Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE: Dane County Board of Supervisors Rejects High Power Transmission Line

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
David Clutter, Driftless Area Land Conservancy
608-930-3252

Judith Nemes, ELPC
312-795-3706/JNemes@elpc.org

Dane County Board of Supervisors Rejects High Power Transmission Line 

MADISON, WI. –  Dane County Board of Supervisors voted to oppose ATC’s Cardinal-Hickory Creek high-voltage transmission line and tall towers. The transmission line would carve a wide path from Middleton, Wisc., to Dubuque, Iowa, across conservancy land, private farms, school district property and many sensitive natural areas in the treasured Driftless Region. The board voted to oppose the transmission line 33-0, with two abstentions.

“This is a major victory in our efforts to oppose this expensive, unnecessary and damaging transmission line,” said David Clutter, Executive Director of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy (DALC). “The Dane County Board of Supervisors sent a convincing message that this transmission line should be stopped. The vote helps to assure that beautiful scenic lands, important habitats and farmland in the Driftless Area will be protected.”  

“The Dane County Board recognized that this huge and expensive transmission line is not needed to meet Wisconsin’s power needs,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which serves as legal counsel for DALC. “There are better, cheaper and cleaner energy alternatives for Wisconsin’s future.”

Learner added: “It’s vital to protect the scenic Driftless Area, which is a center of nature and tourism. Hopefully, ATC will reconsider its controversial high-voltage transmission line plan and avoid contentious legal proceedings.”

The Board of Supervisors’ resolution states, in part: “Now is the time to begin increasing reliance on advanced technology, robust regional planning, innovative commercial practices and coordinated local system operations rather than to construct the proposed 345 kV transmission line.

“The Dane County Board of Supervisors calls upon the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, Governor Walker, and the Wisconsin Legislature to oppose the construction and operation of the proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek transmission line and not grant any permits, certificates or other approvals needed for the proposed transmission line.”

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PRESS RELEASE: Federal Infrastructure Plan Promotes Pollution and Privatization

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Federal Infrastructure Plan Promotes Pollution and Privatization

 Proposal to gut environmental reviews from planning process is shortsighted, won’t save money

 

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

 

In response to the Trump Administration’s Infrastructure Plan proposal released today:

“America’s infrastructure needs investment and modernizing, but gutting our environmental laws is the wrong way to get there,” Learner said. “President Trump’s plan promotes pollution and privatization.”

“Smart infrastructure investments including modern higher-speed passenger rail for better mobility and water system improvements that advance healthier clean air and safe clean drinking water for all,” Learner said. “The Trump Administration’s proposal goes in the wrong direction and misses the best opportunities for achieving job creation and environmental progress together.”

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PRESS RELEASE: EPA Delay of Clean Water Rule Threatens America’s Safe Drinking Water

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                         

Contact: Judith Nemes

(312) 795-3706

Nemes@elpc.org 

US EPA Delay of Clean Water Rule Threatens America’s Safe Drinking Water

  Pausing Clean Water Standards Wrong for the Great Lakes Region and America

 

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

 

“EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s rush to delay the Clean Water Rule will allow more pollution, threatening safe, clean drinking water in the Midwest,” Learner said “We can’t afford to go backwards when it comes to reducing pollution of our community rivers, lakes and streams.”

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ELPC Joins Environmental Advocacy Groups Call for Pruitt’s Recusal from Clean Power Plan Rulemaking Process

(Washington, D.C. – January 29, 2018) Environmental and legal advocates today submitted a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calling for EPA to withdraw the proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan and for Administrator Scott Pruitt to recuse himself from any further Clean Power Plan proceedings.

Environmental Law & Policy Center together with a coalition including the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Law Foundation, Earthjustice, Sierra Club, and Union of Concerned Scientists sent the letter, which lists evidence that shows Pruitt has predetermined the outcome of the process:

“Administrator Pruitt’s comments about the Clean Power Plan make it clear that the deck is stacked and, unfortunately, his mind is closed,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Fortunately, federal clean air standards can’t be arbitrarily repealed, but require rigorous, impartial analysis and a decision maker with an open mind who has the interests of all Americans at heart. Administrator Pruitt’s mind appears unalterably closed in this case, and he should be recused from this EPA decision.”

The Clean Power Plan — America’s only nationwide limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants — is the most significant step our nation has taken to tackle dangerous climate change. Once fully implemented, the Clean Power Plan would prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths a year, according to a recent analysis issued by Pruitt’s EPA.

On October 16, 2017, EPA released a proposal to repeal the Clean Power Plan. If finalized, a repeal would leave the U.S. unprotected from our largest stationary source of carbon pollution — even as the urgent threat of climate change becomes ever clearer.

“As the letter documents, Administrator Pruitt’s statements reveal a firmly closed mind on the Clean Power Plan; he has described the CPP’s repeal in ways flatly incompatible with the Clean Air Act’s requirements for a meaningful public process before a final decision is made,” said Sean H. Donahue, counsel for EDF.

The Due Process Clause forbids an official from presiding over a rulemaking when the official has an “unalterably closed mind” about the subject matter, and the Clean Air Act requires a transparent rulemaking process where a final decision is issued only after careful consideration of the law, science, and public comments.

“Scott Pruitt’s tenure as EPA administrator is rife with conflicts of interest. As Oklahoma attorney general, he played a leading role in litigating the EPA’s Clean Power Plan on behalf of his fossil fuel industry campaign contributors. He cannot serve in the conflicting roles of lawyer for one side, judge and jury, and executioner of the Clean Power Plan,” said Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It is a clear violation of law for Scott Pruitt to participate in this matter, and it deprives the American public of an open-minded decisionmaker. If Administrator Pruitt really wants to keep his promise to restore ’the rule of law’ at the EPA, he must recuse himself immediately.”

Administrator Pruitt has also publicly repudiated the legal authority for the Clean Power Plan and described the rulemaking process in ways that make clear that he has no intention of considering options other than repeal.

The groups’ letter says Pruitt “has departed egregiously from constitutional and statutory norms meant to protect the public’s ability meaningfully to participate in rulemakings and safeguard the integrity of the administrative process.”

“Pruitt was dancing on the grave of the Clean Power Plan before the rulemaking process had even begun,” said Vera Pardee, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s clear Pruitt is hell-bent on killing this crucial climate protection for his friends in the fossil fuel industry, no matter how many lives the rule would save.”

“Scott Pruitt is not fit to participate in any rulemaking process to withdraw the Clean Power Plan. His shrill and steadfast hostility to this critical climate safeguard, as well as his cozy ties to corporate polluters, make clear that he cannot be an impartial decision maker in these matters,” said Joanne Spalding, Deputy Legal Director and Chief Climate Counsel for Sierra Club. “The law therefore requires his recusal from EPA’s misbegotten effort to rescind the Clean Power Plan, and we call upon him to step aside immediately.”

Numerous states have also called on Pruitt to recuse himself from the Clean Power Plan repeal rulemaking and for the current proposal to be withdrawn.

PRESS RELEASE: Energy Experts Urge DTE Energy to Choose Affordable Renewables Over Billion-Dollar Gas Plant

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 12, 2018

MEDIA CONTACTS
David Jakubiak, Director of Media, ELPC, djakubiak@elpc.org, (312) 795-3713
Zadie Oleksiw, Communications Manager, zadie@votesolar.org (202) 836-5754
Sam Gomberg, Senior Energy Analyst, SGomberg@ucsusa.org, (773) 941-7916

Energy Experts Urge DTE Energy to Choose Affordable Renewables Over Billion-Dollar Gas Plant

Analysis Shows Solar, Wind and Energy Efficiency Will Provide More Affordable, Reliable Power for Michigan Customers

DETROIT, MI –  Groups including Vote Solar, Union of Concerned Scientists and the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) are urging Michigan regulators to require DTE Energy to evaluate renewable energy sources before building its proposed billion-dollar natural gas power plant. The groups presented two separate analyses today to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) showing that using renewable energy like wind and solar would cost less for DTE Energy customers than building a gas plant, with the savings estimates ranging from $339 million to $1.2 billion.

“Using DTE’s own analysis tools, our analysis shows that this billion-dollar gas proposal is simply not the best way to provide reliable, affordable, and clean electricity for Michigan customers,” said Becky Stanfield, Senior Director of Western States at Vote Solar. “The bottom line is that solar, wind and efficiency can do the job for less, and DTE should not be locking Michigan energy customers into paying for this costly gas option. More clean energy investment is also better for the state’s economy, building on a growing industry that already employs more than ninety-thousand Michiganders.”

Under a new resource planning law updated by state legislators in 2016, Michigan utilities must seek a “certificate of need” if they want assurance that they can pass the costs of building a plant of this size on to its customers.  In order to gain that approval, they must demonstrate that their proposed investment is the “most prudent” way to serve its customers’ electricity needs.

“DTE did not meet its burden to show that their proposed gas plant was the best option for Michigan customers” Sam Gomberg, senior energy analyst at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Under Michigan’s electricity planning law, the Commission should send the company back to the drawing board.”

DTE Energy petitioned the MPSC for the certificate on July 31, asking to build an 1100 megawatt (MW) natural gas-fired power plant in St. Clair County, replacing older coal-fired units in the area, which are retiring between now and 2023.

“DTE is overlooking flexible, reliable, renewable resources that can deliver affordable energy to their customers,” said Margrethe Kearney, senior staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center.  “DTE failed to seriously look at solar and wind power, battery storage, energy efficiency, and demand response, which would give DTE the flexibility it needs to integrate clean, cost-effective renewables that are good for Michigan’s economy and environment.”

The Commission will review testimony presented by a range of experts from across the country, including those representing Vote Solar, Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

“DTE’s analysis was based on outdated and inaccurate assumptions about the costs and performance of solar power,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Our hope is that the Commission will put the interests of customers first, and ask DTE to start over with numbers that better reflect reality.”

Hearings on DTE Energy’s gas plant proposal will take place in February and a final order on the MPSC’s decision is expected April 2.

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Press Release: U.S. EPA Report Shows Fuel Economy Standards Saving Americans Money, Cutting Pollution

For Immediate Release
January 12, 2018

Contact: Judith Nemes

EPA Trends and Performance Report:
Fuel Economy Standards Helping Americans Save At the Gas Pump, Cut Pollution That Is Harming Public Health

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 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Trends and Performance Reports released Thursday:

“The EPA’s Trends Report shows clean car standards are driving innovation in auto manufacturing and putting fuel saving technologies to work. These standards are helping cars and light trucks to emit less pollution and use less gasoline and oil – that’s good for consumers, good for clean air, good for our climate, and good for reducing our dependence on oil.”

“Keeping strong fuel economy and clean car standards will ensure that American cars and trucks continue to improve with innovation technologies that deliver more and better choices for consumers along with fuel savings and less pollution.”

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President Trump’s BLM Gutting Methane Standards Move is Wasteful, Misguided, and Unpopular

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: David Jakubiak

President Trump’s Bureau of Land Management Gutting Methane Standards Move is Wasteful, Misguided, and Unpopular

Statement by Howard A. Learner

Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center

“President Trump’s Bureau of Land Management is gutting the standards designed to reduce wasteful flaring of methane. That misguided action hurts people, wastes a resource and adds pollution. In a poll last year, 60% of North Dakota Republicans and 59% of independents supported strong standards to reduce flaring in federal and tribal lands. That’s common sense. An estimated $76 million in natural gas is flared annually on North Dakota’s public and tribal lands. Instead of wasting that resource, we should be advancing use of innovative technologies to reduce waste, keeping jobs and money in the state.”

BREAKING: ELPC Joins EDF, OEC Ask Ohio Supreme Court to Block FirstEnergy Bailout

 

December 1, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

 

Groups Challenge FirstEnergy Bailout at Ohio Supreme Court
Joint statement from EDF, OEC and ELPC

COLUMBUS –  The Ohio Environmental Council, Environmental Defense Fund, and Environmental Law & Policy Center today appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s (PUCO) bailout for utility giant FirstEnergy. Last year, the PUCO approved a plan to provide FirstEnergy with more than $600 million over a three-year period in no-strings-attached subsidies for its uneconomic coal and nuclear plants.

Since the PUCO’s ruling Ohioans have already paid over $120 million of the $600 million bailout to FirstEnergy. While FirstEnergy will keep the money they’ve already collected even if the Supreme Court overturns the PUCO’s ruling, we are filing our appeal to the Supreme Court to protect Ohio ratepayers from further unjustified bailout payments.

“Last year, when Ohio regulators tried to hand FirstEnergy $4 billion to keep its outdated, uneconomic power plants operating, federal regulators came to the rescue and blocked the deal. But the utility giant is relentless and devised a new bailout plea that didn’t require federal oversight, which state regulators quickly rubber-stamped. We are confident the Ohio Supreme Court will recognize Ohioans should not be responsible for FirstEnergy’s bad business decisions, and overturn the $600 million bailout.”

  • Dick Munson, Midwest Policy Director, Clean Energy, Environmental Defense Fund

“With an abundance of renewable energy opportunity in the Buckeye State, it doesn’t make sense that our state regulators agreed to raise Ohioans’ electric bills to subsidize plants that are old and expensive. These consumer-funded subsidies distort trends in the market that would otherwise be pushing electric utilities to innovate, creating cleaner, more efficient generation options. I’m confident that the Ohio Supreme Court will side with the customers, ensuring a cleaner, prosperous future for all.”

  • Trish Demeter, Vice President of Policy, Ohio Environmental Council

“We are challenging this bailout because it raises electric bills for Ohio families to pay off FirstEnergy’s shareholders, and provides no benefits to customers. Instead of bailing out failing coal plants, we should help lower customer bills and pollution through energy efficiency.”

  • Madeline Fleisher, attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center

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Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading international nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, and our Energy Exchange blog. 

Ohio Environmental Council (theoec.org) The Ohio Environmental Council is the state’s most comprehensive, effective and respected environmental advocate for a healthier, more sustainable Ohio. Our experts work daily to restore, protect, and strengthen the quality of life for families and communities—from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the food we eat and natural resources we enjoy.

Environmental Law & Policy Center (elpc.org) is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy organization. We develop strategic campaigns to protect natural resources and improve environmental quality. Our multi-disciplinary staff employs teamwork approaches using legal, economic, and public policy tools to produce successes that improve our environment and economy.

 

News Release: Michigan Public Service Commission Sets Rates for Clean Energy

For Immediate Release

Michigan Public Service Commission Sets Rates for Clean Energy

Rate Certainty Sets Stage for New Private Investments, Solar Energy Development

LANSING, MI – An order setting rates for renewable energy developers from Consumers Energy will create the certainty necessary to spur private investments and new growth in solar energy while ensuring utility customers’ electricity rates don’t increase.

“The Commission adopted a strong methodology that reflects the value solar provides to Michigan during peak periods,” said Margrethe Kearney, senior staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Grand Rapids, Mich. “This decision makes Michigan more attractive for renewable energy development at no additional cost to ratepayers.”

The Commission adopted new avoided cost rates that Consumers Energy must pay to renewable energy facilities in Michigan for the power those facilities supply to the grid.  This completes Michigan’s first update in 25 years of the approach utilities must take under federal law to compensate the owners of qualified clean energy facilities.

Solar industry officials hailed Wednesday’s announcement saying it can help make Michigan a leader in Midwest solar.

“The Commission correctly recognized the significant long-term value of solar to Michigan, and the need to update old rules to capture that value,” said Rick Umoff, director of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Solar companies can now ratchet up investment in Michigan’s economy, creating well-paying jobs and providing clean reliable energy to the state.”

Advocates also celebrated the news.

“The Commission’s decision to enable a level playing field for clean energy will launch a new wave of solar development in Michigan,” said Becky Stanfield, senior director of western states at Vote Solar. “Michigan’s leadership demonstrates to regulators and lawmakers across the country how to attract private investments, build a clean energy economy, and create local jobs that can’t be outsourced.”

The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) was enacted in 1978 to encourage renewable energy development, reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and promote energy independence. It requires utilities to purchase energy from small qualified cogeneration and renewable energy providers and establishes what are known as “avoided costs” and “must-buy prices” that utilities pay to small renewable energy providers. Since its inception, PURPA has spurred more than 16 GW of cumulative capacity across the country.

In June, the Commission established avoided cost calculations based on the costs of energy and capacity from new natural gas facilities, creating an even playing field for independent developers of qualified clean energy projects. The order also simplifies the development and financing process for small projects by establishing 20-year contracts at a standard rate for projects up to 2 megawatts in size. Previously only projects up to 100 kilowatts were eligible.

Read the Commission’s order.

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Press Release: EPA Admits Ohio Failed to Evaluate Open Waters of Lake Erie

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                             Contact: Judith Nemes                                                                             

EPA Admits Ohio Failed to Evaluate Open Waters of Lake Erie

 ELPC warns EPA’s reluctance to designate all of Lake Erie impaired endangers drinking water for Ohioans & imperils the environment

Toledo, OH – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admitted late Friday that it does not believe Ohio EPA fully evaluated pollution in Lake Erie in response to a lawsuit by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and co-plaintiffs Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie (ACLE), Susan Matz, and Michael Ferner, that was filed in July. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Toledo, seeks a designation of the open waters of the western basin of Lake Erie as “impaired” under the Clean Water Act because periodic harmful algal blooms are preventing those waters from meeting basic state water quality standards.

U.S. EPA’s response to the complaint expressly admits that Ohio EPA did not assess whether these algal blooms are impairing the open waters of Lake Erie, despite the existence of information that the state could have evaluated to determine the status of the open waters.  This is a central allegation by the plaintiffs in their argument that U.S. EPA should have rejected Ohio’s decision not to designate the open waters of the Lake’s western basin as impaired.

“EPA’s response shows that Ohio has no excuse for its failure to recognize the full scope of the effects of harmful algal blooms on Lake Erie,” said Madeline Fleisher, an ELPC senior attorney in Columbus, Ohio. “EPA’s acceptance of Ohio’s decision despite this lapse exemplifies the agency’s unwillingness to take aggressive action to address this problem in Ohio and the Lake Erie region. We expect better from the agencies that are supposed to be leading the way on protecting people and the environment.”

“The Clean Water Act is still the law of the land and we intend to make the EPA do its job to protect our environment, our health and Toledo’s drinking water,” said Mike Ferner, ACLE coordinator.

Algal blooms can produce toxins that make people and pets seriously ill when ingested, and can also harm aquatic species by poisoning water or using up oxygen to create “dead zones” in the lake. The algal blooms are caused by phosphorus pollution that primarily comes from manure and fertilizer running off of agricultural land.

“Without the impairment designation, Ohio is likely to continue relying on unenforceable, voluntary measures to reduce phosphorus pollution that won’t do enough to fix the problem,” said Fleisher

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