Thursday, November 21, 2013
CHICAGO (AP) — The Illinois Pollution Control Board agreed Thursday to give a Texas company extra time to install pollution controls at five Illinois coal-fired power plants, saying it would be an economic hardship for the company to do it sooner.
The panel voted 3-1 to grant a pollution-control waiver to Houston-based Dynegy Inc., which still must acquire the plants from Ameren Corp., but said it would be several hours before the opinion was available to the public. Chairwoman Deanna Glosser cast the only dissenting vote, saying she did not believe the company demonstrated an economic hardship.
Environmental groups opposed the waiver, saying the delay would hurt public health and the Dynegy knew the pollution controls were needed when it agreed to acquire the plants.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
When Gov. Pat Quinn signed sweeping legislation in June to regulate horizontal hydraulic fracturing, environmentalists called the law the toughest in the nation. Oil drillers said the tax dollars from an oil boom could help solve the state’s budget woes. The law was turned over to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to flesh out the rules so permitting could begin.
Now with the first draft of those regulations made public Friday, environmentalists are threatening a messy fight. They are livid over proposed rules they say weaken or undermine key provisions of the law, including those dealing with fines, containment of fracking liquids and emergency situations.
“We supported this law understanding that these requirements were in the law because that’s how it is written. We would have thought a lot harder and maybe wouldn’t have supported the law had we known these critical provisions wouldn’t be included,” said Jennifer Cassel, staff attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago.
The controversy comes at a sensitive time.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
From October 21 through 24, over ten thousand people will be flocking to McCormick Place for the Solar Power International expo. Perhaps the 2013 trade show chose to spotlight Chicago for good reason. Solar installations, incentives, innovators and industry trends are blazing solar energy forward in Illinois, a plus for both our environment and economy.
Click here to continue reading Amanda Hanley’s blog about 20 Solar Brightspots to Beam about in Illinois.
Monday, September 23, 2013
Action would also fight algae blooms in Great Lakes and other American waters
CHICAGO (September 23, 2013) – The U.S. District Court in Eastern Louisiana ordered the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday to determine within six months whether to set new limits on the pollution that is fueling the dangerous algae growth choking the waters throughout the Mississippi River basin, the Gulf of Mexico and waters across the country. Attorneys at the Natural Resources Defense Council led the suit, filed on behalf of several conservation groups and based on longstanding efforts by the Mississippi River Collaborative to break decades of inaction from the federal government on the issue of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. These chemicals fuel the formation of the Gulf Dead Zone and toxic algae blooms and cause damage to drinking water supplies.
“For too long, EPA has stood on the sidelines while our nation’s waters slowly choke on algae,” said NRDC Senior Attorney Ann Alexander. “They have acknowledged the problem for years, but could not muster the gumption to address it. The court is telling the Agency that it is time to stop hiding from the issue and make a decision already.”
Nitrogen and phosphorus from sewage plants, urban stormwater systems and agricultural operations fuels the growth of algae in waterways around the country. Algae, in turn, chokes out other aquatic life and can rob water of the oxygen that fish and shellfish need to survive. One of the most devastating consequences of this pollution has been the emergence of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico – an area the size of Connecticut where algal growth has driven levels of oxygen at the sea floor so low that virtually nothing can live there. Similar issues are driving the dramatic collapse of Lake Erie and threatening other portions of the Great Lakes.
Bradley Klein, senior staff attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center added, “This isn’t just about the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Algae blooms threaten the Great Lakes–and smaller waterways across the nation are being impacted by this huge problem. Hopefully EPA will move in the right direction on this because until we deal with the sources, which are sometimes thousands of miles away, we cannot get to the problem.”
The suit, filed a year and a half ago, challenged EPA’s denial of the Mississippi River Collaborative’s 2008 petition to EPA asking it to establish quantifiable standards and cleanup plans for nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. The suit charged that EPA had unlawfully refused to respond to the question posed to it, which is whether such federal action is necessary to comply with the Clean Water Act. The court agreed with plaintiffs, holding that the Agency’s refusal to provide a direct answer was unlawful.
The decision does not tell the Agency how to address the problem, only to make a decision on the issue. However, EPA has repeatedly acknowledged the severity of the problem and stated that federal intervention is appropriate because states are not doing enough to solve it.
Plaintiffs in the suit included Gulf Restoration Network, Waterkeeper Alliance, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Iowa Environmental Council, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Prairie Rivers Network, Kentucky Waterways Alliance, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club, and NRDC. Attorneys at the Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, NRDC, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center brought the case.
Following are comments from groups involved in the suit:
Susan Heathcote, water program director of the Iowa Environmental Council in Des Moines, Iowa, said, “Lake recreation is a big business in Iowa—generating $1.2 billion in annual spending and supporting 14,000 jobs. Yet Iowa’s lakes have among the highest nitrogen and phosphorus levels in the world, and consequences of this problem, including algae blooms and poor water clarity, have already landed 79 of the state’s top recreational lakes on Iowa’s impaired waters list. In addition, harmful algae blooms led to two dozen advisories against swimming at Iowa’s state park beaches this summer due to high toxin levels that threaten the health of people and pets.”
“It should be apparent that pollution limits are essential to controlling pollution” said Kelly Foster, Senior Attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance, “With this decision, we are hopeful that EPA will finally do what it has long known is necessary to address the Gulf Dead Zone and the staggering number of other fisheries, water supplies and recreational waters decimated by nitrogen and phosphorus pollution across the nation.”
“EPA must address the nutrient issue, and we appreciate the court’s ruling to that affect,” said Judy Petersen, Executive Director at Kentucky Waterways Alliance. “The Army Corps of Engineers monitored Kentucky’s recreational lakes for Harmful Algae Blooms for the first time this past summer and recorded excessive numbers throughout much of the summer at several lakes. Nutrient pollution is clearly just as much of a problem in Kentucky as it is in other Mississippi River Basin states and down in the Gulf, and EPA must address it.”
Kris Sigford, Water Quality Director at Minnesota Center for the Environment notes, “We are gratified that EPA cannot duck this important decision, and hope that EPA takes quick and decisive action to control widespread nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in the Mississippi River. In Minnesota, over one-quarter of our streams and rivers are polluted by nitrogen in excess of safe drinking water standards, and the trend is increasing rapidly.”
Thursday, September 19, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 19, 2013
Contact: David Jakubiak, (312) 795-3713, DJakubiak@elpc.org
Sustainable Englewood Initiatives, Northwestern University School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Environmental Advocacy Center, Environmental Law & Policy Center and Respiratory Health Association Strike Deal with the City of Chicago and Norfolk Southern Railroad
CHICAGO – Englewood residents and advocates concerned about diesel pollution from a proposed rail yard expansion welcomed an agreement Thursday which will cut pollution, bring new green space to Englewood, sponsor sustainability efforts and bring job training in the neighborhood.
The agreement, reached through discussions with the City of Chicago and Norfolk Southern, will require:
- Thirty six of 38 trucks that move trailers around the yard to have cutting-edge pollution controls by 2018
- Immediate upgrading of a dozen pieces of lift equipment used in the yard to have clean engines or diesel filters
- Continued efforts by the City to address truck congestion that increases idling around the yard
- A $1 million fund, sponsored by Norfolk Southern, for sustainability projects in Englewood
- $1 million for job training and preparedness in Englewood
The agreement will also create a New ERA trail in Englewood. The park will convert elevated rail track to green space as part of a $30 million, 10-year project by the City of Chicago. Norfolk Southern has also agreed to make a contribution towards improvements to landscaping and green space at Sherwood Park in Englewood.
“The priority of Sustainable Englewood Initiatives was to make sure this project would not harm our community’s air and cost us more green space,” said John Paul Jones, Co-Founder of Sustainable Englewood Initiatives. “This agreement will put Englewood on the map as a place where the community stood up, the City listened, and the railroad came to the table to find a better way.”
The Norfolk Southern project will expand an existing rail yard between 47th Street and Garfield Boulevard south to 61st Street, increasing its size almost 85 acres. Sustainable Englewood Initiatives approached the Northwestern University School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Environmental Advocacy Center and Environmental Law & Policy Center concerned that the project would sacrifice residential and green space, and increase air pollution in a community with one of the nation’s highest asthma rates. According to Respiratory Health Association, diesel pollution leads to over 20,000 asthma attacks, 680 heart attacks and about 570 premature deaths in Illinois each year.
“The city deserves high praise for making this happen. They understand the burden of asthma that now falls on families in Englewood and that asthma is a key reason for school absences. Children attending schools and daycares that abut the rail yard will now be able to breathe a little easier knowing air pollution will be reduced starting this school year,” said Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Health Programs for Respiratory Health Association. “In addition to Chicago’s recent efforts to reduce emissions from diesel construction equipment and in reducing emissions from CTA buses, today’s announcement shows Chicago is becoming a healthier place to live and breathe.”
Nancy Loeb, Director of Northwestern University School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Environmental Advocacy Center, said the agreement offers a template for neighborhoods across America.
“Across the country there are communities concerned about diesel pollution from expanding rail yards,” Loeb said. “We are thankful the Mayor’s office listened to the people of Englewood, and worked to find a solution that allows economic development without sacrificing public health and environmental quality.”
Faith Bugel, Senior Air Attorney with Environmental Law & Policy Center, said the deal shows that economic development does not have to come at the expense of the environment and public health.
“We commend the City of Chicago for putting together a project that brings economic development and jobs to the City while protecting air quality and the health of Englewood residents,” Bugel said. “The City worked tirelessly with members of the community and Norfolk Southern and the resulting package is testament to that hard work: reduced diesel pollution from 50 pieces of yard equipment, a new community park, and a $1 million fund for environmental projects in Englewood.”
For more on Sustainable Englewood Initiatives, please visit SustianableEnglewood.org.
Friday, September 13, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Manny Gonzales, ELPC; (312) 795-3706, firstname.lastname@example.org
While Step In Right Direction, Deal Does Not Go Far Enough to Protect Lake Michigan
CHICAGO – Today, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed a revised consent decree to limit the S.S. Badger’s toxic coal ash dumping in Lake Michigan. The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) believes the revisions improve the agreement, but plans to intervene in the Federal District Court proceedings to ensure that the S.S. Badger’s coal ash pollution in Lake Michigan will stop and receive no further extensions beyond 2014.
“These improvements are steps in the right direction, but it’s time to require a complete end to the S.S. Badger’s dumping of toxic coal ash pollution in Lake Michigan,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the ELPC. “We appreciate that ELPC’s and our colleagues’ comments have been taken into account, but the federal court should make clear that no further extensions be allowed beyond 2014 for S.S. Badger’s toxic coal ash dumping into the lake. Enough is enough. Let’s protect our Great Lakes.”
The S.S. Badger is the last coal-fired steamship operating on the Great Lakes. It has been dumping more than 500 tons of coal ash annually into Lake Michigan.
ELPC and a coalition of environmental and conservation groups filed joint comments on April 26, asking the Department of Justice and EPA to strengthen the proposed consent decree to stop the S.S. Badger from continuing the dumping of toxic coal ash into Lake Michigan.
“Our Great Lakes should not be a dump site for toxic coal ash pollution.” Learner said. “It’s time for the S.S. Badger to fully clean up its operations or discontinue them all together.”
For more information, go to ProtectOurLakes.org
Download a PDF of the revised SS Badger Consent Decree
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
The editorial in today’s Northwest Indiana Times weighs in on the “3rd airport” debate in the Chicagoland area. Read the editorial.
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.