Howard’s blog

My end-of-year letter

Elections produce change, they can shock the system, and they create new challenges and, often, unanticipated opportunities.  President-elect Trump does not share ELPC’s values and that creates enormous challenges.  Some fundamentals, however, still present positive opportunities in the Midwest states where ELPC focuses, leads and knows how to get things done.

The Midwest is the nation’s most pivotal region for transitioning to a clean energy economy and is the nation’s transportation crossroads where vehicle and mobility innovations can make the most difference in the ways that we live and work.  Cleaning up the energy and transportation sectors are the most important climate change solutions that are needed to save our planet.  Likewise, we must protect the Great Lakes, which are 22% of the world’s freshwater resources, supplying drinking water to 42 million people.  The leadership gap and gridlock in Washington DC makes clear that states and cities are key places for ELPC to drive environmental progress.

ELPC is effective.  We advance savvy policy changes that combined with technological innovations are driving energy markets to accelerate solar energy, wind power, battery storage and energy efficiency.  We are seizing opportunities to transform the transportation sector with innovative new electric and driverless cars and trucks that pollute less and smart mobility options including high-speed rail, better public transit and shared vehicles.  ELPC public interest attorneys are winning strategic litigation with our conservation partners to protect the Midwest’s special wild and natural places – the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Sylvania Wilderness, Great Lakes and Northwoods.

Your support will help ELPC win in 2017, advancing cleaner energy in the Midwest, accelerating transportation innovations, and protecting the great lakes, rivers, forests and prairies that we love. Please read the enclosed report, consider ELPC’s track record of success, and make a contribution by phone, mail or at ELPC.org/donate.

ELPC shows that smart, strategic legal and policy advocacy can both improve environmental quality and grow the Midwest’s economy. ELPC’s teams of expert public interest attorneys, M.B.A.s, policy advocates, communications specialists and science advisors play to win and know how to get things done – truly making a difference for a better world.

ELPC is on the Cusp of Transformational Electricity Policy, Market and Technological Changes, Leading the Midwest to a Clean Energy Future, State by State.  New solar energy, wind power, battery and lighting technologies can help clean up and transform the electricity sector.  ELPC attorneys, M.B.A.s and policy experts are driving new pro-innovation and pro-competition policies to remove barriers and open up markets for solar, wind and storage technologies before the state public utilities commissions where “the rubber hits the road.”  We are playing both offense and defense to accelerate clean renewable energy across the Midwest.  The stakes are high for our future energy mix and climate change solutions.

We Can Make Solar + Batteries = 24/7 Electricity Market Game Changer. Midwest energy policies do not support (and in some ways impede) widespread implementation of new solar energy and storage technologies that would provide both economic benefits – less expensive ways of achieving reliability for business and residential consumers – and environmental value as a very low-carbon part of the electricity system when grid integrated.  ELPC is also working at regional transmission organizations to design policies for demand response and battery storage that provide grid support, enhance reliability, and reduce need for old coal plants.

ELPC Is Taking on Peabody Energy – the Biggest Coal Mine Company.  ELPC attorneys are making progress before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in challenging Peabody Energy’s flawed “self-bonding” practices — a promise to pay, without guarantee — for its mine reclamation obligations. Peabody and other coal mine companies must fulfill their environmental cleanup responsibilities and not shift their costs onto taxpayers.

ELPC Is Winning in the Courts to Clean Up or Retire Coal.  ELPC won a federal district court decision requiring the Edwards coal plant in Peoria to reduce dangerous soot pollution, and ELPC attorneys helped stop First Energy’s and AEP’s requested bailouts of uneconomic old coal plants in Ohio. Because of coal plant retirements, Illinois is already 81% and Michigan is 90% of the way toward achieving their full Clean Power Plan carbon pollution reductions by 2030.

ELPC is Accelerating Electric Vehicles (EV) and “Driverless” Car Policies to Steer the Right Course to Clean Up and Rapidly Transform the Transportation Sector.  We are exploring ways to develop a modern EV fast-charging network that brings together homes, public sites and fast-charging stations powered by solar or wind energy along major Midwest interstates.  ELPC is leading the national environmental advocacy with government agencies to integrate greenhouse gas reduction standards into emerging federal safety policies for driverless vehicles.  Done right, the technological advances spurring development of driverless cars create opportunities to lower traffic fatalities, optimize fuel efficiency to produce less pollution, and reduce congestion.  That’s a winning strategy.

ELPC – the Go-To Public Interest Litigation Attorneys for Conservation Partners Working to Protect the Midwest’s Wild and Natural Places When Serious Threats Emerge:

  • We’re Protecting the Sylvania Wilderness, a beautiful 18,327-acre area of interconnected lakes and old growth trees along the Michigan-Wisconsin border where people canoe, fish, hike, camp and enjoy the quiet of the outdoors.  ELPC attorneys represent environmental groups intervening in litigation brought by private plaintiffs seeking to overturn the Forest Service’s limits on “grandfathered” uses of loud gas-powered motorboats.  In June, ELPC won a favorable Federal District Court summary judgment decision to limit large motorboat uses that disturb the wilderness experience and potentially bring in invasive species.  If upheld on appeal, that decision will also set a precedent for protecting other Midwest National Parks, Lakeshores and Wilderness Areas.
  • We’re Ditching the Illiana Tollway Boondoggle and Protecting the Remarkable Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. The Illiana Tollway is a fiscal folly, undermines sound regional planning, and would harm wildlife and ecological values in the 19,000-acre Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. ELPC attorneys representing the Midewin Heritage Association, Openlands and Sierra Club have now twice prevailed before the Federal District Courts, which have declared that the federal and state transportation agencies’ approvals of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 Environmental Impact Statements and Record of Decisions violated NEPA and are invalid.  ELPC’s media outreach has secured 20 editorials against the Illiana “road to nowhere” during Illinois’ fiscal crisis when there are much higher priorities for limited transportation infrastructure funds to enable badly-needed fixes for transit and commuter rail, intercity higher-speed rail, and bridge repairs.  It’s time to finally bring the proposed Illiana Tollway to an end.
  • We’re Protecting Clean Water in the Great Lakes and Midwest Rivers. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has bipartisan support and sustained appropriations, which have largely avoided political squabbling. The projects supported by close to $2 billion of federal funds over the past seven years are achieving real results for restoring the Great Lakes ecological system. In Illinois, ELPC attorneys won a state court decision overturning agencies’ failure to establish sound phosphorus standards and a separate permit appeal challenging discharges of superheated water into Lake Michigan.  In Iowa, ELPC attorneys won a court decision reversing an agency’s flawed “antidegradation” standards that should keep clean water clean.

ELPC believes in the core principle that environmental progress and economic growth can be achieved together, and we put that sustainability principle into practice every day. Our multidisciplinary staff teams of public interest attorneys, M.B.A.s, policy experts and communications specialists are fully engaged across the Midwest, and we’re achieving progress.  ELPC’s strong Board of Directors, scientist advisors, and next-gen and state advisory councils expand our capabilities, talent and networks to succeed.   It isn’t easy; real change never is. We don’t give up. We play to win and work with diverse partners to accomplish results that matter.

Thank you for your engagement and your support.  Please consider making a contribution by mail, phone or online at elpc.org/donate to support ELPC’s effective work to seize opportunities for transformational changes and achieve a brighter Midwest future for all.

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