Air Pollution

Chicago Tribune: ELPC’s Learner Supports IL Pollution Lawsuit Against VW, Says Everyone is Harmed

The Chicago Tribune

Illinois forcing Volkswagen to clean up its act

Nov. 14, 2016
By Robert Reed

Even those who never owned a Volkswagen car could benefit from the beleaguered company’s desperate need to make “dieselgate,” a moniker for its massive auto emissions scandal, fade in the rearview mirror.

But that’s not going to happen until the German automaker makes peace with Illinois and a bunch of other ticked-off states suing the company for allegedly fouling the environment.

Some may see these lawsuits as blatantly trying to squeeze extra cash from a staggering Volkswagen, which admitted using software designed to cheat on emissions testing. I’d disagree, mainly because no automaker, or company for that matter, should go unchallenged for allegedly violating a bedrock environmental law in such an admittedly blatant manner. It’s not fair to the public or to other businesses that must follow the rules.

This week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan smacked Volkswagen with a lawsuit claiming the automaker violated the state’s pollution protection rules. Madigan’s office wants the company to pay some form of damages, as do 11 other states also suing Volkswagen on similar grounds.

The legal fallout is linked to the company’s admission last year that about 500,000 of its VWs and Audis with 2-liter, four-cylinder diesel engines were programmed to cheat on government emissions tests. Since then, Volkswagen’s focus has been on making amends with its disgusted car buyers, settling with irate consumer fraud regulators and quelling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Now the saga is entering a new chapter: Volkswagen is dealing with states saying the very air their communities breathe was compromised by the emissions-rigging scheme.

“Not only were consumers harmed by buying cars that were less than advertised; the public as a whole has suffered because there’s more pollution,” says Howard Learner , executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, a Chicago-based watchdog and advocacy group.



Daily Herald: ELPC’s Learner Says We Need President Who Will Reduce Air Pollution

Daily HeraldWhere Trump, Clinton Stand on the Environment

November 5, 2016
By Marni Pyke

Despite headlines about lead in Michigan drinking water, the environment hasn’t made much noise in the presidential race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump and that’s unfortunate, local experts think.

Chicago and the suburbs need a president who will reduce air pollution, said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

“Air quality is getting better but we have a way to go because pollution doesn’t just stay within municipal boundaries,” he said.

Collins, an environmental attorney from Naperville, said aging pipes are a source of water pollution in the region.

Read More


ABC 7 News: Learner says Chicago Vehicle Emission Testing Site Closures Make No Sense

ABC 7 Eyewitness News

Chicago Now Left Without Any Emissions Testing Facilities
By Evelyn Holmes

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

CHICAGO (WLS) — Many Chicago drivers are being inconvenienced by the closing of the last two Illinois emissions testing facilities in Chicago.

Tuesday was the first day that car owners in the city have to travel to the suburbs for the test.

Aida Oqunido found out the hard way – that the vehicle emissions testing center is now closed for good.

“It’s not right. We have to go a long way to find another one,” she said.

The location is one of four vehicle emissions testing facilities shuttered by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to save millions by cutting costs by using a private contractor to run the testing program.

“I think (there) should be at least one location in the city,” said Michael Weissbluth.

The Webster Avenue facility and Forest Preserve Drive locations were the last two testing facilities in the city, leaving Chicago drivers without a city testing station.



Chicago Tonight: ELPC’s Learner says Chicago shutdown of vehicle emissions testing sites “defies common sense”

Chicago Tonight

EPA to Shut Down 2 Chicago Vehicle Emissions Test Facilities
By Reuben Unrau

October 21, 2016

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency will close two vehicle emissions testing facilities in Chicago, leaving motorists without a single testing center within city limits starting Nov. 1.

The decision, announced by the agency Wednesday, comes as a result of a new testing contract that aims to cut costs.

Test sites at 1850 W. Webster Ave. in Bucktown and 6959 W. Forest Preserve Drive in Harwood Heights will shutter by the end of the month. The EPA also announced the closure of suburban facilities in Elk Grove Village and Tinley Park.

Kim Biggs, a spokeswoman for the Illinois EPA, says motorists will not have to travel more than 12 miles to reach a testing station, which is required by state statute. In a press release, the EPA says Chicago-area drivers will have to commute an additional four miles, on average, starting in November.

“Motorists may have a different drive, but this new contract will provide significant cost savings in Illinois,” Biggs said.

The contract will save Illinois taxpayers around $11 million per year and an estimated $100 million over the next 10 years, according to the Illinois EPA. The move also includes measures that are designed to increase efficiency: Testing centers will have extended hours on Saturdays and each location (with the exception of the site in Schaumburg) will be equipped with high-capacity, two-lane facilities to help accommodate the expected increase in demand. Motorists will also be able to request extensions or exemptions from the testing requirement online.

Despite the savings, opponents fear the Chicago closures will create a burden on motorists in the state’s largest city. Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, says the decision is “tone deaf and defies common sense.”


Litigation Victory! Federal Court Finds that Dynegy’s Edwards Coal Plant Violates Law on Particulate Pollution and Opacity

Victory! ELPC and our partners won a major victory as Federal District Court Judge McDade just issued a very favorable decision granting us summary judgment in our lawsuit challenging excessive particulate emissions, which exacerbate respiratory problems, from the old Edwards coal plant near Peoria, IL. The Court’s opinion holds that a Dynegy subsidiary, the plant owner, violated the Edwards coal plant’s operating permit thousands of times over seven years – emitting an illegal amount of harmful soot pollution.

ELPC attorneys Jenny Cassel and Justin Vickers represent client plaintiffs Respiratory Health Association and Sierra Club, and we are working with co-plaintiff Natural Resources Defense Council. Together, we alleged that the Edwards coal plant was not properly controlling soot pollution – also known as “particulate matter,” which is associated with asthma, decreased lung function, and other respiratory problems.

This important legal victory reinforces the ability of environmental advocacy organizations to bring and win citizen enforcement lawsuits against polluters, even when state agencies do not enforce the permits they issue. It’s time for Dynegy to recognize that if it is going to continue to operate the Edwards plant, it must follow the law by installing sufficient modern pollution control equipment.

Going forward, the case will shift to a “remedy” phase for the Judge to determine what steps Dynegy must take to reduce pollution and comply with its permit, as well as what penalties should be paid for violations.

Kudos to ELPC attorneys Jenny Cassel and Justin Vickers and our partners who all worked hard on this case. This court decision will reduce pollution and set a precedent for environmental enforcement lawsuits brought in the public interest.

Daily Herald: ELPC’s Learner Warns of Impact of Budget Impasse on Clean Air and Public Health

Could the state’s budget chaos increase air pollution?

It’s not a stretch, environmental experts say, given that drivers aren’t receiving reminders in the mail about vehicle emissions tests and won’t be penalized for skipping checkups starting Tuesday.

And without a stick to force everyone to get their cars tested, lungs breathing air tainted by thousands of vehicles emitting smog could be the next collateral damage from feuding between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic lawmakers.

“There’s a reason for inspections and maintenance requirements — they’re a fundamental building block of the Clean Air Act,” Environmental Law and Policy Center Executive Director Howard Learner said. “Illinois should and must comply with the Clean Air Act because it’s important to protect public health.”

Keep Reading

Public News Service: Measuring Chicago’s Diesel Pollution Problem

CHICAGO – Trying to get a handle on how much diesel pollution is being pumped into the air by Chicago’s cars, trains and trucks is serious work.

Over the past few months, an air monitor has been set up in popular public places, including the Shedd Aquarium and in Chicago neighborhoods such as Pilsen, which until a few years ago was home to one of the dirtiest coal power plants in the country.

Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate with the Environmental Law and Policy Center, says the focus has moved from coal to diesel pollution to help assess the risk. “Diesel pollution is very dangerous for people’s health,” she states. “It is linked with asthma, COPD – it’s even linked with some cancers.”

Keep Reading

WGN: The Wintrust Business Lunch: Frank Sennett, Robert Perrin, and Susan Mudd

Amy Guth fills-in for Steve this week and kicks it off by bringing you this packed episode of the Wintrust Business Lunch. First, Amy talks to Frank Sennett of Crain’s Chicago Business about a new app that will pay you to take selfies.

Next, Amy checks back in with Steve – who takes a look at how much companies should invest in their senior employees. Robert Perrin, the CEO of Magellan Associates LLC, joins Steve to discuss the pros and cons.

Amy wraps up the show with Susan Mudd, a Senior Policy Advocate who leads the Environmental Law and Policy Center’s Diesel Pollution Reduction Initiative. Susan talks about how small businesses can easily reduce air pollution. All that and more on this episode of the Wintrust Business Lunch!

Click here to listen to the audio story. ELPC’s segment starts at 23:00.

Press Release: Environmental Groups Partner with Construction Firm to Adopt Clean Diesel Construction Practices in Chicago


Environmental Groups Partner with Construction Firm to Adopt Clean Diesel Construction Practices in Chicago

Cleaner air improves health for all who live and work nearby

CHICAGO – The Environmental Law & Policy Center and Respiratory Health Association are partnering with construction firm Leopardo Companies, Inc., to create one of Chicago’s first clean diesel construction projects that will emit significantly less diesel particulates into the air and provide a healthier environment for people who live, work and play nearby.

The 265,000-square foot retail development at 3030 N. Broadway in the Lakeview neighborhood is being built with construction equipment that meets the tightest diesel tailpipe exhaust standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency. Leopardo also is limiting the time machinery is permitted to idle at the site as another component to its clean diesel practices.

“The Environmental Law & Policy Center anticipates more construction firms and property owners will be compelled to pursue clean diesel practices that are both cost-effective and  healthy for people who are employed onsite or  live and work around these construction projects,” said Susan Mudd, Senior Policy Advocate.

A majority of the heavy equipment onsite meets the EPA’s stringent Tier 4 clean diesel standards, which captures most of the harmful diesel particulates that would otherwise be expelled into the air. In addition, Leopardo hauled a 300-ton crawler crane to the site and retrofitted it with an emissions scrubber to meet the equivalency of the Tier 4 standards.

Pollution from diesel exhaust contains extremely small particles that can lodge deep inside the lungs. Anyone with respiratory challenges, such as asthma, is at greater risk for more health complications when exposed to diesel particulates, said Brian Urbaszewski, the Respiratory Health Association’s Director of Environmental Health Programs.

“Respiratory Health Association is proud to recognize companies that are proactively seeking out diesel equipment that is much cleaner and safer, improving the health of their employees and community members who live and work next to construction sites,” said Urbaszewski.

“Leopardo is committed to having more clean diesel construction sites in the future,” said George Tuhowski, director of sustainability at Leopardo, one of the largest construction firms in the region. “We’re confident that more contractors will rally behind this green initiative and make it the standard practice.”

The property, owned by 3030 N. Broadway LLC, will have a Mariano’s Fresh Market as the anchor of the 5-story building. The project is expected to be completed by fall 2016.


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