife Federation, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Ohio River Foundation, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Three Rivers Waterkeeper, Sierra Club, Hoosier Environmental Council and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

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