Thursday, June 6, 2013
ELPC Calls the Decision “A Step in the Right Direction”
Today the Illinois Pollution Control Board denied an attempt by Ameren to transfer its exemption from state pollution standards to Dynegy. The Board indicated that it couldn’t substitute one company for another in granting a variance.
ELPC is pleased that the variance transfer request was denied on this procedural ground.
Last year, the plants were granted a 5-year variance from state clean air standards because of Ameren’s financial hardships. Dynegy opposed the variance at the time, saying that it would keep uneconomic plants in the marketplace and create “winners and losers.” This year, Dynegy asked the Board to transfer the variance with the sale of the plants and do so without a public hearing.
“Today’s Board decision is a step in the right direction. The public’s right to have clean air shouldn’t be sacrificed so that Dynegy can make more money when buying these coal plants,” said ELPC Senior Attorney Faith Bugel. “The state should hold Dynegy to its legal and corporate environmental responsibility to clean up any of the coal plants it purchases from Ameren.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 6, 2013
CONTACT: David Jakubiak
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
The Illinois Pollution Control Board found that the Industry Coal Mine in southeast Illinois violated its water pollution permit 624 times over 7 years — as demonstrated by an ELPC analysis in our efforts to hold the coal mine accountable for this consistent and egregious permit violations. Tri-States Public Radio has published a series that “examines the violations, why it took the state so long to take legal action, and why despite all the violations the state renewed the mine’s permit.” Read and listen to the series.
ELPC’s InIllinoisWater.org site also has video, photos, and other resources regarding this fascinating story.
Monday, June 3, 2013
Illinois’ Spring 2013 legislative session ended on May 31st. ELPC and many allies in the environmental, conservation, public health, clean energy and other communities have been working hard to create and improve legislative that affects our state’s air quality, water quality and clean energy. Briefly:
Fracking – Illinois has no regulations or transparency standards for the high-volume horizontal fracking that is already happening and expected to expand rapidly. The Illinois legislature passed a comprehensive law that is considered the strongest fracking regulation in the country, calling for strong protections of drinking water sources, broad transparency, open public participation, and other key provisions. Learn more at elpc.org/illinoisfrackingbill.
On-Bill Financing – Several years ago, Illinois established an on-bill financing mechanism to encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for single-unit residences and a limited number of multi-unit buildings. This spring, ELPC joined with other partners to pass legislation to significantly expand on-bill financing for all multi-unit residential buildings. This allows eligible customers low-cost financing for qualifying energy efficiency or renewable energy improvements.
Recreational Liability – For many years, if a person or conservation trust allowed the general public to come onto their property to fish, bike, hike, bird-watch or conduct any other recreational activity (other than hunting), they were not exempt from recreational liability. The Illinois legislature finally passed a new law that changes the recreational liability laws in favor of recreation and conservation.
Standards Still Under Negotiation
RPS Fix – The Illinois Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) passed in 2007 requires that Illinois procure 25% of its energy from renewable sources by the year 2025. Changes in the state’s energy market have created some administrative glitches that need to be addressed in order for the standard to be implemented effectively. ELPC and allies built strong support for this nuanced ‘fix’ with the House and Senate leadership in the spring, and we’re optimistic it will pass in the Fall 2013 session. Stay tuned.
PACE Financing - Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing provides low-cost loans to property owners for renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements. The amount borrowed is paid back through property taxes. This financing works well in many other states and is supported in Illinois by a broad coalition of environmentalists and building professionals. More negotiations between the coalition and the banking community are expected over the summer. Stay tuned.
Energy Efficient Building Codes – Illinois adopted an energy efficiency building code for residential buildings in 2009 and for industrial buildings in 2003. Since then, efforts to weaken the codes have been repeatedly quashed by the environmental community and its allies. Since new homes last decades, keeping these codes strong is essential to the state’s ongoing energy efficiency efforts.
Monday, November 19, 2012
CHICAGO – The Illinois Pollution Control Board has ruled that Springfield Coal Company’s Industry Mine in McDonough and Schuyler Counties violated its water permit 624 times between 2004 and 2011.
In a ruling released Friday, the Board found violations for pollutants including sulfates, iron, manganese, pH and total suspended and settled solids that were recorded at 16 of 17 outflow points. The pollutants were released into tributaries of Grindstone Creek, which flows into the LaMoine River. The LaMoine River flows into the Illinois River.
“The extreme number of pollution violations at this mine shows the need for strong enforcement of clean water standards to protect the public,” said Howard A. Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The Board should impose a large enough fine to send the right economic signals for this mine company to stop polluting our waterways.”
The maximum penalty facing Springfield Coal Company, and its predecessor, Freeman United Coal Mining Company, is $64 million. However, the Board has rarely imposed fines greater than $100,000.
In 2009, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Prairie Rivers Network and Sierra Club notified the state of their intent to sue over permit violations. In response, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office filed a suit before the Pollution Control Board. The groups intervened in that case and presented their review of mine data, which showed the 624 violations.
“Engaged citizens saw what was going on and knew they had to take action,” said Jack Darin, director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. “We commend the Attorney General’s Office for taking up this case, and the Pollution Control Board for its thorough review of the data. This is a case where the system worked and it shows just how important it is to remain involved.”
Traci Barkley, Water Resource Scientist for Prairie Rivers Network, believes this could be a landmark case in upholding clean water standards in Illinois and hopes mine operators work to improve their pollution control efforts.
“We believe there is a strong case for a significant fine in this case,” Barkley said. “For eight years, this mine sent its pollution into the public waterways with no regard for the impacts they could have on the people of Illinois and our environment. This operator is also seeking permits to open two new strip mines in west-central Illinois, one draining to Canton’s public water supply. Our public waterways need strong protection from chronic violators. ”
Kim Sedgwick, a Macomb resident who has fought to protect the natural areas of McDonough and Schuyler Counties, said the news was a needed step forward.
“What has taken place along Grindstone Creek and surrounding sediment ponds these past few decades in McDonough County is unspeakable. We all agree that justice must be done, and fines are to be paid,” Sedgwick said. “This is a monumental step toward monitoring mining companies in our state.”
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
CHICAGO | After Tuesday’s referendum, the phrase power broker has a whole new meaning for the city of Chicago.
A majority of Chicago’s voters approved the electricity aggregation referendum on Tuesday’s ballot, entrusting the city to negotiate with energy suppliers and purchase power on behalf of the city’s residents and small businesses.
As of Wednesday morning, with 98 percent of precincts reporting, 476,934 Chicago voters, or 56 percent, had approved the referendum.
In the short term, there is little doubt that aggregation will save approximately 1 million eligible Chicago residences and small businesses money on their power bills. The Citizens Utility Board, a nonprofit watchdog group, recently projected that Chicago residents could see savings of around $100 on their power bills in the first five months of 2013.
Monday, October 29, 2012
Check out these two recent ELPC podcasts about the launch of our innovative new education and advocacy websites, www.InIowaWater.org and www.InIllinoisWater.org.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
CHICAGO – Howard A. Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, and a lead advocate for high-speed rail, congratulates Nippon-Sharyo and Sumitomo Corp. of America on being chosen, through a competitive process, to manufacture 130 next generation passenger rail cars. The bi-level rail cars were commissioned by four states—Illinois, Michigan, Missouri and California—and will be assembled in Rochelle, Ill.
“This railcar procurement award is very good news for Illinois job creation and for the entire Midwest’s rail supply chain businesses. Nippon-Sharyo will need to purchase everything from steel to bolts to couplings to seats, and Midwest manufacturers are poised to help deliver those goods. This high-speed rail investment will create jobs in Illinois, business in the Midwest, and modern rail transportation for all of us.
“Manufacturing 130 modern new passenger railcars in Illinois makes clear that high-speed rail development is good for jobs, good for economic growth and good for the environment. This advances the region’s position as a leading rail manufacturing center.
“Modern, fast, comfortable and convenient high-speed trains will improve mobility, reduce pollution, create new jobs and spur economic growth for Illinois and the Midwest.”
Thursday, August 23, 2012
As reported this morning in the Chicago Tribune, the federal government has rescinded its approval of the proposed “Prairie Parkway” project after an 11-year effort by opponents to stop the wasteful and damaging proposal from moving forward. ELPC provided legal representation and guidance to Citizens Against the Sprawlway and Friends of the Fox River, which opposed the highway proposal to connect I-80 and I-88 in Chicago’s collar counties. The project would have disrupted small communities and harmed natural resources. In a smart solution supported by Gov. Quinn’s senior staff, money set aside for the proposed highway will instead be used for other needed transportation jobs, therefore improving transportation and creating jobs. Said ELPC Executive Director Howard Learner in today’s article:
“In financially constrained times for transportation projects, the State of Illinois and municipalities need to be very smart about how they devote funds. This is a good lesson to move funds to better alternatives, and it is a good lesson in citizen engagement. Over the years, the local residents who opposed the Hastert Highway built support and made the case to local officials. Over time, that carried the day.’’
Read the rest of the article.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
ELPC Deputy Director Kevin Brubaker, who leads ELPC's high-speed rail efforts, was aboard the Midwest's first high-speed rail train to leave Union Station.
On Feb. 15, 2012, high-speed rail travel arrived in the Midwest. The first high-speed train outside the Northeast United States departed Chicago’s Union Station at 7 a.m., traveling through Indiana and southwest Michigan to its destination in Kalamazoo, Mich. The 138-mile journey, which included a stop in New Buffalo, Mich., was completed in 2 hours, 8 minutes.
Kalamazoo is the highway point on the Chicago-Detroit passenger rail corridor. Eventually, officials say that 5.5-hour trip will be trimmed to 3.75 hours.Other high-speed rail corridors in the Midwest will include routes from Chicago to St. Louis and the Twin Cities.
Read more from CBS 2 Chicago and MLive.com.
Monday, February 13, 2012
In this article from the Chicago section of the New York Times, Kari Lydersen reports on the imminent closing of the 83-year-old State Line Coal Plant. Its shutdown is being praised by environmentalists and others, but also raises new environmental and land use issues. Read the story.