Thursday, November 14, 2013
Environmental Law & Policy Center Congratulates Solar Hack Winner
“Smart Card” Incentivizes Smart Energy Choices, Increases Solar Awareness
CHICAGO – A team combining the know-how of three Chicago technology veterans, the strategy of a LEED certified attorney, and the entrepreneurial spirit of an energy company executive took top honors in Chicago’s first hackathon dedicated to solving challenges facing the solar energy business. Team Smart Card will launch a business to advance clean energy by rewarding smart energy choices.
“Our new venture combines the fun and engagement of gaming with the economics and environmental aspects of being a smart consumer of energy,” said Mark Rice, a member of Team Smart Card and CEO of Energy Connection in Northbrook.
Environmental Law & Policy Center’s Solar Hack coupled members of Chicago’s bustling technology and design communities, with members of the region’s solar energy businesses to brainstorm and advance ideas that would solve soft-challenges like customer education and lead generation. The goal of the event was to advance digital tools that could create the foundation of a business, advancing ELPC’s pillar that environmental progress and economic development go hand-in-hand.
By winning the event, Team Smart Card secured a spot in the City of Chicago’s Clean Web Challenge where they will compete with winning entries from similar events held by groups including World Business Chicago and the Center for Neighborhood Technology.
Creating an online space that aggregates data on smart energy choices, Smart Card allows for competition between users to be “more green.” Additionally by connecting companies with customers who make sustainable choices, Smart Card can reward these choices. Finally, through dashboard prompts, Smart Cart users can learn about opportunities to go solar and connect with solar installers in their area.
“Working in solar energy, the idea of having high value, well-educated leads is very appealing,” said Lisa Albrecht of Solar Service, and advisor to the event.
More than 30 participants registered to be a part of Solar Hack and were introduced to challenges facing solar energy, and to public datasets that may be used to address these challenges. The winning team comprised Rice, developer/designer Andy Babbitt, developers Rob Laucius and Nathan Witt and attorney W. Brandon Rogers.
“Solar Hack was a great step in using technology to advance clean, renewable energy here in Chicago and across the Midwest,” said David Jakubiak, media relations manager with ELPC. “We hope more great tools will grow out of the interest stimulated by Solar Hack.”
Solar Hack was sponsored by SunRun and supported through partnerships with the Illinois Institute of Technology’s IdeaShop and the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, CO.
For more information, go to elpc.org/solarhack
Thursday, October 3, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 3, 2012
Dayton Power & Light Energy Efficiency Plan Settled
Customers to Save Millions, Energy Waste to Be Slashed
COLUMBUS – Dayton Power & Light (DP&L) customers will be able to cut their energy use and save money under a new three-year energy efficiency plan filed late Wednesday with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).
Under the plan, which runs from 2013 – 2015, energy use will be cut by more than 469 million kilowatt hours. That means enough energy will have been saved to power more than 49,000 Ohio homes for a year. The reductions in wasted energy will save DP&L customers $44.5 million over the life of the plan.
“This plan is a clear example of how smart energy efficiency programs can save customers money, and reduce the need for polluting fuel sources,” said Nick McDaniel, staff attorney with Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC).
Through the plan, DP&L will offer a range of programs for residential and commercial customers. For example, residential customers will receive rebates when they install energy efficient heating and cooling systems and increased savings through a number of new measures including discounts on the new generation of LED lighting. Additional programs will cut the cost of weatherization of low income homes. Commercial customers will be offered programs that reduce the cost of energy smart lighting, heating and cooling systems, and give incentives for combined heat and power systems.
“Once these low-energy technologies are installed in businesses and homes, customers see immediate savings on their energy bills,” McDaniel said. “These programs add up and provide a platform on which DP&L customers can really take a bite out of wasted energy.”
DP&L has about 500,000 customers across their 6,000 square mile service territory.
Ohio law requires utilities to offer energy efficiency plans that cut energy use and save customers money. These three-year plans are filed with the PUCO, where the public can comment on the plans. Environmental Law & Policy Center worked with partners and DP&L to identify cost-effective ways to strengthen the draft plan presented earlier this year. These plans have been under fire from FirstEnergy and from a Senate Bill 58 introduced by State Senator Bill Seitz late last month, which would significantly limit the benefits from energy efficiency, while adding costs for utility customers across the state.
“Ohio is at an energy efficiency crossroads,” said Rob Kelter, senior attorney with ELPC. “One path cuts wasted energy, saves customers money and grows jobs in energy efficiency. The other path reverses the trend and gives a big time handout to utilities like FirstEnergy.”
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.”
Friday, September 20, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 20, 2013
EPA Carbon Pollution Standards Offer Clear, Clean Path Forward
Predictable Standards Are Good for Economic Growth,
Good for the Environment
STATEMENT BY HOWARD A. LEARNER
Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center
CHICAGO – Howard A. Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, issued the following statement in response to the U.S. EPA’s carbon pollution reduction standards issued on Friday:
“These clean air standards are a big step forward to reduce carbon pollution and help solve our climate change problems. The standards will drive technological innovation for a cleaner environment and public health and safety,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Six years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision affirming that greenhouse gases should be regulated as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act in order to protect public health. The U.S. EPA is now moving forward with standards that can make a difference.”
“The Midwest is responsible for about five percent of global greenhouse gas pollution and should be a leader with solutions that help spur economic growth while protecting public health,” said Learner. “We can advance new clean technologies that reduce pollution and grow clean energy, and Midwest manufacturers can produce, export and transfer innovative equipment to other countries that help achieve global solutions.”
“We commend the Obama Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for bringing these landmark carbon pollution reduction standards across the goal line.”
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.
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Indiana groups celebrate victory protecting local waterways and environment
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Contact: Manny Gonzales, Environmental Law & Policy Center – (303) 880-5954, email@example.com
INDIANAPOLIS – The State of Indiana has failed to comply with the Clean Water Act by allowing the Bear Run coal mine in Sullivan County to discharge toxic water pollution without first determining that local waterways would not be degraded, an environmental law judge has ruled.
The Bear Run mine is the largest surface coal mine in the eastern United States, producing between 8 and 12 million tons of coal annually. Environmental Law Judge Catherine Gibbs of the Indiana Office of Environmental Adjudication issued the ruling earlier this week in a case brought by the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), Hoosier Environmental Council, and the Sierra Club.
Gibbs sent the permit back to IDEM to conduct the required “anti-degradation” review, which must ensure there are adequate protections for existing uses of local waterways. In their challenge, ELPC, Hoosier Environmental Council, and the Sierra Club cited significant deficiencies in the state’s permitting process for the coal mine. “The Bear Run Mine is one of the least regulated coal mines of its size in the nation,” ELPC staff attorney Jessica Dexter said. IDEM’s general permit rule failed to ensure that significant pollution threats are not unduly increased. “The one-size-fits-all approach ignores that this mine and this watershed has its own set of potential pollution issues that need to be addressed,” Dexter said.
“If you’re digging the largest surface mine east of the Mississippi River, Judge Gibbs recognizes that you must protect local waterways for the use of residents and wildlife. It’s time for IDEM to start doing its job and protect the waters of Indiana from coal mine pollution, as the Clean Water Act requires,” said Jodi Perras, Indiana representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.
“Indiana’s state environmental agency has rubber-stamped the Bear Run Mine using weak rules that aren’t on par with what we expect from other industries.” Dexter said. “IDEM needs to fix this broken permit program now.”
The environmental groups contend that the mine should have to fulfill its obligation to operate safely, including a thorough study of the mine’s wastewater and analysis of nearby waterways. Clean Water Act permits are intended to set meaningful limits on all pollutants that facilities discharge — including toxic pollutants discharged by coal mines. An individual permit — like the ones issued to other large mines in the United States — would require Bear Run owners, Peabody Midwest Mining, LLC, to study the mine’s wastewater, analyze nearby waterways, determine the threat of toxic contamination, and obtain a permit that sets pollution limits based on the waterways’ ability to handle the wastewater. The permit would also require regular water quality testing and reporting.
“IDEM’s job is to protect the environment. There is simply no good reason for the agency to allow one of the largest coal mines in the country to get a pass in having to control its pollution discharges to the same extent required of other large industries.” HEC staff attorney Kim Ferraro said.
Surface coal mining destroys local environments by bulldozing away earth and dredging waterways to extract coal buried near the surface. Surface coal mines like Bear Run pollute local waterways with toxic pollutants that can destroy habitats for fish and wildlife, and discharge toxic heavy metals that can contaminate surrounding waterways. Some of the toxic pollutants often found at surface coal mines include arsenic, lead, and mercury, which have been linked to serious health threats but are not required to be monitored under IDEM’s general permit.
The ruling can be found here.
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
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 7, 2013
FirstEnergy Renewable Energy Credit Case Shows
Clean, Renewable Energy is Affordable, Working for Ohio
Columbus, OH – The Public Utility Commission of Ohio on Wednesday stood up for consumers by ruling that Akron-based FirstEnergy, the state’s largest utility, must refund customers for $43.3 million in overcharges related to renewable energy credit purchases for 2011. The ruling stems from an audit that found the Utility purchased renewable energy credits from its subsidiary, FirstEnergy Solutions, for 15 times the market rate.
“We are pleased that the Commission will refund customers for charges that should not have been incurred. The fact is that renewable energy is better for our environment and can be better for our bank accounts,” said Nick McDaniel, a staff attorney in the Columbus office of the Environmental Law & Policy Center.
Maryland-based Exeter Associates was asked by the Utility Commission to perform an independent review of FirstEnergy’s purchase of renewable energy credits between 2009 and 2011. That audit determined that FirstEnergy overspent by millions of dollars and recommended that the Utility Commission order the company to return the money that was overcharged to customers.
In its ruling Wednesday, the Utility Commission determined that customers were in fact overcharged and that they should be reimbursed for those charges.
“FirstEnergy has spent much of the last year trying to convince the public and the state legislators that renewable energy is too expensive for Ohio,” said Rob Kelter, senior staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “What they haven’t been telling people is that they’ve been gouging customers while paying their own subsidiary far above the market rate for renewable energy credits.”
Kelter added an additional silver lining for supporters of renewable energy.
“The facts in this case show that renewable energy is affordable because the state’s renewable energy standard is working to deliver clean, renewable, affordable energy to Ohio,” said Kelter.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 30, 2013
U.S. EPA Identifies More Midwest Communities with Excessive Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) Pollution
Endangering Public Health
Cleaning Up Power Plants to Reduce Pollutant Good for Health, Environment and Jobs
Late last week, the U.S. EPA released final designations of communities across the nation that have measured dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution, which harms public health and causes acid rain that impairs lakes and rivers. 17 of the newly-listed 29 non-attainment areas nationwide are in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
“Installing modern pollution control equipment can reduce SO2 emissions that harm public health and our lakes and rivers, but too many power plant owners are deferring and delaying. It’s time to move forward with clean ups to protect the air that people breathe and our overall environment,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Retrofitting coal plants with modern technologies that reduce pollution will create jobs and improve public health.”
SO2 is a pollutant released through the burning and processing of fossil fuels. According to the U.S. EPA, more than 70 percent of the nation’s SO2 pollution comes from power plants. High levels of SO2 have been linked to a range of environmental and health impacts. These include acid rain, as well as heart and lung ailments.
Ameren’s E.D. Edwards coal plant was cited by U.S. EPA as a major source of SO2 in Central Illinois. “Ameren has delayed cleaning up the E.D. Edwards plant for years. U.S. EPA’s action demonstrates how this delay hurts the plant’s neighbors,” said Andrew Armstrong, staff attorney with the Environmental Law & Policy Center.
“Coming out of a smokestack, caustic sulfur dioxide gas forms sulfuric acid droplets and deadly fine particulate matter when released into to the air people breathe,” said Brian Urbaszewski, Environmental Health Director at Respiratory Health Association. “Breathing the gas can reduce lung function and increase the risk of infection, and the products it forms can damage lung tissue and increase the number of asthma attacks, respiratory hospitalizations and premature deaths.”
In 2010, U.S. EPA revised the National Ambient Air Quality Standard which sets allowable levels for SO2 pollution based on health research. Under federal law, upon nonattainment designations, states are required to develop plans to bring the affected communities below dangerous levels “as expeditiously as practicable.”
EPA originally planned to set nonattainment areas in June 2012, but deferred that decision until this year. The areas announced last week are based on nearby air quality monitors registering high sulfur dioxide concentrations. For locations where air quality monitors do not exist, EPA still plans to declare areas near large sources of sulfur dioxide emissions as not meeting minimal health standards based on computer pollution dispersion modeling. Such sources include coal plants, oil refineries and other large industrial facilities.
“This EPA announcement ends any uncertainty and sends a clear message that it is time for power plant owners to clean up and install modern technology to reduce pollution that’s putting people’s health at risk,” said Learner.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 18, 2013
Contact: Jill Geiger, 312-795-3703
Statement on the Confirmation of Gina McCarthy to EPA Administrator
By Howard Learner, Executive Director
Environmental Law & Policy Center
“We are pleased that the Congress has confirmed Gina McCarthy as the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Ms. McCarthy has the right set of skills and experience to address the pressing environmental challenges that our nation faces. We look forward to working with Administrator McCarthy to achieve the Agency’s important work of protecting public health and our environment and to move forward the President’s Climate Action Plan.”