Monday, July 23, 2012
Daniel Alvarez’s “Predictably Lost” Blog
This “post of the week” comes from Daniel Alvarez’s “Predictably Lost” Blog. Daniel is a long-distance hiker who has spent years exploring some of our nation’s most beautiful places. Now he’s kayaking from Northern Minnesota to Key West, FL to support clean lakes, rivers, and oceans, and he is seeking to bring awareness to the environmental problems that he sees along the way. In his passage through Ely, Minnesota, Daniel came across Ely citizens marching in support of protection for the Boundary Waters against mining (to both the boos and cheers of their neighbors):
“Mining built a lot of Minnesota’s history. The Iron Range produced most of the country’s iron ore by the 1900s and continues to fuel America’s factories to this day. The roots and culture run deep underground. Generations of miners live here, but sulfide mining is different. This isn’t iron ore that rusts in the rain. When water hits sulfide waste, it turns to sulfuric acid that has a long history of leaking into and destroying water systems, even as mining companies promise it won’t.”
The Scoop: Keep up with Daniel as he makes his way to Florida as he learns about and watches how local communities along waterways engage in environmental issues.
Read the rest of the story and follow his adventures here: http://predictablylost.com/blog/
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
American Rivers Blog on America’s Most Endangered Rivers of 2012
This “post of the week” comes from Jessie Thomas-Blate, Most Endangered Rivers Coordinator at American Rivers, which identifies three endangered rivers in the Midwest/Great Plains region:
- Missouri River (#4) is a risk to public safety because of outdated flood management.
- Grand River (#6) in Ohio is being threatened by natural gas development.
- Kansas River (#10) is being threatened by sand and gravel dredging.
“Every year since 1986, this report has put a spotlight on ten rivers at risk. With the 2012 list, we have zeroed in on key actions and, working with our local partners – and you – we are going to get decision-makers to do the right thing …
‘This year’s Most Endangered Rivers list underscores how important clean water is to our drinking water, health, and economy. If Congress slashes clean water protections, more Americans will get sick and communities and businesses will suffer. We simply cannot afford to go back to a time when the Potomac and rivers nationwide were too polluted to use.’”
Monday, May 7, 2012
Active Transportation Alliance Blog on Bus Rapid Transit Coming to Chicago
This “post of the week” comes from Lee Crandell, Director of Campaigns at the Active Transportation Alliance, explaining the benefits of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT):
- Dedicated lanes help reduce traffic delays and road conflicts, making BRT vehicles faster and more reliable and making streets safer.
- Pay-before-you-board stations reduce boarding times, while the permanence of stations provides economic development benefits similar to train stations.
- Transit Signal Priority helps transit vehicles stay on time and reduces bunching by giving them preferential treatment at traffic lights.
- At-grade boarding makes vehicles more accessible to seniors, people with disabilities and parents with strollers, while also reducing boarding time.
The Scoop: BRT can make transit more efficient and safer in communities that rely heavily on public buses for transportation to and from the city. The CTA will begin implementing three BRT routes in Chicago later this year.
Read the whole story here: http://www.activetrans.org/blog/lcrandell/bus-rapid-transit-may-be-your-transit-future
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
DesMoinesDem’s Bleeding Heartland Blog
DesMoinesDem is a suburban mom writing about Iowa politics and encouraging community discussion to hold public officials more accountable. In her “Iowa faith leaders call for action to limit climate change” blog this week, DesMoinesDem discusses 56 religious leaders having signed an appeal for Iowans to take actions to limit global climate change and prepare for the consequences of the damage to the global climate that has already been done:
“The faith leaders mention a recent warning to Iowa legislators from 44 scientists representing 28 Iowa colleges and universities. Unfortunately, even when Democrats controlled the state House and Senate, lawmakers did almost nothing to implement the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council’s recommendations.
. . . On a related note, the 2011 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll indicated that 68 percent of Iowa farmers believe climate change is happening, 5 percent do not believe it is happening, and 28 percent are not sure. About 45 percent of that survey’s respondents said human activities are partly or mostly responsible for changing climate patterns.”
The Scoop: DesMoinesDem’s post discusses how faith leaders are speaking out in Iowa about climate change and calling for solutions-oriented actions by Iowa’s political leaders, who are not yet stepping up. Thanks DesMoinesDem for your post and your call to action directed to state legislators.
Read the whole story here: http://www.bleedingheartland.com/diary/5458/iowa-faith-leaders-call-for-action-to-limit-climate-change
Monday, April 23, 2012
Earth Day 1970 sounded an alarm. It launched the modern environmental movement, bringing cleaner air that’s healthier to breathe, cleaner water that’s safer to drink and enjoy for recreation, and fewer dangerous toxics in our communities. Today, the growing green economy is helping to drive the Midwest’s and our nation’s economic recovery. Energy efficient equipment and appliances, wind and solar energy development, cleaner more fuel efficient cars and modern high-performance rail development are good for job creation, good for economic growth and good for the environment.
Nonetheless, some defensive polluters and politicized critics are hauling out the old, false myth that we must choose between job creation and environmental progress. That wasn’t true 42 years ago, and it isn’t true today. Nor do most people believe in that canard. Let’s look at the facts and progress of innovative clean technologies in the Midwest.
Energy Efficiency Improvements are creating jobs, saving people and businesses money on their utility bills, and reducing pollution. Johnson Controls, Honeywell, Shaw Group and Sieben Energy Associates are among the many energy efficiency businesses employing thousands of skilled workers retrofitting schools, hospitals, homes and commercial, industrial and governmental buildings. Saving energy saves consumers money and keeps money in the Midwest regional economy. Less pollution means better public health and cleaner lakes and rivers for all. Why would anyone argue that it’s somehow smart to waste energy and money?
Wind and Solar Energy Development create manufacturing and technical jobs, rural economic development and pollution-free energy. The Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Wind and Solar Supply Chain reports show that :
- Illinois is home to more than 300 wind, solar and geothermal supply chain businesses and 18,000 related jobs
- Iowa is home to more than 80 wind supply chain businesses and 2,300 manufacturing jobs, alone.
- Michigan is home to more than 241 wind and solar supply chain businesses and 10,000 related jobs.
- Ohio is home to more than 169 wind and solar supply chain businesses and 9,000 related jobs.
- Wisconsin is home to more than 250 wind and solar supply chain businesses and 12,000 related jobs.
Chicago is home to the headquarters of 13 major wind power companies, making “the Windy City” a global wind industry hub. Old-line manufacturing companies including Brad Foote Gear Works (Cicero, IL), Dowding Industries – Astraeus Wind Energy (Eaton Rapids, MI), A. Lucas & Sons Steel (Peoria, IL), S&C Electric (Chicago, IL), Timken (Canton, OH) and Broadwind – Tower Tech (Manitowoc, WI) are re-tooling to supply growing markets for clean energy equipment. Iowa is the nation’s #2 state for installed wind power, and Illinois was the nation’s #2 state for new wind power development in 2011. Wind power is the fastest growing global energy source. Midwest politicians must get the policy framework right to keep advancing our region’s clean energy economy leadership.
Cleaner, More Efficient Cars and Trucks save us money at the gas pump, cutback air pollution, improve national security by making our country less dependent on foreign oil, and keep money in the Midwest states’ economies rather than drain dollars to the Middle East, Venezuela and oil-producing states. The Obama Administration’s leadership in stabilizing and modernizing the American auto industry is a true success story, which is especially important for the Midwest with its high percentage of auto-related manufacturing jobs. Look at just Illinois: Ford is now adding 1,100 new jobs at its Chicago assembly plant, Chrysler is adding 1,800 new jobs at its Belvedere plant, and Mitsubishi Motors is investing at its Normal plant and promoting electric vehicles. Automakers and parts suppliers in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana are reviving, and there are new advanced battery manufacturers, especially in Michigan.
The federal clean car standards will increase fuel economy to a fleet-wide average of 35 mpg in 2016 and 54.5 mpg by 2025. That will save trillions of dollars for America’s economy, create jobs for Americans building the cleaner cars for the future, and reduce greenhouse gas pollution. This is a smart solution.
High-Speed Rail Development is on track across Illinois with leadership from Democratic Governor Quinn and across Michigan with leadership from Republican Governor Snyder. High-performance rail improves mobility, creates jobs and spurs economic growth, and reduces pollution. Supply chain businesses across the Midwest will be manufacturing equipment for high-speed rail projects. Wisconsin Governor Walker’s decision to reject $810 million of federal high-speed rail funds and Ohio Governor Kasich’s decision to reject $400 million are missed opportunities, which we hope can be reversed in the future.
Modern, fast, comfortable and convenient trains connecting Chicago to Milwaukee, Detroit and St. Louis and to Cleveland, Des Moines, Indianapolis, Madison, Minneapolis-St. Paul and other Midwestern cities is an important third transportation option to highway congestion with higher gas prices and rising airfares with fewer flights. This is a sensible solution for our future.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ recent report shows that 3.1 million people hold jobs in green goods and services. Close to 500,000 jobs are in manufacturing, 370,000 in construction and 349,000 in professional, scientific and technical services. That’s progress.
We will soon be overwhelmed by 30-second political attack ads from all sides. Let’s separate sound solutions from the sound bites. We are achieving job creation, economic growth and better environmental quality together. That’s what the public wants and it’s happening.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Many of our partners, friends and supporters have websites and blogs that share their strategic thinking on important environmental, clean energy and natural resource conservation issues in our Midwest communities and nationally. Each week, I’ll be sharing with you a particularly interesting website or blog post for your education and engagement. Let’s kick things off this April – right before Earth Day – with two recent posts for your reading interest.
Suggestions and ideas welcomed!
Michigan Land Use Institute Blog on Why Detroit’s Public Transit Is Vital
This “post of the week” comes from Jim Lively, a planner and program director at the Michigan Land Use Institute (MLUI), a long-time ELPC partner in Northern Michigan. Jim’s post “Detroit Transit Vital to the Whole State” explains his views on why the Michigan Legislature should create the state’s first regional transit authority in the Detroit Metro Area:
“But economists know that Michigan’s future, including Traverse City’s, is inextricably connected to the fate of Detroit. And Detroit cannot succeed if Michiganders don’t stop the terrible, twin trends of public disinvestment and population loss from our state’s largest city.
Perhaps the most glaring example of disinvestment is the lack of a regional public transportation system that can move people between city and suburbs. Realtors, developers, and demographers confirm that cities without effective transit systems are not attractive to the young knowledge workers who are driving the new economy.”
The Scoop: Jim Lively’s blog post describes how the proposed regional transit authority would better connect Detroit to the suburbs and shows the problems facing cities that lack regional transport. Thanks Jim and MLUI, for your post and work on better transportation in Michigan.
Real the whole story here: http://mlui.org/blogs/?p=2811
Amanda Hanley’s WREN Blog
This “post of the week” comes from Amanda Hanley’s WREN Blog – “Winnetka Resident’s Eco Notes”. Amanda is an environmental consultant, activist and Mom writing about opportunities for people to be more conscious of sustainable living and talk about key environmental issues affecting our communities and the world. In this month’s “Winnetka’s Dirty Secret”, Amanda explains that coal plants are the principal source of electricity in Winnetka even as many residents would like to green their community:
“Winnetka’s power is not very clean. We are more dependent on coal than most every other town in Northern Illinois. When it comes to renewable energy, neighboring communities are set to reach much higher targets. Making matters worse, many North Shore towns have an opportunity to cut electricity rates (supply portion) up to 25% and get 100% green power. This option is not available in Winnetka.”
Winnetka is a member of the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency (IMEA). Amanda explains her views on the limited accountability, disclosure and standards for IMEA’s operations and how IMEA relies on polluting power supplies. She describes how some Winnetka residents are taking actions to make their community more environmentally friendly. Amanda also calls for knowledge sharing on this issue: the more people know where their electricity comes from, the more people can actively fight for cleaner, renewable electricity for their homes and businesses.
The Scoop: Amanda Hanley’s blog post in WREN this month effectively highlights the problems of Winnetka relying on polluting electricity supplies and missing out on clean, renewable energy opportunities. She’s right to urge people to take actions calling on IMEA to pursue more environmentally sustainable renewable energy supplies. Thanks Amanda, for your WREN blog post and call to action.
Read the whole article here: http://www.ecowren.net/2012/winnetkas-dirty-secret/
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Today, the Great Lakes Commission and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative released its Chicago Area Waterways Study (CAWS), which offers recommended action steps to protect the Great Lakes from Asian carp and other invasive species. ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner released this statement about the study and its recommendations.
“Separating the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River Basin is a key step to protect both the ecological and economic value of the Great Lakes. More than 30 million people live in the Great Lakes Basin and rely on its abundance of freshwater, which is under increasing threat from Asian carp and other invasive species. The release of this important study and action framework today advances important Great Lakes values.
“The Study shows that strong and effective action is needed sooner than later to protect Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes. We have to get this right from the start. There are no do-over ‘Mulligans’ if invasive species get into our Great Lakes.”
Mr. Learner served as a member of the Advisory Committee for the Chicago Area Waterways Study project.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
We’re proud. Based on ELPC’s Charity Navigator score on financial strength and management, ELPC is being recognized in the media as among “The 10 Highest-Rated Charities in America: 2011.”
Please see the articles on MSN Money and Main Street.
ELPC is the only environmental group and the only advocacy group on this list. Moreover, as my colleague Jill Geiger points out, ELPC is the only listed group, which is located between the coasts.
Good news for us all at ELPC.
Sunday, January 1, 2012
As we begin a new year, let’s recognize a terrific long-delayed success finalized at the end of 2011.
On December 21st, the US EPA announced the first-ever national standards to reduce mercury, arsenic, cadmium and other toxic air pollutants from coal plants by requiring installation of modern pollution control equipment. These standards make good economic and environmental sense. They were required by the Clean Air Act more than 20 years ago and level the playing field for Illinois energy companies that have already invested in mercury pollution control technologies. The national investments will create jobs, achieve cleaner air and water, drive technological innovations and protect children’s health.
Coal plants are the largest source of mercury pollution in the Great Lakes. Public health officials have issued “mercury advisories” for almost every river, lake and stream in the Great Lakes states. Sad, isn’t it? It’s not safe to eat the fish we catch.
Mercury is a neurotoxin that, when ingested by pregnant women, enters the bloodstream, crosses the placental barrier and impairs fetal brain development, thereby causing mental and physical harms. Installing widely available pollution control technologies can reduce more than 90 percent of the mercury pollution that is harming both children’s health and our environment.
In 2006, the Illinois Pollution Control Board adopted mercury pollution standards, which required all coal plants to install technologies to reduce mercury pollution by 90% or more by 2009 and 2013. Some coal plant owners made the same overblown arguments about reliability threats and costs that we’re hearing today at the Federal level. What happened in Illinois? The coal plants mostly complied, mercury pollution dropped significantly, the lights stayed on, and utility rates didn’t go up from that. Our children’s health is better protected.
Illinois is demonstrating that the federal mercury standards are achievable, but some out-of-state coal plant owners and their Congressional allies are already moving to weaken the new standards.
Both Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Mark Kirk have long expressed their support for strong mercury pollution reduction standards. Senator Kirk wrote in 2003: “We are at risk and our children are at greater risk if we do nothing to reduce mercury pollution. This may become a defining issue of our decade, and we have the chance to make a real difference for our environmental future.”
Illinois coal plant owners are stepping up to clean up mercury, and they shouldn’t be placed at a competitive disadvantage by others who don’t and continue their mercury pollution.
We urge Senator Durbin, Senator Kirk and Illinois’ Congressional Representatives to strongly oppose those who would take the country backwards. Let’s move forward with these common-sense national mercury pollution reduction standards to protect children’s health and our Great Lakes and rivers for all.
Best wishes to ELPC’s valued friends, colleagues and supporters for a successful 2012,
Friday, December 16, 2011
This is both a remarkable and challenging year for our nation’s economy and for the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s work to protect our environment, preserve the Midwest’s natural heritage and grow the clean energy economy. During this time of extreme political partisanship and economic doldrums, ELPC has produced strong successes and strong results.
We have achieved a fundamental victory toward cleaning up the Chicago River for recreational use and enjoyment, as a vibrant natural habitat and as a community asset. High-speed rail development is moving from vision to reality, transforming the Midwest’s transportation infrastructure. Energy efficiency is becoming widely accepted as a smart way of doing business and the best, fastest and cheapest way of saving consumers money on utility bills, reducing pollution and enhancing grid reliability. Wind power and solar power are the fastest growing energy sources in the world, creating jobs and spurring business. ELPC advances win-win-win solutions that achieve environmental progress, job creation and economic growth together.
I am writing to ask you to make a financial contribution to ELPC during this holiday season. ELPC combines strong legal and policy advocacy with diverse eco-business partnerships to advance our core vision and mission of achieving environmental progress and economic development together. This is the right environmental solutions-oriented approach for our times.
Cleaning Up the Chicago River – A Turning Point! For years, Chicagoans have sadly tolerated our namesake river being unsafe and unhealthy for recreation and enjoyment. Chicago is one of the very few major cities in which wastewater is not disinfected prior to discharge into the river. ELPC’s and our colleagues’ persistent and effective advocacy over the past six years succeeded in 2011. 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 and the District has changed course and so committed. Twenty years from now, Chicagoans enjoying the Chicago River in their communities will look back, shake their heads and ask why it took so long to clean up our river. 2011 will be seen as the turning point. ELPC and our colleagues at Friends of the Chicago River, Openlands, NRDC, Sierra Club and Alliance for the Great Lakes are very proud of this breakthrough.
Cleaner Air and More Clean Energy. ELPC’s Repowering the Midwest and Job Jolt studies in 2000 and 2001 presented a visionary clean energy development plan for our region. We are now achieving this transformation. More than 6,000 megawatts of wind power are running, solar is coming and energy efficiency is flattening out demand while old highly-polluting coal plants are either installing modern pollution control equipment or shutting down. The growing clean energy economy is “jolting” new job creation, and old-line manufacturers are retooling to make new wind and solar energy equipment. ELPC is leading the policy charge for this transformative change to a cleaner energy economy.
Midwest High-Speed Rail – From Vision to Reality. Thousands of construction workers are now working to upgrade the Chicago-St. Louis and Chicago-Detroit corridors to provide modern, faster, more comfortable and convenient rail service that can improve mobility for businesses and families, reduce pollution, create new jobs and pull the regional economy together. ELPC, the Chambers of Commerce in Illinois and the AFL-CIO are all on the same page, working together to get the new fast trains running soon. Get ready to get on board!
Protecting the Saugatuck Dunes Conservation Area. ELPC attorneys’ representation of the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance and other local conservation and civic leaders achieved a huge legal victory in the Federal District Court for the Western District of Michigan that is heading off, for now, a damaging large-scale development in this very special natural area that the National Trust for Historic Preservation identified as one of the 11 most endangered places in America. This legal victory exemplifies the importance and effectiveness of ELPC’s public interest lawyering and opens the door to better solutions that protect vital lands.
How do we keep producing successes that improve environmental quality and preserve natural resources? There’s no “secret sauce,” but there is a winning formula. ELPC achieves successes by developing smart, innovative strategies with a team of talented and dedicated public interest attorneys, MBAs, policy advocates and communications specialists working with diverse and effective business, labor, environmental and civic partners. Our 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. Together with ELPC’s Board and Staff, I’m proud of our 2011 accomplishments, and we all look forward to seizing more strategic opportunities for environmental solutions and progress.
ELPC is the Midwest’s premier environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization, and we’re among the very best in the country. Thank you for considering a contribution to support our success in protecting the Midwest’s environmental quality and preserving our natural resources. My best wishes to you for a happy and healthy new year.