Tuesday, November 19, 2013
The Environmental Law & Policy Center is celebrating our 20th Anniversary this year. We began as a ground-floor start-up with a sustainable development vision and have grown into the Midwest’s premier environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization. We’re proud of ELPC’s clean energy, clean transportation and natural resources protection accomplishments and looking forward to future successes with your partnership and support.
ELPC’s early vision: The Midwest needed a strategic, solutions-oriented environmental legal advocacy and policy organization that would play to win and achieve strong results that make a difference. However, with a pragmatic Midwest focus: We said from the start that environmental progress and economic development could and should be achieved together. We set out to shatter the myth that jobs and the environment are in conflict. Our vision of “good for the environment, good for job creation and good for economic growth” is today’s policy reality.
ELPC puts that sustainable development principle into practice in achieving successes. We recognized early on that the energy and transportation sectors are responsible for 70% of the Midwest’s carbon pollution as well as other emissions that cause climate change problems, harm human health and pollute the Great Lakes. Transforming the electricity system with clean renewable energy development and more energy efficient technologies, and transforming the transportation system with cleaner, more efficient cars and trucks and modern higher-speed rail and public transit, are the key drivers for solving climate change problems, protecting human health and restoring our Great Lakes and Midwest rivers. The public supports these positive solutions.
Your support has already helped us advance a cleaner energy mix for the Midwest, accelerate transforming our transportation infrastructure, and clean up rivers and lakes that we all care about. Please consider making a contribution to ELPC today to support progress on this transformational agenda going forward.
Take a look at the graphs in this report, which show how ELPC is making a tremendous difference:
Here are some highlights of ELPC’s successes over the last year:
• Wind power development is soaring in the Midwest. ELPC helped design and enact state Renewable Energy Standards that, combined with technological advancements, are driving the market for wind development. Iowa is now #2 in the nation, Illinois #4 and Minnesota #6 for installed wind power capacity. In the Midwest, 40,000 new jobs have been created and 1,000 supply chain businesses. Chicago now has 13 wind corporate headquarters. Support ELPC’s clean energy work.
• Energy efficiency is the best, fastest and cheapest approach to help solve our climate change problems. ELPC’s public interest attorneys, M.B.A.s and technical specialists are leading the charge before public utilities commissions in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio to effectively implement Energy Efficiency Performance Standards that are driving $2.5 billion of lighting, appliance, HVAC, building retrofit and other efficiency improvements. We are flattening out energy demand, creating new jobs, and saving businesses and residential consumers money on their utility bills, while avoiding pollution. Help ELPC advance energy efficiency.
• Solar energy development is accelerating and will soon start displacing more polluting energy sources. ELPC’s clean energy team is fueling solar acceleration in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota by promoting policies supporting distributed solar generation while also removing barriers erected by some recalcitrant utilities. ELPC is partnering with the City of Chicago to accelerate rooftop solar projects and advance innovative conversions of underutilized urban brownfields into new solar brightfields. Solar is coming fast here! Bring solar power to the Midwest with ELPC.
• Higher-speed trains are improving mobility, reducing pollution, creating jobs and spurring regional economic growth in the Midwest. ELPC is leading the charge for the Midwest High-Speed Rail Network, which connects the Chicago hub with the 11 major cities within a 400-mile radius and the mid-sized cities in-between. Amtrak is achieving record ridership with faster train service, and modern new railcars are being assembled here. ELPC has identified 460 Midwest companies manufacturing and supplying rail equipment, parts and services. Get on board as this modern high-speed rail vision becomes the new reality! Help ELPC transform the vision of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Network into a reality.
• Cleaner air and public health won the day in Englewood. ELPC mapped the impacts of diesel pollution sources in Chicago and partnered with Englewood community groups to negotiate a fair deal on the Norfolk Southern rail yard expansion by achieving offsetting diesel pollution reductions, new green space, sustainability commitments and job training. This victory can be a model and springboard for diesel pollution reductions at the many other rail yards. Let’s improve freight operations and protect public health. Improve public health with ELPC and our local allies.
• Cleaner water victories by ELPC’s public interest attorneys and advocates working with partners and clients including the Alliance for Great Lakes, National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club will help stop the S.S. Badger’s toxic coal ash dumping into Lake Michigan and reduce pollution from the Bear Run coal mine in Indiana. Keep clean water clean with ELPC’s advocacy.
ELPC is achieving tremendous results in the face of political gridlock. ELPC’s win-win-win approach – environmental progress, job creation and economic growth – makes sense, focuses on solutions and brings together the people and partners who can get things done. We’re proud of our 2013 accomplishments and look forward to seizing more strategic opportunities for environmental solutions. Thank you for considering a contribution to support ELPC’s successful work protecting the Midwest’s environmental quality and preserving our natural resources.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 18, 2013
Contact: Jill Geiger, 312-795-3703
Statement on the Confirmation of Gina McCarthy to EPA Administrator
By Howard Learner, Executive Director
Environmental Law & Policy Center
“We are pleased that the Congress has confirmed Gina McCarthy as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ms. McCarthy has the right set of skills and experience to address the pressing environmental challenges that our nation faces. We look forward to working with Administrator McCarthy to achieve the Agency’s important work of protecting public health and our environment and to move forward the President’s Climate Action Plan.”
Monday, June 17, 2013
The National Journal’s Energy Insider’s blog this week asks if it is too late to fight climate change.
Howard Learner offers this response, which you can also find here.
Bending the Temperature Rise Arc
The science is clear that global climate change is occurring. That debate is over. How much can mitigation measures bend the arc on rising temperatures? There’s more diversity of scientific views on the precise amount, but, as the IEA recommends, we must seize the policy, business and economic growth opportunities for our health and safety.
Let’s focus first on energy efficiency because it’s the best, fastest and cheapest approach to reduce carbon pollution. Energy efficiency ties together several of the IEA’s climate change mitigation recommendations to transform our energy economy in ways that are less polluting and advance clean technological innovations.
The quiet revolution of energy efficiency technological improvements is flattening electricity demand in the United States. Refrigerators, air conditioners and many household appliances are more energy efficient, and, over time, people are replacing their older home equipment with newer, more efficient models. Commercial HVAC and lighting retrofits add more efficiency, and modern industrial pumps and motors use electricity more frugally. The emergence of high-efficiency LED lighting over the next five years is a game changer that can save businesses and people money, avoid waste and avoid pollution.
Policy advances and technological innovations are coming together. Federal and state appliance and equipment efficiency standards are saving people and businesses’ money while reducing pollution. Consumer-funded investments through utilities’ energy efficiency programs are achieving results. R&D labs are advancing technological innovations that drive more efficient devices and products to global consumer markets. Transferring and export these technology advances to developing countries can mitigate carbon pollution.
Energy efficiency is flattening demand in U.S. electricity markets, as shown by the recent PJM capacity market auction for 2016 in which prices dropped 60% over the prior year. That’s having a sharp economic impact on potential coal plant retirements, which is another one of the IEA’s policy goals.
The quiet revolution in energy efficiency and accelerating technological innovations can help to bend the temperature rise arc. Let’s advance the public policies which go hand-in-hand with energy efficiency technological improvements to achieve climate change mitigation solutions.
Monday, June 10, 2013
1 – MidAmerican Decides Against Iowa Nuclear Plant (Des Moines Register, June 3, 2013)
2 – MidAmerican Energy to Invest $1.9 Billion Building 1,050 MW of New Wind Power Projects in Iowa (Des Moines Register, May 8,, 2013)
This is the impact of effective environmental advocacy, public policy shifts, the prevailing electricity market economics and the prevailing public preferences for renewable energy all coming together. Good for jobs, good for economic growth, good for holding down utility rates for consumers, and good for our environment.
FYI, Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway own 90%+ of MidAmerican Energy.
MidAmerican decides against Iowa nuclear plant
MidAmerican Energy says design plan isn’t approved; environmentalists celebrate
June 3, 2013
Written by: PERRY BEEMAN AND WILLIAM PETROSKI
MidAmerican Energy has scrapped plans for Iowa’s second nuclear plant and will refund $8.8 million ratepayers paid for a now-finished feasibility study, utility officials said Monday.
The utility has decided against building any major power plant. That’s because there is no approved design for the modular nuclear plant it envisioned, and there are too many questions about limits on carbon emissions from a natural gas plant, the company said.
“We opted for what was in the best interest of our customers,” MidAmerican vice president for regulatory affairs Dean Crist told The Des Moines Register.
The decision ends, for now, a three-year controversy over the future of nuclear energy in Iowa and how to pay for a possible nuclear plant. . . .
MidAmerican Energy will invest $1.9 billion in wind projects in Iowa
May 8, 2013
Written by: WILLIAM PETROSKI
Gov. Terry Branstad announced Wednesday that MidAmerican Energy will make a $1.9 billion investment in Iowa for wind energy projects that will be the biggest single economic investment ever in the state.
“As wind energy goes, so does Iowa’s economy,” said Branstad, who spoke enthusiastically about the plans. He added, “Remember, once they make this investment it will be here for the next 40 or 50 years.”
MidAmerican officials said no sites have been selected yet, but they hinted the sites would be in northwest Iowa and south of Interstate Highway 80 in western Iowa.
Branstad, speaking at a late afternoon news conference, said MidAmerican Energy Co. will add up to 1,050 megawatts of wind generation, consisting of up to 656 new wind turbines, in Iowa by year-end 2015.
The wind expansion will enhance economic development and provide in excess of $360 million in additional property tax revenues over the next 30 years, officials said. Landowner payments totaling $3.2 million per year also are expected as a result of the expansion.
In addition, the expansion is planned to be built at no net cost to the company’s customers and will help stabilize electric rates over the long term by providing a rate reduction totaling $10 million per year by 2017, commencing with a $3.3 million reduction in 2015, MidAmerican officials said.
“As a leader in wind generation, the state of Iowa welcomes the opportunity to expand our renewable energy portfolio. MidAmerican Energy’s proposed project will be the largest economic development investment in the history of the state, bringing needed jobs to Iowa, as well as significant economic benefits,” Branstad said. . . .
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
More than 600 of ELPC’s supporters, friends and colleagues joined us for ELPC’s 20th Anniversary at Chicago’s Navy Pier Grand Ballroom for an energetic exchange of ideas, networking and fun on April 17th. It was a great evening both celebrating ELPC’s 20 years of successes with our many partners and serving as a powerful springboard for ELPC’s next 20 years of effective advocacy and results.
Thank you to all who were able to join us for this celebratory event. If you weren’t able to join us, you can still experience part of the energy online. Click here or on the image to access a collection of videos, photos, program notes, keynote speech excerpts and more.
The event was festive and reflected ELPC’s core values and mission: a stunning 10-solar panel entryway, videos from ELPC clients and colleagues highlighting our work together, three clean electric cars, a CNG van, nine electric bikes, six wind turbines (sort of) and a lot of great-tasting, local, healthy food and fine wine. ELPC honored founding Board leaders Ellen Craig and Bob Graham, and the expert panel of corporate sustainability leader Art Gibson of Baxter, solar energy expert Julie Blunden, and political strategist and social investment entrepreneur David Wilhelm were savvy and interesting with WTTW Chicago Tonight’s Eddie Arruza serving as the focused moderator.
As I said at the April 17th event: “We’ve achieved great progress over 20 years, but no one at ELPC is resting on our laurels. We’re do’ers who are ambitious to achieve change, and we have new strategic initiatives to make an even bigger difference during ELPC’s next 20 years. But we won’t do it alone. We’ll do it together with the people and partners in this room and others whom we will bring together.”
Your support helps make ELPC’s successes possible.
Thank you for all you have done, and thank you, in advance, for all you and ELPC will be doing while working together to save the planet. Like Daniel Burnham, ELPC is making no small plans. Let’s move forward together.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
I had the honor of being invited to attend President Obama’s announcement of his proposed Energy Security Trust ($2B over ten years) at Argonne National Laboratory last Friday. It’s both exciting and important. ELPC’s long-term clean transportation advocacy is well aligned with President Obama’s approach.
President Obama’s Energy Security Trust “is designed to invest in breakthrough research that will make the technologies of the future cheaper and better – technologies that will protect American families from spikes in gas prices and allow us to run our cars and trucks on electricity or homegrown fuels.” The President’s proposal sets asides $2 billion over 10 years from royalty revenues generated by oil and gas development on federal waters in order to support research into a range of cost-effective technologies – like advanced vehicles that run on electricity, homegrown biofuels, fuel cells, and domestically produced natural gas. The Energy Security Trust “increase[s] momentum towards to a cleaner, more efficient fleet that is good for consumers, increases energy independence, and cuts carbon pollution.”
I’m proud of the direction that President Obama is taking to advance modern clean cars and trucks with transportation solutions that are good for both growing our economy and for improving our environment by reducing carbon pollution. I’m proud of ELPC’s work on advancing transportation solutions and look forward to the opportunities that we’ll have to work with the Obama Administration, Congress and vehicle manufacturers and researchers to achieve breakthrough progress.
Here’s how the White House explains President Obama’s new advanced transportation strategy and the Energy Security Trust in more detail:
“The President’s proposal sets aside $2 billion over 10 years and will support research into a range of cost-effective technologies – like advanced vehicles that run on electricity, homegrown biofuels, fuel cells, and domestically produced natural gas. The mandatory funds would be set aside from royalty revenues generated by oil and gas development in Federal waters of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), already included in the administration’s five year plan. These revenues are projected to increase over the next several years based on a combination of leasing, production, and price trends, with additional revenues potentially generated as a result of reforms being proposed in the FY 2014 Budget. The Trust is paid for within the context of the overall budget.
Paired with other Administration policies, including our historic new fuel economy standards, the Trust would help solidify America’s position as a world leader in advanced transportation technology.
For example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a new report that underscores the progress we have made to improve fuel economy, save American families money at the pump, and reduce carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. According to the report, from 2007 to 2012, EPA estimates that CO2 emissions have decreased by 13 percent and fuel economy values have increased by 16 percent. In addition, compared to five years ago, consumers have twice as many hybrid and diesel vehicle choices, a growing set of plug-in electric vehicle options, and a six-fold increase in the number of car models with combined city/highway fuel economy of 30 mpg or higher.
The Energy Security Trust builds on this historic progress, continuing to increase momentum towards to a cleaner, more efficient fleet that is good for consumers, increases energy independence, and cuts carbon pollution.”
The Energy Security Trust is clearly one of President Obama’s signature major second-term initiatives. ELPC will work with the Obama Administration to help transform this vision into reality in ways that are good for America’s technological innovation and economic growth, good for national security and good for our environment through smart climate change solutions.
PS: There will be several types of new electric and compressed natural gas vehicles on display at ELPC’s 20th Anniversary Gala Celebration at the Navy Pier Grand Ballroom on April 17th. Please join us great ELPC celebration – for more info: www.elpc20.org
Monday, November 19, 2012
The Environmental Law & Policy Center celebrates its 20th Anniversary in 2013. Twenty years ago, ELPC’s start-up was guided by a strategic vision, dedicated early colleagues and an entrepreneurial, results-oriented approach to solving vital environmental and clean energy problems. ELPC has grown from eight staff in Chicago to 48 talented multidisciplinary staff and eight offices in Chicago, Columbus, Des Moines, Jamestown, Madison, Minneapolis, Sioux Falls and Washington, D.C. ELPC is now the Midwest’s premier environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization, and we’re among the very best in the country. We are achieving important victories and succeeding in showing that job creation, economic growth and environment progress can be achieved together for clean energy, modern high-speed rail and cleaner air and water.
Please consider making a financial contribution to ELPC this year. ELPC combines strong legal and policy advocacy with diverse eco-business partnerships to advance our mission of achieving environmental progress and economic development together. This is the right approach, especially in times of extreme political partisanship. ELPC has produced strong successes and remarkable results:
- Shutting Down the Old Highly-Polluting Fisk and Crawford Coal Plants in Chicago in August. The old State Line coal plant on the Illinois-Indiana border was shut down in spring. ELPC’s tenacious, strategic legal and policy advocacy to “clean up or shut down” Fisk and Crawford, combined with public health and community groups’ organizing and outreach, achieved a “coal-free Chicago” that’s part of a climate change solution. More coal plants are likely to shut down soon due to both economic and advocacy pressures.
- High-Speed Rail: Moving from Vision to Reality. The “trains are out of the station” in the Midwest. Demonstration runs have begun on the Detroit–Chicago and Chicago–St. Louis corridors. Modern, fast, comfortable and convenient high-speed passenger rail will improve mobility, reduce pollution, create jobs and spur economic growth. Developing the Midwest rail network will transform our region’s transportation infrastructure.
- Stopping the Sprawl-Inducing Hastert Highway in Chicago’s Exurban Area. ELPC’s federal court lawsuit on behalf of Citizens Against the Sprawlway and Friends of the Fox River paved the way to an innovative solution: Transfer the federal funds to support needed local road improvements and other better alternatives for Kane County. ELPC’s litigation + grass roots organizing + creative strategic solutions + cooperative negotiations = a smarter and better solution.
- The “Quiet Revolution” in Energy Efficiency. More efficient lighting, appliances, HVAC systems and motors are holding down electricity demand and avoiding pollution. ELPC’s work on $500 million of energy efficiency programs in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio is producing results. Energy efficiency is a smart way of doing business and the best, fastest and cheapest way of saving consumers money on utility bills, reducing pollution, creating new jobs and enhancing grid reliability. Combining technological innovations with policy advances can help save our planet.
- Growing Wind Power and Solar Power. ELPC’s advocacy in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota is helping to achieve rapid advances in clean energy deployment. Iowa is #2, Illinois is #4 and Minnesota is #6 in the nation for installed wind power capacity. ELPC is partnering with the City of Chicago on the SunShot Initiative to accelerate rooftop solar installations and on “brownfields to brightfields” projects. In Iowa, ELPC led the charge to pass a new solar energy tax credit. Wind power and solar power are the fastest growing energy sources in the world, creating jobs and spurring business and avoiding pollution.
- Cleaning Up the Chicago River – A Turning Point! Chicagoans have sadly tolerated our namesake river being unsafe and unhealthy for recreation and enjoyment. In 2011, ELPC’s, Friends of the Chicago River’s and our colleagues’ persistent and effective advocacy succeeded when the U.S. EPA and the Illinois Pollution Control Board directed the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to install modern pollution control equipment to disinfect wastewater. The District has now committed to disinfect earlier than originally planned. Many Chicagoans enjoying the Chicago River are looking back, shaking their heads and asking why did Chicago wait so long to clean it up? Stay tuned for news about ELPC’s work to help clean up Wisconsin’s rivers and lakes, too.
The 2012 election results were victories for clean energy, clean air and climate change solutions, as well as for high-speed rail development. President Obama’s re-election sets the overall direction for the nation, and he is ready to advance America’s clean energy economy, accelerate high-speed rail development as his #1 transportation priority, move forward Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act standards that were deferred pending the election, and continue the Great Lakes restoration. The Obama Administration also appears ready to advance EPA’s carbon pollution reduction standards.
ELPC’s win-win-win – environmental progress, job creation and economic growth – approach makes sense, focuses on solutions and brings together the people and partners who can get things done. We’re proud of our 2012 accomplishments and look forward to seizing more strategic opportunities for environmental solutions. Thank you for considering a contribution to support ELPC’s successful work protecting the Midwest’s environmental quality and preserving our natural resources.
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
The 2012 election results were victories for clean energy, clean air and climate change solutions, as well as for high-speed rail development both nationally and in the Midwest, specifically. President Obama’s re-election sets the overall direction for the nation, and he has clearly set forth his intention to advance America’s clean energy economy, accelerate high-speed rail development as his #1 transportation priority, and move forward Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act standards that were deferred pending the election. In addition, the Obama Administration appears ready to keep moving forward with EPA’s carbon pollution reduction standards. With the Democrats increasing their majority in the Senate and the Republicans’ majority narrowing in the House, there is less likelihood that opponents will be able to assemble the necessary votes in Congress to stop the Executive Branch’s administrative actions.
The Midwest states were vital in determining the outcome of the Presidential race and the Democrats’ continued majority in the Senate. The Midwest Heartland will continue to provide the pivotal swing votes in Congress and probably in the next Presidential election. Therefore, the opportunities to advance environmental and clean energy policies that are good for job creation, good for economic growth and good for environmental quality and public health in the Midwest will have a large federal as well as regional and state audience.
Let’s look at the overall results, lessons learned and strategic opportunities from the Presidential, Senate and House races, and from some state races and referenda:
1. People want the President and Congress to work together and get things done. With President Obama re-elected and a larger Democratic majority in the Senate – gains in what was supposed to be an election cycle when many pundits projected that Republicans would take over the Senate majority – there will be tremendous pressure on House Republican leadership to get things done and avoid the perception of being obstructionists to progress. Extension of the federal production tax credit or other such incentives for wind power will be an early test of bipartisan cooperation and Congress’ ability to get things done.
2. The public rejected candidates perceived as too ideological and far to the right. President Obama won, in part, because Governor Romney tacked hard right in the primaries and couldn’t credibly move back quickly enough to the center. While Governor Romney tried moving to the middle, he was also hurt by embarrassing comments from some conservative Republican Senate candidates. The Republicans lost several Senate seats – in Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota and Ohio – at least in part because their candidates were too ideological and right-wing. Environmentalists should recognize that Senators Donnelly, McCaskill, Tester and Heitkamp, among others, won election as centrists.
3. President Obama won all of the battleground Midwest states: Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. He also won convincingly in Illinois and Minnesota, although he lost in Indiana. The President’s leadership on growing the clean energy economy, stabilizing and modernizing the auto industry, advancing Midwest high-speed rail development and moving forward long-delayed Clean Air Act standards to protect public health was validated at the voting booths. The Midwest delivered for President Obama. We should work with the President to solidify and bolster his winning issues agenda for the Midwest: clean energy and clean air, clean cars and clean high-speed rail.
4. Governor Romney’s and the coal industry’s vocal “War on Coal” message didn’t work in the three states where it mattered most: Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Almost all of the polling in Midwest states shows strong public support for clean air, clean energy and pollution reduction. The coal industry went “all in” with Governor Romney on his “war on coal” policy attacks and messaging. They lost. Elections are about choices, and the public chose President Obama, who owes the coal industry little at this point. The EPA’s deferred Clean Air Act standards should move forward.
5. Wind power and solar power are big winners in the Midwest elections, except in Michigan. President Obama ran on his strong renewable energy development policies and advances, and Governor Romney ran against that. In Iowa, the difference was clear: President Obama publicly campaigned on extending the wind power production tax credit (PTC) with a visible May 24th speech at TPI Composites, which manufactures wind turbine blades in Newton. When Governor Romney’s campaign team announced his opposition to the PTC extension, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) publicly described Romney’s position as “just like a knife in my back.” Governor Terry Branstad (R) and Representatives Tom Latham (R) and Steve King (R) joined with Senator Grassley and their Democratic counterparts in publicly supporting the PTC extension and criticizing Romney’s opposition.
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and other successful Democratic candidates highlighted renewable energy development and the need for policy support. The defeat of Michigan Ballot Measure No. 3 to improve that state’s renewable energy standard was very disappointing. Some post-election analysis identified the public’s reluctance to amend the state’s Constitution as trumping voters’ clean energy support; more examination of lessons learned is needed. The larger regional picture: Almost all of the Midwest and Great Plains Senators – both Democrats and Republicans — are pro-wind and pro-solar. Republican Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Hoeven (R-ND), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and John Thune (R-SD) have all announced their support for extending the wind power PTC in various forms.
6. Democrats swept the seriously contested Midwest and Upper Great Plains Senate races and now dominate the region’s Senate delegation. Democratic Senators Sherrod Brown (OH), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Claire McCaskill (MO) and Debbie Stabenow (MI) all won re-election, and they are joined by newly-elected Democratic Senators Tammy Baldwin (WI), Joe Donnelly (IN) and Heidi Heitkamp (ND). They will likely be stronger supporters for clean air and clean energy and for passenger rail improvements than their opponents would have been. Senator Richard Lugar’s (R-IN) loss in the Republican primary cost us a thoughtful, moderating voice in the Republican Senate caucus, and some of the Republican House members who lost were occasionally moderating voices within that caucus. Including Democratic gains in House seats — especially five seats in Illinois – the pivotal Midwest Congressional delegation is trending more Democratic, for now.
7. High-Speed Rail accelerates as President Obama seeks to carry out his vision of modernizing interstate passenger rail, building on how President Eisenhower advanced the interstate highway system. President Obama and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary LaHood have publicly stated that high-speed rail development is their #1 transportation priority. They’ve set forth a plan for investing $48 billion over six years for high-speed rail development to connect 80% of Americans to rail by 2035. How they will gain those appropriations in the current federal budget is unclear, but their commitment is clear. President Obama’s re-election was a necessary ingredient for continued federal leadership in developing high-speed rail, and he will be bolstered by the Democrats’ larger Senate majority. Three Senators who support rail funding will continue as the key committee chairs dealing with transportation reauthorization: Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). In California, rail champion Representative Jim Costa (D-CA) won re-election; however, moderate Republicans such as Representatives Charlie Bass (R-NH), Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Robert Dold (R-IL), who stood up to their party leadership by supporting rail and transit funding, lost their seats. The next 18-24 month period is pivotal for accelerating federal investments in high-speed passenger rail in ways that can transform our transportation system.
8. Democrats now fully control Illinois state government, and Republicans fully control Wisconsin state government. Illinois Democrats gained enough seats in both the Senate and House to achieve supermajorities. That doesn’t mean that all of the Democrats agree – they don’t – but they now have controlling leadership, along with Governor Pat Quinn (D), following the remap. In Wisconsin, Republicans gained control of the Senate to go with their House majority, consolidating power with Governor Scott Walker (R). Environmentalists can play offense, within reason, in Illinois, but will be playing defense in Wisconsin.
Let’s now look to the election results in each of the Midwest and Upper Great Plains states:
No surprises in the Governors’ races. Only three states in the Midwest had gubernatorial races: Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. There were no surprises. Republicans retained their governorships with the elections of Governor-elect Mike Pence in Indiana and Governor Jack Dalrymple in North Dakota, while Democratic Governor Jay Nixon was re-elected in Missouri. Governor Nixon supports development of the Midwest High-Speed Rail Network, but Governor-elect Pence has not been supportive.
Changes in the Midwest and Great Plains State Legislatures. Although the compositions of the state legislatures were not expected to change dramatically, as noted above, there were some shifts in majority control that can affect legislative action over the next two years. Democrats won control of both the Minnesota Senate and House, maintained control of the Iowa Senate and gained overwhelming veto-proof majorities in the Illinois Senate and House. In Wisconsin, Republicans regained control of the Senate, which they had lost during recall elections earlier this year. In Iowa, the Democrat-controlled Senate has been supportive of passenger rail issues and has stopped efforts by MidAmerican Energy to pass nuclear subsidy legislation. In Wisconsin, the Senate’s shift to Republican control could help Governor Walker enact legislative agenda. In Illinois, several strong supporters of clean energy and high-speed rail were elected.
This was the “motherlode” of six competitive House races following the Democrat-drawn reapportionment map and the vulnerability of new Republican Congressmen who were elected two years ago. Democrats won five of the six contested races and only one Republican (barely) won; two other incumbent Republicans were put into the same district, thereby costing Republicans a fifth seat.
- 8th District: Democrat Tammy Duckworth unseated Republican incumbent Representative Joe Walsh. Walsh has been one of the loudest and most controversial Tea Party Representatives elected two years ago, and he is close to a zero on the environmental and clean energy agenda.
- 10th District: Democrat Brad Schneider unseated moderate Republican Representative Robert Dold. The 10th Congressional District has a history of electing moderate Republicans, but the district was remapped to significantly increase the Democrat-leaning vote. Representative-elect Schneider should be a strong environmental supporter.
- 11th District: Democrat Bill Foster unseated long-time Republican Representative Judy Biggert. Foster previously served as a Representative, but was defeated two years ago. Representative-elect Foster is a scientist and should be a strong environmental and clean energy supporter.
- 12th District: Democrat William Enyart defeated Republican Jason Plummer in the race for retiring Representative Jerry Costello’s (D) seat. Representative-elect Enyart may tend to align with Southern Illinois “coal country” interests, and we will need to work hard to inform and engage him on our issues.
- 13th District: Republican Rodney Davis defeated Democrat David Gill by less than 1,300 votes in the only Republican victory among the contested Illinois Congressional races. Moderate, relatively pro-environment Republican Representative Tim Johnson held this seat for many years. Representative-elect Davis served as Chief of Staff to Representative John Shimkus (R-IL). It is doubtful that Representative-elect Davis will approach our issues as moderately as his predecessor, but the very close election margin and the number of universities and colleges in the district might encourage him to be more open on environmental and clean energy issues; he is likely to support high-speed rail development in Illinois, which connects the university campus cities to Chicago and St. Louis.
- 17th District: Democrat Cheri Bustos ousted first-term Republican Representative Bobby Schilling. Representative-elect Bustos is a former journalist and is the daughter of Gene Callahan, who worked as Chief of Staff for former U.S. Senator Alan Dixon (D-IL). Representative Schilling was elected as a Tea Party Republican, but had begun to evolve his views. Representative-elect Bustos should be a strong supporter of clean energy and high-speed rail development policies, as well as Mississippi River protection issues.
Illinois Democrats in Illinois expanded their control of the State Senate and House, gaining veto-proof majorities in both chambers. In the Senate, the Democrats’ margin is 40-19 seats, and in the House, the Democrats’ margin is 71-47. Democratic Governor Pat Quinn, a strong clean energy and environmental supporter, is not up for re-election until 2014 so there is, at least, a two-year window open for progressive environmental progress in Illinois.
Representative Joe Donnelly (D) defeated State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R) in the hotly-contested Senate race; Mourdock had defeated six-term Senator Richard Lugar in the Republican primary, which then put this Senate seat into play in the general.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (R) completed his two-term limit. Six-term Indiana Representative Mike Pence (R) defeated former Indiana Speaker of the House John Gregg (D) in the gubernatorial race. Pence out-paced Gregg in fundraising by more than a 2:1 margin, and he won election by a 3% margin. Representative Pence has a very low LCV voting record.
Iowa lost one Congressional seat in reapportionment, and two Congressional races were hotly-contested. Republicans won both, while President Obama won Iowa’s electoral votes.
- 1st District: Democratic Representative Bruce Braley was re-elected, easily defeating Republican challenger Ben Lange.
- 2nd District: Democratic Representative David Loebsack was re-elected, easily defeating challenger John Archer.
- 3rd District: Republican Representative Tom Latham defeated Democratic Representative Leonard Boswell in this race, which pitted two incumbents against each other. Both candidates support renewable energy development policies and passenger rail development in Iowa. Representative Latham, a rail supporter, will retain his powerful chairmanship of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee.
- 4th District: Republican Representative Steve King was re-elected, turning back Democratic challenger Christie Vilsack. Representative King won by a 54.5% – 43.2% margin.
The Iowa Senate’s 26 – 24 Democratic majority will continue and might grow as one seat will be decided in a special election to be held on December 11th because the incumbent recently died. The composition of the Senate has been vital in stopping MidAmerican Energy’s aggressive lobbying campaign for legislation that would force consumers to pay in advance (CWIP) for the planning, construction and financing of a very expensive potential new nuclear plant. The Senate has also supported funding for advancing passenger rail improvements in Iowa. The Iowa House had a strong Republican majority; however, Democrats picked up at six seats to narrow the House margin to 53-46, and one race is still unresolved with a recount pending.
Two-term Senator Debbie Stabenow (D) defeated former Representative Pete Hoekstra (R). Senator Stabenow appeared to be in a strong position throughout the race and won handily. Unfortunately, Ballot Measure No. 3 – the “Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs” referendum to achieve 25% renewable energy supply by 2025 – lost by a 63% – 37% margin. Wind power businesses and environmentalists campaigned strongly and should carefully analyze lessons learned from the referendum results.
Michigan political analyst and journalist Jack Lessenberry colorfully explained the Michigan election results in his November 11, 2012 opinion column in the Traverse City Record Eagle:
“[F]reshman U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek eked out a win over Democrat Gary McDowell. In Michigan’s 11th District, the bizarre last-minute meltdown and resignation of five-term Republican congressman Thaddeus McCotter left Republicans with a nominee named Kerry Bentivolio, an extreme tea party supporter with bizarre views, a spotty employment record and history of bankruptcy. Yet he managed to defeat his moderate Democratic opponent and win a seat in Congress, despite charges from Bentivolio’s brother that he had undergone electroshock therapy for sniffing glue.
However, Republicans suffered two humiliating statewide defeats. Mitt Romney utterly failed to be competitive in Michigan, even losing the well-heeled suburban county in which he grew up. And Democratic U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow won a third term by a landslide against Pete Hoekstra, a former congressman who originally had been expected to be a strong candidate.
Republicans have only won one U.S. Senate race in Michigan since 1972, and if U.S. Sen. Carl Levin runs again in 2014, they aren’t likely to be strongly competitive then, either. But at the state level, it’s a different story. Republicans will still control all branches of government when the new Legislature convenes in January. Democrats gained five seats in the Michigan house, but Republicans still have a 59-51 majority.
Democrats did elect one new Michigan Supreme Court justice, Bridget Mary McCormack. But voters also re-elected two incumbent Republicans, Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra, leaving the Republicans with a 4-3 edge on what a University of Chicago study has called one of the most partisan state supreme courts in the nation.
The most significant result, however, may have been the rejection of ‘ballot proposal mania.’ Michigan voters faced five proposed constitutional amendments, plus a referendum on a tough new emergency manager law. Special interest groups spent more than $144 million in an attempt to get various proposals approved or defeated. In the end, voters said ‘no’ to all of them by decisive margins.”
First-term Senator Amy Klobuchar (D) won re-election by a landslide over Minnesota State Representative Kurt Bills (R). Senator Klobuchar’s victory should give her more room to be strongly supportive of a pro-environmental and clean energy development agenda. There were two closely-contested House races in Minnesota:
- 6th District: Republican Representative Michelle Bachmann narrowly defeated Democrat Jim Graves by a 1% margin after having outspent him by $21 million to $1.9 million.
- 8th District: Democrat Rick Nolan unseated incumbent Republican Representative Chip Cravaack in this Northern Minnesota (Duluth and Iron Range) district, which former Representative Jim Oberstar had long represented. This is a pick-up for Democrats.
As mentioned above, Democrats won control of both the Minnesota Senate and House. Along with Democratic Governor Mark Dayton, that should provide some opportunities to advance reasonable environmental and clean energy legislation.
First-term Senator Claire McCaskill (D) won a tight race against Representative Todd Akin (R). The election was reshaped by Representative Akin’s surprise win in the Republican primary and his public comments about “legitimate rape” (sic). Senator McCaskill has supported clean energy initiatives and will likely be a swing vote on any climate change solutions legislation. Democrat Jay Nixon won re-election as Governor by defeating Republican Dave Spence. Republican-leaning Missouri’s electoral votes are going to Governor Romney for President while voters re-elected the Democratic U.S. Senator and Governor.
Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, the former North Dakota Attorney General, won a very tight race by 3,300 votes over Representative Rick Berg (R) for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND). This state leans strongly Republican; however, Representative Berg’s very conservative positions and Congressional votes hurt him among North Dakota constituents. While we hope to work well with Senator-elect Heitkamp, particularly on wind power development issues, she is sympathetic to the oil and gas industry’s interests and has served as an outside director of Basin Electric Cooperative’s Dakota Gasification Company since 2001.
Incumbent Governor Jack Dalrymple (R) stepped up from the Lieutenant Governor’s office in 2010 when then-Governor John Hoeven (R) was elected to the U.S. Senate. Governor Dalrymple defeated Democratic State Senator Ryan Taylor by a 29% margin on November 6th.
Incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown (D) was re-elected by a 5% margin in his hotly-contested and extraordinary expensive (both sides) race against Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel (R). Senator Brown is a strong supporter for protecting clean air and for renewable energy development and manufacturing jobs. His re-election should position Senator Brown to be a leading “Rust Belt” spokesperson on these issues.
- 2nd District: Republican Brad Wenstrup defeated Democrat William Smith for the seat held by Representative Jean Schmidt (R) whom Wenstrup beat in the Republican primary.
- 3rd District: Democrat Joyce Beatty defeated Republican Chris Long for a Democratic pick-up.
- 6th District: Republican Representative Bill Johnson was re-elected by defeating former Democrat Representative Charlie Wilson.
- 9th District: Democratic Representative Marcy Kaptur defeated Republican Joe “the Plumber” Wurzelbacher by a 72% to 28% margin. Kaptur, who won a primary against Representative Dennis Kucinich (D), has been very supportive on clean energy issues.
There was no Senate or Gubernatorial race in South Dakota. Both houses of the South Dakota legislature continue to be dominated by the Republicans. Incumbent Republican Representative Kristi Noem defeated Democratic challenger Matt Varilek, a former member of Senator Tim Johnson’s staff, by a 57.5% to 42.5% margin. ELPC has a good relationship with Representative Noem who serves on the House Agriculture Committee. She supports extending the PTC for wind power development and has supported the Farm Bill’s clean energy programs.
Environmental advocate Matt McGovern’s (D) campaign for Commissioner on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission fell short as he lost to Republican incumbent Commissioner Kristie Fiegen by a 54% to 40% margin, with a Libertarian candidate receiving 6% of the votes.
Seven-term Democratic Representative Tammy Baldwin defeated Republican Tommy Thompson, the former four-term Wisconsin Governor and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. Although Senator-elect Baldwin was ahead early in this race, it was apparent that this race would be hard fought and probably come down to the wire. Senator-elect Baldwin pulled ahead and won by a 5.5% margin.
The State Senate had a narrow Republican majority until Democrats won recall elections earlier this year. Republicans won key races on November 6th to reach a new 18-15 majority, and they control the House by a 60-39 majority. Both chambers are expected to be hostile to most environmental initiatives and supportive of Governor Scott Walker’s (R) policies.
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The Environmental Law & Policy Center sees both very significant strategic opportunities for progress and major challenges with the federal government’s and many states’ fiscally constrained budgets. We look forward to discussing both paths with our colleagues and diverse potential allies. As the views of these newly-elected public officials become clearer and they move from campaigning toward governance, ELPC will continue to assess both ways of seizing opportunities and responding effectively to the challenges. We will keep you informed going forward. Please let us know if you have any questions or suggestions. ELPC looks forward to working together with our colleagues and diverse coalition partners to achieve environmental progress and economic development together. Carpe diem!
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
On September 25, I had the opportunity to sit down with E&E TV host Monica Trauzzi. The conversation started on the need to extend the Production Tax Credit for wind, but then shifted. In the coming weeks, I believe that we may see a shift in where super PACs are spending their money. Watch our conversation.
Friday, July 27, 2012
Last night, I attended a wonderful Sierra Club fundraising event in Madison honoring Jonathan Ela’s many years of inspired, effective and fun – one of Jonathan’s necessary attributes – environmental and natural resources preservation work in Wisconsin, the Great Lakes region and nationally. I first met Jonathan in the early 1980s when he was the Sierra Club’s regional director and was starting up the Club’s political action committee. He is a leader, a motivator to many, a wickedly funny storyteller and an avid sailor.
Jonathan greatly deserves the many accolades voiced at last night’s event. Please take a look at Spencer Black’s July 24, 2012 column in Madison’s Capital Times entitled “Honoring Jonathan Ela, an environmental leader.” All of the kudos are right on target – and more – as we recognize and honor Jonathan’s many accomplishments. Bravo Jonathan!
Best wishes and enjoy summer!
Spencer Black: Honoring Jonathan Ela, an environmental leader
JULY 24, 2012 6:00 AM • SPENCER BLACK | LOCAL COLUMNIST
Environmental progress never just happens. Behind every environmental victory — be it the creation of a national park, adoption of a rule to protect air quality, or passage of a law to clean up toxic waste — there’s a story. And that story is the tale of citizens who dedicated themselves, often against long odds, to fight to protect and improve our outdoors.
One of the folks in Wisconsin who has fought the longest and hardest to protect the environment is Jonathan Ela. A Madisonian born and raised, Jonathan has been at the forefront of the modern environmental movement from before the first Earth Day to the present.
Jonathan’s friends and supporters will be gathering for a picnic to honor his four decades of leadership in the national environmental movement. It is an occasion I will be sure not to miss.
Jonathan began his career working for Sen. Gaylord Nelson, helping pass legislation that greatly expanded our national park system. While Nelson, the father of Earth Day, remained his friend and mentor, Ela’s destiny was to work for the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest and oldest environmental advocacy organization.
While he was a Sierra Club staffer, there wasn’t a major Midwestern environmental issue in which Ela didn’t play a leadership role. He founded the Midwest office to organize club members to be advocates for our waterways. He focused attention on the value of and threats to our planet’s largest fresh water resource by authoring “The Faces of the Great Lakes.” He led the fight to protect our region’s greatest river, the mighty Mississippi, by forming a coalition of conservationists, businesses, labor unions and local leaders to oppose expensive and unnecessary pork barrel navigation projects that would have not only wasted taxpayer dollars, but caused severe harm to that valuable ecosystem.
But perhaps Jonathan’s greatest accomplishment was pushing the Sierra Club and environmentalists in general to take part in election campaigns. When the policies of Ronald Reagan and his Interior Secretary James Watt took aim at our wild lands, Jonathan saw the need for the Sierra Club to drop its hands-off approach to elections. What began modestly as the defense of an environmental champion in a congressional primary in 1982 has grown, under his leadership, into a highly effective political program culminating in the Sierra Club’s active role in the 2008 presidential election.
Jonathan also served as chair of the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board, successfully working to protect public lands, adopt strong mercury controls, and enact the country’s strongest rule to limit phosphorus pollution of our lakes.
I’ve known Jonathan for a long time. When I first started out as a Sierra Club activist, he served as a mentor and I took his place when he left the Midwest office. I now serve beside him on the National Sierra Club board.
As much as I think about his accomplishments in the policy arena, I also admire that he never lost his ability to laugh. When things looked grim, as they often do for environmental activists, Jonathan’s great wit could always be counted on to bring smiles to the hard-pressed troops.
Jonathan will be honored in the most fitting way possible — by the launching of the Jonathan Ela Activist Fund. The fund will be used to recruit the next generation of Sierra Club leaders. Bringing new activists into the fight for our natural resources, with both wit and principle, has always been Jonathan’s calling, and he will continue to inspire a new generation of fighters for our environment.
Spencer Black represented the 77th Assembly District for 26 years and was chair of the Natural Resources Committee. He currently serves on the Sierra Club’s national political committee.