Water

Learner on WGN: What’s with the Illinois energy bill proposals?

Howard Learner, President and Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, joins Justin to talk about Exelon and ComEd backing a new energy bill in Illinois and what we need to do to find a solution to water contamination. Check out the audio recording on WGN’s website.

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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.

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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.

 

Press Release: New Clean Water Standards “An Important Step Forward” According to Environmental Law & Policy Center

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wednesday May 27, 2015

New Clean Water Standards “An Important Step Forward” According to
Environmental Law & Policy Center  

CHICAGO – Today, the Obama Administration issued new clean water standards that are an important step forward to protect safe drinking water and healthier community rivers, streams and wetlands in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.  ELPC and many of our allies across the nation have worked to achieve these new standards for many years. These standards have been informed by public input, are well grounded in the law, and are based on sound science.

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Victory! Final Clean Water Standard Will Protect Streams and Wetlands

Meme---Clean-Water-Rule-VictoryToday the Obama Administration issued new clean water standards that are an important step forward to protect safe drinking water and healthier community rivers, lakes and streams in the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.

ELPC and many of our allies across the nation have worked to achieve these new standards for many years. These standards have been informed by public input, are well grounded in the law, and are based on sound science.

This is a big deal. Water resources are so interconnected that in order to protect our celebrated waterways – the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes – we also need to protect the backyard brooks, community creeks and steady streams that feed them. That’s what these new clean water standards accomplish.

Now let’s work with EPA and people and businesses in Midwest communities to advance these sensible clean water standards and make them work well going forward.

USA Today: Environment may get bigger stage at Iowa Caucuses

DES MOINES, Iowa — Hot-button issues such as clean power, water-quality regulations and renewable fuels are expected to get a bigger stage in the 2016 Iowa Caucuses, as environmental activists put more pressure on presidential contenders to address controversial issues such as climate change.

But experts still expect that concerns about saving the planet likely will play second, third and possibly even fourth fiddle to issues such as jobs and the economy, heath care and national security. The key, they say, may be to link the environment to popular measures such as wind and solar energy that can create jobs while also reducing America’s carbon footprint.

“If you’re a candidate that’s looking for a way to talk about the environment, Iowa provides a perfect road map for that,” said Josh Mandelbaum, the Des Moines attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center. “You can stay away from the most polarizing issues and talk about areas where in Iowa you have bipartisan support” such as wind energy.

Republican presidential hopefuls so far have typically said that the federal government has been too heavy-handed with regulation and expressed little support for government incentives to develop alternative energy sources. Democratic hopefuls such as Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders have been more outspoken in their support.

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Toledo Blade: EPA official notes planes scan for farm violations

CHICAGO — Note to corporate agriculture: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has inspectors in the sky looking down at you.

Susan Hedman, the EPA’s Midwest regional administrator, said Thursday night at a Great Lakes conference her agency has had inspectors in small planes the last three years looking for manure-management violations by large livestock operations known as concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

Ms. Hedman declined to provide specifics, saying the occasional flyovers are an enforcement tool. But she said the federal EPA has found it useful in taking legal action against some CAFOs with large manure releases, and sees expansion potential. The surveillance is not spying: The agriculture industry is notified in advance when the agency will be flying in the Great Lakes region, she said.

“That’s a very good use of inspector time,” Ms. Hedman told The Blade following her presentation.

The event, a two-day Great Lakes symposium sponsored by Chicago’s Environmental Law & Policy Center, drew a large Ohio contingent and put last August’s algae-induced Toledo water crisis at center stage. It concluded Friday.

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Duluth News Tribune Op-Ed by ELPC’s Learner: Environment, economy can flourish together

The elections are behind us. Let’s now focus on opportunities to advance clean water, clean transportation and clean-energy solutions that can help make Duluth an even stronger, more sustainable community.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center has opened a new office here, staffed by Duluth native Jessica Dexter. We will be working with civic partners to make a difference in advancing positive environmental solutions in three areas of focus.

First, Duluth is at the headwaters of the Great Lakes and not far from the Mississippi River’s headwaters. America’s greatest freshwater systems both start in this region. For many years, the Environmental Law and Policy Center has been working collaboratively with environmental and policymaker partners to clean up the Great Lakes and reduce pollution in the Mississippi River basin.

The Great Lakes are global gems, representing 22 percent of the world’s freshwater supply and providing drinking water to 42 million people in eight states and two provinces. The Environmental Law and Policy Center played a key role in advancing the transformative Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which, since 2011, has provided more than $1.3 billion in federal support to more than 2,000 projects that have improved water quality, protected and restored native habitat and species, prevented and controlled invasive species, and are helping solve additional Great Lakes environmental problems.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center’s public-interest attorneys are focusing on reducing mercury and other toxic contamination that impair the Great Lakes’ ecological health and safe drinking-water supplies. We look forward to working with Minnesota partners to advance sound, science-based legal and policy solutions to better protect Lake Superior and the other Great Lakes.

The mighty Mississippi River flows past Minnesota and nine other states before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, it provides drinking water for more than 18 million people and vital cultural, recreational, economic and wildlife resources. Reducing phosphorus and nutrient pollution from fertilizer and manure runoff from agricultural operations into the waterways of the Upper Mississippi River basin is necessary to protect threatened local drinking water and to counteract the growing Gulf of Mexico “dead zone” caused by pollution.

Second, better transportation is vital for Duluth’s economic and environmental health. The Minnesota Legislature will consider a transportation bill this session. It should prioritize smart investments in transit and rail, which are gaining passengers, and “fix it first” when it comes to highways and bridges. According to the St. Louis County Public Works Department, 20 percent of the bridges in the county longer than 10 feet are “deficient.” Fixing problem bridges should be a priority.

Let’s also support better inter-city rail transportation options that advance Duluth’s future. Modern, faster, comfortable and convenient passenger rail service between Duluth and the Twin Cities will improve mobility, reduce pollution, create jobs and better connect the regional economy.

A “hard-wired” rail link would make Duluth less dependent on airlines’ changing plans and business priorities and would connect Duluth to the Twin Cities metropolitan area and beyond. In addition, new passenger rail service creates a competitive price constraint on airfares and helps attract businesses and mobile young professionals to Duluth.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center long has been a recognized leader in advancing the Midwest high-speed rail network. We look forward to working with Duluth-area businesses, environmental leaders and transportation experts to accelerate modern Duluth’s higher-speed rail from vision to reality.

Third, the Environmental Law and Policy Center is advancing breakthrough policies that accelerate solar-energy development and remove regulatory barriers. The center’s public-interest attorneys and experts were extensively engaged in persuading the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to adopt a forward-looking “value of solar tariff” that takes into account the multiple benefits of solar-energy development.

Solar energy should be compensated in ways that value the jobs and economic development from new projects, the pollution reduction and public health benefits, and the importance of solar as a peak-power resource that’s generally available when the power is needed most for demand and reliability. Let’s work together to advance Minnesota leadership on innovative clean-energy policies and projects.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center believes environmental progress and economic growth can be achieved together. We put this sustainability principle into practice with the positive initiatives described above. We look forward to working with our Duluth partners to advance clean-water, clean-transportation and clean-energy solutions that work well and support Duluth’s sustainability.

Howard Learner is executive director in Chicago of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, an environmental and economic development advocacy organization that recently opened an office in Duluth. The center has offices in five Midwestern cities.

 

Supreme Court Decision Upholds Iowa’s Clean Water Anti-Degradation Standards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 11, 2014

Contact: Manny Gonzales

312.795.3706

MGonzales@elpc.org

 

Supreme Court Decision Upholds Iowa’s Clean Water Anti-Degradation Standards

The Iowa Supreme Court today upheld the rule-making process that established the state’s clean water anti-degradation standards, keeping rules in place that are designed to protect some of Iowa’s most important lakes and waterways.

The ruling ends the Farm Bureau’s lawsuit to scuttle the rules through the courts after failing to do so in an open and fair rule-making process. Iowa’s common-sense anti-degradation standards will remain in place as federal law requires. Iowans can now focus on successfully implementing the rules and the ongoing work that will achieve clean water goals.

“We are grateful to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Natural Resources and our environmental partners for standing up to the Farm Bureau’s efforts to throw out the rules,” said Ralph Rosenberg, executive director of the Iowa Environmental Council. “This issue is greater than clean water protection. This was an effort to shut out citizen participation in government by a powerful business interest like the Farm Bureau.”

Four years ago, Iowa adopted strong “anti-degradation” standards – an important but often ignored part of the Clean Water Act designed to keep unnecessary pollution out of clean waterways. But since then, the Farm Bureau has challenged these important standards and even issued intrusive subpoenas to intimidate local environmentalists and challenge the Environmental Protection Commission by trying to disqualify one of its members, Susan Heathcote, water program director of the Iowa Environmental Council. The lower courts have since thrown out the Farm Bureau’s legal challenges.

“This is a clear win for clean water and for open and fair government,” said Environmental Law & Policy Center Senior Attorney Brad Klein. “We’re grateful that the Court rejected the Farm Bureau’s attempts to harass and intimidate the Council and Susan Heathcote.  This important ruling means that we can put the Farm Bureau’s attempts to delay and distract behind us and move on to protect some of Iowa’s most important lakes, rivers and streams.”

Michigan NPR – Environmental groups say another Enbridge pipeline could be disaster in waiting

A “who’s who” of environmental groups say a 67-year-old pipeline in the straits of Mackinac  could be a serious threat to the Great Lakes.

The pipeline is owned by Enbridge.

Howard Learner is head of the Environmental Law and Policy Center: “It’s an old aging pipeline,” says Learner.  “We can’t afford to have happen in the Great Lakes what happened with the Enbridge pipeline and the oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.  You know, it’s already been a couple of years and we are still cleaning it up.”

Read more. 

ELPC’s New InMinnesotaWater.org Is Dedicated to Protecting Minnesota’s Lakes and Rivers

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ELPC’s innovative new InMinnesotaWater.org brings to life the water quality issues important to Minnesotans. From taking families to one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes to revitalizing riverfronts and hunting for ‘sexy owls,’ this storytelling and advocacy tool highlights the people and waterways that make Minnesota special.

Minnesota is home to challenging water pollution problems both urban and rural, but it is also home to some pristine water bodies and to families, business owners, anglers, kayakers and community leaders who are trying to make a difference. ELPC’s new website provides users with the opportunity to make a difference by:

  • Taking action by communicating with your local and state decisionmakers

Please join us in promoting safe, clean waters in Minnesota by using these tools and asking your friends and family to do the same.

This isn’t just about Minnesota’s water or environment. It’s about Minnesota’s citizens. Business owners who are trying to do the right thing. Families who are enjoying the outdoors together. Community leaders who want to demonstrate why clean, safe water is a basic right for all and why we all have the responsibility to be good stewards.

Please enjoy reading, watching and acting on
these stories about Minnesotans and our lakes and rivers:

StoryPreview-DuluthFlooding StoryPreview-ElyMining2
StoryPreview-LakesToDeath StoryPreview-MississippiRiver
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