WGN Radio: ELPC’s Learner Explores What Scalia’s Death Means for the Clean Power Plan

Howard Learner joins Justin Kaufmann to discuss President Obama’s Clean Power Plan and what the future holds for the plan after the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Listen to their conversation online at WGN Radio.

Statement from Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition Re: U.S. Supreme Court’s temporary stay of Clean Power Plan

The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition issued the following response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s issuing of a temporary stay on implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan:

“While the U.S. Supreme Court may have temporarily delayed implementation, we believe the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) and the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill are the best ways to create thousands of jobs, cut electric bills and give Illinois clean air.

“We encourage Governor Rauner and the Illinois EPA to begin a stakeholder process that keeps Illinois from falling further behind other states in growing a strong clean energy economy once the court upholds the Clean Power Plan.”

ELPC is a member of the Coalition, which you can learn more about at

ELPC’s Learner Calls for Illinois Climate Solutions in Progress Illinois After 2015 Named Warmest Year on Record

Global temperatures hit an unprecedented high in 2015, with temps shattering the previous record set in 2014 and reaching 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels for the first time in recorded history.

That’s according to new research released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NASA.

“Weather and temperature data are facts. They’re not opinions. And what the data is showing is that climate change is occurring,” Howard Learner, president and executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, said in response to the new figures. “And 2015 being the warmest year on record is a strong indicator that here in Chicago and the United States and globally, we need to step up and act smartly and accelerate climate change solutions.”

Last year, the planet’s average surface temperature was 58.62 degrees Fahrenheit (14.79 Celsius) — an increase of 0.29 degrees Fahrenheit (0.16 degrees Celsius) compared to the previous record set in 2014, according to NOAA.

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Howard Learner appears on WGN Radio’s “The Download” to talk about the Paris Climate Conference and More

ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner talks with WGN Radio host Justin Kaufmann about the Global Climate Treaty established in Paris, what climate change will mean for the Midwest, and how energy efficiency is a “two-fer” for environmental protection and economic development.

Listen to the broadcast on WGN’s website. Howard’s segment begins at minute 36. 

Learner Op-Ed in State Journal-Register: Clean Power Plan makes good economic sense for Illinois

Illinois is an economic winner under the new Clean Power Plan because of our state’s robust clean wind power, solar energy and energy efficiency resources and nuclear plants. The Clean Power Plans sets flexible standards for Illinois and other states to reduce carbon pollution.

Building new wind farms in central Illinois creates jobs, boosts property tax revenues for schools and local governments, and provides new income for farmers who can continue to grow corn and soybeans while gaining wind turbine lease payments. Wind power produces clean energy that grows Illinois’ economy while reducing pollution for everyone.

Energy efficiency is the best, fastest and cheapest way to reduce carbon pollution while saving homeowners money on their utility bills and businesses money that improves their bottom lines.

Illinois is now fifth in the nation for wind power capacity. Illinois is home to the nation’s largest nuclear plant fleet. Solar energy is primed to accelerate. Illinois homes and business and governmental and university buildings have untapped opportunities for highly efficient LED lighting, improved heating and cooling systems, better pumps and motors, and other modern energy efficiency technologies that save money and reduce pollution.

The Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Illinois Clean Energy Supply Chain report identified 237 Illinois companies engaged in the solar industry supply chain, and 170 Illinois wind industry supply chain companies. These businesses employ 20,000 people across Illinois. The Clean Power Plan and renewable energy development solutions are good for jobs, good for economic growth and good for our environment.

So, what’s the problem?

Missourian Terry Jarrett’s Dec. 7 guest column attacked the Clean Power Plan that is designed to reduce carbon pollution, help grow the clean energy economy and accelerate practical climate solutions. Jarrett’s economic arguments were based on a report by “Energy Ventures Analysis” that, apparently, was commissioned by the National Mining Association, including Peabody Energy, which is headquartered in Missouri. What does one expect when the cost estimates are being generated at the behest of large coal mining companies?

Let’s set the record straight. Some coal plants in Illinois are retiring because of changing realities in the competitive electricity market: (1) low natural gas prices, (2) economical wind power, (3) affordable energy efficiency holding down electricity demand, and (4) nuclear plants for which Exelon is asking for public subsidies to keep running.

Natural gas prices are low — today, $2.02 MMBtu — and many coal plants are just not competitive on a fuel basis. That’s why Dynegy and NRG are retiring some of their coal plants that are uneconomic in the competitive power market. They are converting some other coal plants to natural gas. These corporate business decisions reflect today’s competitive market prices and reasonable near-term projections; the Clean Power Plan requirements, however, won’t take effect until 2023 at the earliest.

Electricity sales are down about 1 percent annually in Illinois due to energy efficiency. There’s a surplus of electric generating supply over demand here. That results in relatively low wholesale electricity market prices. That’s good for Illinois businesses and residents. That’s not so good for power plant owners.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s recent study determined that reaching renewable energy and energy efficiency targets already in state statutes would trigger creation of 9,600 new jobs by 2019. The study also found that investments in wind power and solar energy have “led to a dramatic increase in manufacturing jobs at renewable component manufacturers across Illinois from Peoria to Cicero, Clinton, Rockford, and Chicago.”

Illinois should benefit from cleaner air, clean jobs and economic growth that the Clean Power Plan will accelerate. Let’s be smart, move forward and seize these strategic opportunities for progress.

— Howard A. Learner is the executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, an environmental quality and economic development advocacy organization headquartered in Chicago.

ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner Tells WBEZ Why We Should be Optimistic About Paris Talks

ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner talks with WBEZ’s Jerome McDonnell about the climate negotiations in Paris. He asserts that the discussions are not only a turning point globally, but are a huge opportunity for economic development in the Midwest. He points out in particular that Midwest renewable energy businesses are poised to grow in technology transfers to the developing world. Listen to their discussion below.

ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner Talks with the National Journal About Positive Outcome of Sen. Kirk’s Flip-Flop on Climate Change

After months of seesaw­ing on cli­mate change, Sen. Mark Kirk cast a ma­jor vote in fa­vor of en­vir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tion Tues­day. But even still, en­vir­on­ment­al­ists are sus­pi­cious about wheth­er he’s really on their side.

Kirk was one of three Re­pub­lic­ans to vote against two Con­gres­sion­al Re­view Act res­ol­u­tions that would block the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency’s rules lim­it­ing car­bon-di­ox­ide emis­sions from new and ex­ist­ing power plants.

The oth­er two Re­pub­lic­ans to cross the aisle—Maine’s Susan Collins and New Hamp­shire’s Kelly Ayotte—had already pub­licly said they sup­por­ted the Clean Power Plan, but Kirk’s vote came as a sur­prise. After all, he had in­dic­ated sup­port for the CRA meas­ures in Oc­to­ber, and just a few months earli­er he cast votes against the cli­mate rules in an Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee markup.

How sur­pris­ing was it? The Nat­ur­al Re­sources De­fense Coun­cil blas­ted out a press re­lease that bashed Kirk for vot­ing “to ig­nore cli­mate change,” be­fore yank­ing it for a more fa­vor­able one after his vote was ac­tu­ally cast.

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Update: Sen. Kirk Votes Against Resolution to Disapprove the Clean Power Plan

You helped make a difference. Senator Kirk sadly agreed to sponsor a Congressional Review Act resolution to stop the EPA’s Clean Power Plan standards from taking effect. That would undermine important public health protections and new clean energy development.

ELPC asked our e-activists to call Senator Kirk’s office requesting that he reconsider his position. He did. We appreciate that Senator Kirk changed his position and yesterday voted against the resolutions (S.J. 23 & 24) to disapprove the Clean Power Plan.

President Obama has made clear that he’ll veto the resolutions, which passed the Senate by a 52-48 vote. It’s very unlikely that there will be the necessary 67 votes in the Senate to override the President’s veto. The Clean Power Plan will go forward.

Your citizen engagement helped make a difference in persuading Senator Kirk to change his mind and support the Clean Power Plan this time. We appreciate his votes yesterday. Thank you for your participation and support.

ELPC 2015: What We’ve Achieved, and What’s Next

This is a transformational year for the environment. ELPC is seizing strategic opportunities for progress on the big issues. We’re achieving strong results in these politically gridlocked times.

First, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan caps two decades of sustained advocacy by ELPC and many environmental and public health colleagues backed by sound scientific findings. The U.S. is now stepping up as a global leader advancing clean energy solutions to reduce carbon pollution.

Second, solar energy, wind power and innovative energy efficiency technologies are poised to transform the electricity market just as wireless transformed telecommunications, changing the ways that we live and work. ELPC is driving new policies to accelerate distributed Midwest solar energy installations and install one million new smart thermostats in Illinois.

Third, ELPC’s successful litigation to stop the fiscal folly Illiana Tollway, protect the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie and promote sound regional planning is transforming transportation policy to prioritize public transit and modern regional rail instead of politically clouted boondoggles. ELPC attorneys are winning in both the court of law and the court of public opinion.

ELPC is effective. Our teams of expert public interest attorneys, M.B.A.s, policy advocates and communications specialists, combined with the ELPC Science Advisory Council, play to win and know how to get things done.  ELPC is truly making a difference for a better world.


Your support has helped ELPC advance a cleaner renewable energy mix for the Midwest, accelerate cleaner transportation, and clean up the rivers and great lakes that we all care about. Please consider ELPC’s results and make a financial contribution to support our successful program work in 2016:


Ditching the Illiana Tollway Boondoggle and Protecting the Remarkable Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie

Midewin_Illiana_250x330The proposed new Illiana Tollway is a fiscal folly, undermines sound regional planning and would harm wildlife and ecological values in the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. On June 16th, Federal District Court Judge Jorge Alonso granted Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment and declared that the federal and state transportation agencies’ approval of the Tier 1 final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision “for the proposed new Illiana Expressway was arbitrary and capricious and in violation of NEPA.” This is a tremendous litigation victory for ELPC’s public interest attorneys on behalf of our clients Midewin Heritage Association, Openlands and Sierra Club.

More than a dozen newspapers across Illinois have editorialized against the Illiana “road to nowhere” during the state’s fiscal crisis and 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 highway and bridge repairs.

ELPC’s legal, economic and media advocacy and our clients’ public engagement have changed the proposed new boondoggle Illiana Tollway from a “done deal” to “terminal life support.” It’s time for Governor Rauner and Illinois’ political leadership to finally ditch the Illiana once and for all. ELPC is working hard in the federal and state courts, and in the courts of public opinion, to bring the proposed Illiana Tollway to its well-deserved end.


Installing One Million Smart Thermostats in Illinois – A National Model

NestThermostat_250x330ELPC and Commonwealth Edison worked together creating an ambitious new program to install one million new smart thermostats in Illinois homes and small businesses over the next five years. U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy joined us for the October 8th public announcement. This leading-edge initiative provides rebates up to $120, using the consumer-funded Energy Efficiency Performance Standards program resources, for the new generation of Ecobee, Nest and Honeywell thermostats that learn customer behavior and adjust cooling and heating without complicated programming. These “smart thermostats” can save consumers 15%-25% from their heating and cooling costs and reduce pollution. Once the Illinois program is off the ground, ELPC plans to replicate it in more Midwestern states. This innovative technology is a winner.


Accelerating Solar Energy in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota

SolarShedd_250x330Solar energy installations in the Midwest grew by 70% last year, creating jobs, new businesses and economic growth. However, the coal industry and some electric utilities are seeking to impose regulatory barriers to protect their polluting power plants and their electricity monopolies. ELPC is working to advance sound policies that drive clean solar energy forward and remove regulatory barriers to development.

In Illinois, ELPC was instrumental in helping enact and then design the state’s first $30 million distributed solar generation procurement.

In Iowa, ELPC successfully repelled Interstate Power & Light’s attempt to impose new barriers to solar development after we won a major case before the Iowa Supreme Court to remove utility-imposed barriers to conventional third-party financing arrangements for solar energy development projects.

In Minnesota and Michigan, ELPC is making steady progress with our state-based partners to design new distributed solar programs and strategies. We’re moving forward at this transformational time to accelerate solar energy development for a cleaner energy future. ELPC is pro-technological innovation, pro-competition and pro-removing regulatory barriers to solar.


Keeping the Great Lakes and Midwest Rivers Clean

LakeMichiganMichigan-sidebarThere are two main types of water pollution – from a single, identifiable “point” source and the “non-point” flows from farms, ranches and streets. ELPC is working on both.

This is the first year that the SS Badger car ferry did not dump about 1,000,000 pounds of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan. The ship now has a new coal ash containment system thanks to an effective advocacy campaign led by ELPC with U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and our good colleagues. ELPC’s work to stop the SS Badger from polluting the drinking water supplies for 42 million people is a strong precedent that reinforces that it’s no longer acceptable to dump toxic pollution in our Great Lakes.

ELPC also brought together more than 60 scientists and policymakers for our second annual Great Lakes Science-Policy Confluence Conference to discuss solutions to mitigate “nutrient pollution” – agricultural runoff that helped cause toxic blue-green algae blooms in Western Lake Erie. In summer 2014, 500,000 people in the Toledo area were without safe drinking water supplies for 72 hours. That’s not acceptable. ELPC is stepping up our advocacy for the necessary actions to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from agricultural operations that caused the toxic algae and contaminated water supplies.

ELPC continues our Mississippi River protection legal leadership, and we convened a new collaboration of Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia groups for coordinated multi-state action to help clean up the Ohio River, considered by some to be America’s most polluted waterway.


ELPC Is Accelerating the Next Generation of Sustainable Transportation

AmtrakELPC is a recognized leader in advancing the Midwest high-speed rail network, which will improve mobility, reduce pollution, create jobs and pull together the regional economy. We are working to accelerate new clean cars and trucks, which use modern technologies to increase fuel efficiency and reduce pollution.

This year, I was honored to be asked by Amtrak’s CEO to serve on a four-member Blue Ribbon Panel analyzing and recommending strategies and better practices to increase fluidity and reduce congestion for higher-speed passenger rail and freight rail in the “Chicago Gateway” leading to St. Louis, Detroit and the East Coast.



Making the Clean Power Plan Standards Work Well

coal_250x330This is the federal cornerstone for America’s commitment to climate change solutions. ELPC is working with many business, environmental, health and faith-based allies to overcome the coal industry’s and certain politicians’ litigation efforts to stall progress, and to effectively implement state climate solution action plans in the Midwest states. Overall, ELPC is advancing new policies to drive energy markets with technological innovations that can change the world.





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. ELPC’s solutions-focused strategies engage diverse partners and seize opportunities to accelerate clean energy development and clean transportation technologies, protect clean air and clean water, and preserve the Midwest’s wild and natural places.

ELPC’s 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 making progress. It isn’t easy; real change never is. We don’t give up. Let’s keep working together to win.

Thank you for engaging and making a contribution to support ELPC’s work to harness this change and achieve a brighter future.


ELPC Speaker Hank Paulson Discusses Our Clean-Tech Future with E&E Publishing


October 29th, 2015

A U.S. Clean-Tech Enthusiast Helps China Plot its Energy Future

By Daniel Cusick

Few people — even wealthy, well-connected, accomplished business leaders — get second acts in life, but Henry Paulson is getting his third.

The former Treasury secretary, Goldman Sachs chairman and longtime conservationist is gearing up for what he believes will be this century’s next great transformation: China’s emergence as a global climate leader and clean technology superpower.

It’s a status Paulson believes China can achieve with the help of U.S. private-sector partners.

“There are great synergies between our two countries,” Paulson, who will turn 70 next year, told an audience gathered in his hometown of Chicago last month for the Environmental Law and Policy Center’s annual gala event.

“We develop new clean technologies [in the United States] quicker than anyone,” he added. “Look at what we have in our national labs, in our research universities, in Silicon Valley. But no one can go out and put these technologies to the test at scale quicker than China. So there’s a lot we can do between our two countries to move us forward.”
Among U.S. figures, Paulson is uniquely positioned to ride a wave of climate awareness and energy innovation that is beginning to envelop China’s government ministries and state enterprises.

new gray

He began engaging the Chinese government on climate change in 2006 as part of  the George W. Bush administration’s “Strategic Economic Dialogue,” an effort he led until 2009. Today, the negotiating forum, renamed the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, is one of the most important bilateral events on the two countries’ diplomatic schedules.

In his 2015 insider account “Dealing With China,” Paulson recounts that from the beginning of his relationship with China, he realized that “it was impossible to separate the country’s environmental challenges from its rapid growth: China’s dazzling economic leap forward had taken a horrific toll on its environment.”

Among the most alarming trends, Paulson wrote, was a near doubling of carbon dioxide emissions from 2000 to 2007, a condition exacerbated by “power plants burning coal to meet an insatiable demand for electricity combined with record numbers of cars and trucks rolling onto a rapidly growing highway system.”

Among the SED’s first accomplishments in 2006 were pledges to cooperate on efficient and sustainable energy use, followed by agreements to promote clean coal technology while also addressing deforestation, desertification and wildlife habitat destruction.

Paulson’s early work on climate change in China is also yielding dividends for his successors. The issue has emerged as a keystone of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, with both Washington, D.C., and Beijing setting bold agendas that should result in substantial reductions of global greenhouse gases by midcentury.

The boldest initiative taken by China to date was President Xi Jinping’s announcement last month that Beijing would implement an economywide cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gases, an approach that the United States developed, debated for years, but then failed to implement, even as greenhouse gas regulation has tightened around key sectors of the economy. China is also providing $3.13 billion in targeted aid to help poor nations address climate change, slightly exceeding the Obama administration’s own international climate commitments.

Policy from a ‘think-and-do’ tank

While the two measures were announced Sept. 25 in the White House Rose Garden, the implications of Bejing’s climate commitments were also resonating on the West Coast, where Xi only days before met with U.S. and Chinese business leaders to help craft mutually beneficial partnerships, including trade deals that could bring U.S. energy and clean-tech know-how to China’s cities and industrial districts.

Paulson, in his role as founder and chairman of the Paulson Institute, a 4-year-old “think-and-do” tank based at the University of Chicago, co-hosted the CEO roundtable in Seattle.

“Trade and economic ties are the glue that binds our two nations through the ups and downs of the bilateral relationship,” Paulson told the gathering. “As the two largest economies in the world, the U.S. and China not only have a shared opportunity to foster sustainable economic growth, but also to join together in addressing pressing global problems.”

Those who work closely with Paulson say he is as committed as ever to achieving mutually beneficial solutions to climate change with China. He continues to engage high-level officials in Beijing and beyond, while his institute has engaged in a series of comprehensive reports explaining China’s environmental stressors, climate risks and pathways to sustainability.

Taiya Smith, a managing partner at Garnet Strategies LLC and longtime adviser to Paulson, said in a telephone interview that the former Treasury secretary distinguishes himself from other high-profile U.S. figures in China due to his energy and deep personal interest in Chinese affairs.

“[Paulson] brings a personal passion, which I think is very rare in high-level officials or businesspeople,” Smith said. “And the Chinese people respect someone who is truly passionate about what they’re doing. His ability to talk openly [to Chinese leaders], and to connect the dots between environmental sustainability and the economy, is very important. Plus, he is not going to China simply to make money. He really wants to be a facilitator and an enabler for others.”

Kate Gordon, the Paulson Institute’s vice chair of climate and sustainable urbanization, said in an interview that China represents “a new frontier” for climate solutions. As such, business and other entities have a unique opportunity to work with China on policies and practices that reduce global greenhouse gases while yielding other environmental and economic benefits.

“The problems are exacerbated because the speed of development is so fast and the scale is so big,” Gordon said of Chinese urbanization. “Basically, China is going through an industrial revolution on steroids. But it has the benefit of ready access to all the clean technology that’s been developed over the last 20 years.”

In many cases, that cutting-edge technology is coming not from China itself, but from the U.S. private sector whose fortunes are increasingly tied to Chinese markets and supply chains.

Consider last week’s announcement by Apple Inc. that the company will invest millions of dollars to build more than 200 megawatts of solar power capacity in China, in part to reduce its own manufacturing carbon footprint.

The mutual hunt for ‘best practices’

Apple will also use its clout with its Chinese suppliers to create an additional 2,000 MW of clean energy in the coming years and “share best practices in procuring clean energy and building high-quality renewable energy projects, and provide hands-on assistance to some suppliers in areas like energy efficiency audits, regulatory guidance and building strong partnerships to bring new clean energy projects to China.”

The global computing giant’s commitment is reflective of the Paulson Institute’s approach to China, and it coincided with CEO Tim Cook’s joining of another Paulson-led initiative, the U.S.-China CEO Council for Sustainable Urbanization.

The group includes the leaders of some of the world’s best-known U.S. companies — Dow Chemical Co., General Motors Co., Honeywell International Inc., Hyatt Hotels Corp., IBM Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. — as well as some of China’s most senior corporate executives, including the heads of state-controlled energy, technology, engineering and banking firms.

Since its founding last year, the council has worked on improving China’s housing codes and implementing standards for new commercial construction, with improved energy efficiency and building performance as core goals. Moving forward, the group will add to its agenda aiding China’s adoption of clean technology and the creation of finance mechanisms to make adoption of such technology possible.

“We are not going to be able to meet the climate change risk and avoid the worst outcomes … unless we develop and deploy clean technologies in the developing world and do it at scale,” Paulson told the Environmental Law and Policy Center audience in Chicago last month.

“When you look at this, the key is finance, and that’s been talked about not enough,” he added. “Because when you look at the trillions of dollars that are needed here, not all of that money will come from governments. The key is how do the governments provide the incentives, and how do we create the financing vehicles?”

The Paulson Institute is also helping China incorporate environmental and sustainability priorities into existing high-growth areas, such as the sprawling Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei province where a planned megacity of 130 million people is rising.

In a newly published report on the region, also known as Jing-Jin-Ji, Paulson Institute experts describe a pathway for China to continue to invest in the region while holding greenhouse gases and other pollutants in check.

Among other things, the institute recommends measures to reduce industrial and public heating sector greenhouse gas emissions, increased use of renewable energy, and the development and recruitment of new businesses that have lower emissions profiles.


ELPC’s Founding Vision is Becoming Today’s Sustainability Reality

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