Press Releases

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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Trump Administration Reboot of Fuel Economy & Pollution Standards is Misguided Step Backwards While Global Competitors Keep Moving Forward

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Trump Administration Reboot of Fuel Economy and Pollution Standards is a Misguided Step Backwards While Global Competitors Keep Moving Forward

U.S. EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler continuing Pruitt agenda that will cost people more at the gas pump, increase pollution & reduce America’s technological innovation leadership

STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to rewrite the Clean Car Standards, which proposes to freeze fuel economy and emissions standards at 2020 levels through 2026, ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner said:

“The Trump Administration’s misguided decision to weaken clean car standards threatens to put U.S. automakers behind in the global competition for cleaner, fuel efficient cars and will hit consumers hard in the wallet when they fuel up,” Learner said. “The standards U.S. EPA and DOT issued in 2012 are driving technological innovation, ensuring that America’s cars use less foreign oil and emit less carbon and other toxic air pollution.

“The existing standards would have saved families up to $122 billion at the pump, saved more than 12 billion barrels of oil and kept 6 billion metric tons of dangerous carbon pollution out of the atmosphere. If left in place, these standards would have continued to drive innovation and job growth across the Midwest and beyond. Trump’s EPA and DOT weakened standards would needlessly put a cleaner environment and our children’s future in the backseat.

“Unfortunately, Acting EPA Administrator Wheeler is following in the faulty footsteps of Scott Pruitt instead of resuming the EPA’s statutory mission to protect public health and the environment. The Trump Administration is turning back the clock on the current clean car standards that drive technological innovation and spur manufacturing jobs of the future for the Midwest auto sector.”

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PRESS RELEASE: Defending the Air at Theodore Roosevelt National Park

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Defending the Air at Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Dakota Resource Council, Environmental Law & Policy Center and National Parks Conservation Association Sue State of North Dakota Over Proposed Oil Refinery

Medora, ND – National Parks Conservation Association, the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and the Dakota Resource Council filed a lawsuit against the State of North Dakota today, in response to the state’s issuance of an air permit for a proposed oil refinery near Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The lawsuit, filed by ELPC and Braaten Law Firm, is in response to North Dakota Department of Health’s (NDDoH) approval of an air permit for Meridian Energy Group’s proposed Davis Refinery, which would be the first industrial-sized refinery built in more than 40 years. The plaintiffs oppose the state’s classification of the industrial refinery as a “minor” source of pollution rather than as a “major” source. The permit granted by North Dakota does not provide needed assurances that Meridian Energy will keep pollution to required levels.

“National Parks Conservation Association refuses to stand by and allow Meridian Energy Group to pollute the air within and surrounding Theodore Roosevelt National Park with its proposed oil refinery,” said Stephanie Kodish, Clean Air Program Director for National Parks Conservation Association. “The refinery would produce tens of thousands of barrels of oil each day and lacks necessary safeguards to minimize pollution. We must protect the air quality in the national park, which visitors and surrounding community members breathe, and on which the stunning views and fragile ecosystems depend. This polluting oil refinery betrays the conservation values of the park’s namesake.”

“We have to get this right. Oil refineries can be enormous polluters, and we are not confident this permit will keep air pollution levels low enough to keep the air clean in the Park and the surrounding area,” said Scott Strand, Senior Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The Department of Health is just taking the company’s promises as verifiable facts, and we believe that does not comply with the requirements of the law.”

“The thought of an oil refinery near your home and near a National Park is not pleasant,” said Dakota Resource Council Member Laura Grzanic. “Relying on the in-house research of an unknown company, formed to construct and operate a permanent industrial facility, is frightening. The NDDH will not test for certain hazardous pollutants such as benzene. This lack of testing puts the health and well-being of those of us who live near the proposed site or visit our National Park at risk. The NDDH should reexamine whether or not the emission numbers submitted by Meridian are realistic and also add measures to be certain that the proposed refinery is in compliance with the permit. The dangers from pollutants emitted from this refinery are not hypothetical to those of us living, working, and playing near the refinery.”

Theodore Roosevelt National Park stands as a testament to America’s conservation legacy and the very president who helped shape it. The park welcomed more than 700,000 visitors in 2017 who spent over $47 million in nearby communities, supporting over 550 local jobs.

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PRESS RELEASE: Charge Up Midwest Welcomes DTE Energy Electric Vehicle Pilot Program

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Judith Nemes

Charge Up Midwest Welcomes DTE Energy Electric Vehicle Pilot Program  

Program could push mass EV adoption, offer huge boost to EV charging infrastructure in Midwest 

Lansing, MI. – The largest electric vehicle charging infrastructure pilot in the Midwest was proposed by DTE Energy today as part of the utility’s latest rate case to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). Environmental organizations across the Midwest welcomed the proposal as a positive step towards making Michigan a clean transportation leader.

“DTE Energy’s Charging Forward proposal will go a long way toward filling the electric vehicle charging infrastructure gaps that create barriers to EV adoption,” said Charles Griffith, Climate and Energy Program Director at the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor. “The proposal also incentivizes EV charging to occur during times of day when there is excess capacity on the grid, helping to reduce costs for all electricity customers and reduce pollution for Michigan residents.”

“The state of Michigan and MPSC need to take charge – pun intended – and make sure smart policies are set that encourage the development of the electric vehicle market,” said Robert Kelter, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “If Michigan sets the right policies that motivate customers to charge their cars at night, all Michigan utility customers will benefit from lower rates.”

DTE’s proposed EV pilot includes:

  • $13 million over 3 years, for investments in residential, commercial and fleet EV charging infrastructure
  • Rebates to support approximately 32 “fast” chargers, 1,000 Level 2 commercial chargers and 2,600 home smart chargers
  • Requirement that customers enroll in time-of-use rate to qualify for smart charging rebate
  • Focus on workplace and multi-unit dwelling for Level 2 charging
  • Customer education and outreach program

“Lots of potential electric vehicle customers are locked out of the market because they live in apartment buildings that don’t have a place to plug in, but DTE’s new pilot program will add charging stations where they are sorely needed,” said Max Baumhefner, Senior Attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This program will help those who don’t live in single-family homes access electricity as a cleaner, cheaper alternative to gasoline.”

DTE’s proposal arrived on the heels of the recent $7.5 million Consumers Energy EV pilot program proposal, and AEP Ohio’s $10 million pilot program approved in April by the Ohio Public Utilities Commission. DTE’s service territory currently includes about 10,000 zero-emission vehicle owners, or about double the current number of owners in Consumers Energy’s territory.

“Michigan and the Motor City need to take bold action to put us on a path to a clean car future,” said Sierra Club Associate Attorney Joe Halso. “DTE’s proposal is a step in the right direction.  We would like to see a program that maximizes the public health and electricity grid benefits that we know electric cars can deliver.”

An M.J. Bradley & Associates report commissioned by Charge Up Midwest on the impact of more electric vehicles in Michigan found expanding electric vehicles could save Michigan families, drivers and electricity customers billions of dollars over the next three decades. The report also found there is significant potential for growth for electric vehicles in Michigan.

Read DTE’s proposed plan HERE

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Charge Up Midwest is a partnership of environmental and clean energy organizations actively working to increase electric vehicle deployment throughout the region in Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio. Through Charge Up Midwest, organizations seek to engage with a broad range of stakeholders to support actions that increase investment in electric vehicle infrastructure, create a more resilient and low-carbon grid, expand education of the public and policymakers about the benefits of electric vehicles, and otherwise accelerate the production, sales and access to electric vehicles in the region for all Midwest residents.

PRESS RELEASE: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s Resignation Long Overdue

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s Resignation Long Overdue

 ELPC watching closely to make sure Pruitt’s replacement is accountable for putting public health and environment ahead of polluters’ profits   

 

STATEMENT BY KEVIN BRUBAKER

DEPUTY DIRECTOR, ENVIRONMENTAL LAW & POLICY CENTER

In response to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s resignation, Deputy Director Kevin Brubaker said:

“The ethically-impaired Scott Pruitt will not be missed.  But let’s not kid ourselves that his replacement will be any better for clean air and clean water.  Pruitt followed marching orders from the Trump Administration and polluters, and those orders haven’t changed. We’ll be watching Pruitt’s replacement Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler closely and make sure he’s accountable for continued attacks on public health and our environment.”

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PRESS RELEASE: ELPC Commends US Senate for Preserving Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ELPC Commends U.S. Senate for Preserving Energy Title & REAP in Farm Bill

Concerns about last-minute amendment to REAP will be addressed in conference

 

Washington, D.C. – Today the U.S. Senate passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (Farm Bill). The Senate Farm Bill continues important energy title programs, including funding for the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) that provides incentives to farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses for energy efficiency and renewable energy. The Senate bill, which passed 86-11, includes crucial mandatory funding for REAP.

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

“Thank you to the Senate for continuing REAP with essential mandatory funding. On a bipartisan basis, Senators recognize that REAP has been a very successful program providing broad benefits to agriculture and serving every state.”

Ann Mesnikoff, ELPC’s Federal Legislative Director, added: “The Senate Farm Bill’s continuation of REAP and the energy title with mandatory funding stands in stark contrast to the House partisan bill that eviscerated both the energy title and mandatory funding for REAP and other programs.”

Olsen added. “We will work through the conference process to support REAP in a final 2018 Farm Bill and to address the last-minute damaging changes to the REAP program made on the Senate floor in the Enzi/Wyden amendment.”

“ELPC recognizes the work of Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI and Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee) deserves great credit for being a champion of the Rural Energy for America Program,” said Mesnikoff.

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Environmental Groups Disappointed Minnesota PUC Failed to Put Vulnerable Natural Resources Ahead of Tar Sands Producers’ Economic Interests

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Environmental Groups Disappointed Minnesota PUC Failed to Put Vulnerable Natural Resources Ahead of Tar Sands Producers’ Economic Interests

Groups vow to continue fight to protect Minnesota’s valuable waterways

 

St. Paul, Minn. – The five-member Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today conditionally approved Enbridge’s controversial line 3 crude oil pipeline expansion project. The PUC found that Enbridge had narrowly met its burden under Minnesota law, based largely on concerns about the safety of the old line 3, but conditioned its approval on removal of the old line 3 instead of abandonment in place and on the development of a financial guarantee package to assure Enbridge does not escape responsibility for an oil spill.

“The Commission unfortunately put the short-term financial interests of Canadian tar sands producers ahead of the public interest in preserving water resources, in addressing climate change and in respecting tribal treaty rights along the proposed route,” said Scott Strand, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). “This is of course a setback, but it’s likely not the final word.”

The Midwest-based ELPC is representing Friends of the Headwaters, a volunteer-based organization opposing the proliferation of crude oil pipelines in central Minnesota.

The PUC also approved Enbridge’s preferred route with small modifications. The approved route passes near the Mississippi River Headwaters in Itasca State Park, through areas in central Minnesota unusually susceptible to groundwater contamination, through critical wild rice habitat and wetlands, and near the mouth of the St. Louis River into Lake Superior.

Once the PUC finalizes its decision, and issues a written order, the next steps will be petitions for reconsideration, and then eventually appeals to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court. Enbridge also needs to secure permits from federal, state and local agencies before they can proceed.

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PRESS RELEASE: ELPC Pans Passage of the House’s Deeply Flawed Farm Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Andy Olsen, (609)-334-1456

ELPC Pans Passage of the House’s Deeply Flawed Farm Bill

 House Farm Bill Retreats on Farm Energy

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. House of Representatives today narrowly passed its deeply flawed Farm Bill in a revote after failing to pass the same bill last month. Today’s vote was 213-211 in favor. The partisan House Farm Bill eviscerates energy title programs including the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP).

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

“The House should have gone back to the drawing board on its failed Farm Bill. Gutting energy title programs including REAP will hurt farmers, ranchers and rural small businesses seeking to improve their bottom lines by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy. This bill also undermines important conservation programs that bring benefits to farmers across the Midwest including in the Driftless area.”

Ann Mesnikoff, ELPC’s Federal Legislative Director added, “The Senate Farm Bill’s continuation of REAP and the energy title with mandatory funding stands in stark contrast to the flawed House bill that eviscerated both the energy title and mandatory funding for REAP and other programs.”

“We look forward to the Senate taking up their Farm Bill next week and hope that their sensible bipartisan approach to both energy and conservation programs will prevail,” continued Andy Olsen.

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. Demand for the program regularly exceeds available funds.

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