Wisconsin

Environmental & Public Health Groups Challenge US EPA’s Decision to Exclude Areas from Ozone Non-attainment List that Would Trigger Clean-up

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Environmental and Public Health Groups Challenge US EPA’s Decision to Exclude Areas from Ozone Non-attainment List that Would Trigger Clean-up

 

Washington, D.C. — On August 2, the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) and Respiratory Health Association (RHA) sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, challenging the EPA’s final rule, published in June 2018, that identified areas that meet and fail to meet the 2015 ozone air quality health standard.

ELPC and RHA are challenging the exclusion of certain areas in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana from the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis “non-attainment” areas that have smog levels above the 2015 standard.

“EPA has sadly disregarded the plain facts and sound science in making these designations,” said Howard Learner, ELPC’s Executive Director. “EPA has not followed the letter or the spirit of the Clean Air Act and has excluded areas involving unhealthy air quality for millions of Midwesterners. Cleaner air is essential to public health and a strong economy in our region.”

The Clean Air Act requires EPA to designate non-attainment areas in counties where air quality fails to meet federal health standards for ozone and where local emissions contribute to unhealthy air quality. The states must then take steps to reduce emissions of the air pollution that cause smog.

In 2015, EPA issued a more protective ozone air health standard, which triggered a process to identify violating areas so that clean air planning could begin. In the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis areas, EPA originally proposed more comprehensive non-attainment areas, but excluded certain areas in its final decision in June in response to requests from the states.

“We are very concerned that EPA would dial back these decisions,” said Brian Urbaszewski, Director of Environmental Health Programs at Respiratory Health Association in Chicago. “Everyone deserves to breathe clean air, and EPA’s decision puts area residents at risk of more lung infections, asthma attacks, and hospitalizations for respiratory problems.”

Ozone is formed when pollution emitted by power plants, industrial facilities, motor vehicles and other activities reacts with sunlight to form ozone. Ozone, also known as “smog,” is a lung irritant and harms people with asthma or other respiratory diseases, older adults, children and other vulnerable people. It can drive kids and sensitive adults inside on hot sunny summer days  and put outdoor workers at risk.

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NW Indiana Times: Feds Agree with ELPC & Reject Great Lakes Basin Rail Application

By Andrew Steele

The federal Surface Transportation Board has rejected Great Lakes Basin Transportation’s application to build and operate a 261-mile freight railroad from LaPorte County to southeast Wisconsin.

“GLBT has failed to provide the board with accurate financial information upon which the board can rely to make a determination on the transportation merits of the project,” the STB stated in its decision, dated Wednesday.

Financial statements that GLBT provided in June show the company had $802,000 in accounts payable as of Dec. 31, and investors owned $473,573 in common stock.

But, the STB observed, “The balance sheet … contains an unexplained line item for ‘net income’ (amounting to negative $1,203,545) that appears to account for a substantial difference between its assets and its liabilities and stockholders’ equity.”

Further, “GLBT’s current assets of $151 are so clearly deficient for purposes of constructing a 261-mile rail line that the board will not proceed with this application given the impacts on stakeholders and the demands upon board resources,” the STB ruled.

Company attorney Michael Blaszak said Thursday that GLBT “is assessing its options with respect to the board’s decision today and will have no further comment on the decision.”

Railroad officials have said in the past they can’t secure funding commitments from investors without STB approval of the project, hence the limited amount of current resources.

Plans for the Great Lakes Basin Railroad call for 244 miles of mainline track and 17 miles of branch lines, including one connecting with the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad at Kingsbury. The railroad would have 26 connections to other railroads, including two in Lake County and six in Porter and LaPorte counties.

The railroad would be able to handle as many as 110 trains per day for various-length trips along its three-state path, according to the GLBT application.
The construction cost was estimated at $2.8 billion.

The line would allow trains passing through Chicago to avoid congestion there, an opportunity GLBT officials said ensured its viability.

“A freight train can take 30 hours — more during periods of severe weather — to pass through the Chicago area, resulting in added inventory cost for shippers, suboptimal equipment utilization, air pollution, delayed passenger trains and billions of dollars in wasted productivity,” GLBT stated in its application.

Frank Patton founded Great Lakes Basin Transportation in 2011. An environmental review process, overseen by the STB, began last year, but was suspended in December at the request of GLBT so it could concentrate on completing the application. The STB decision officially discontinues the environmental review.

Opponents of the freight rail project expressed their satisfaction in the hours after the the decision was published.

Porter County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said cooperation among elected officials and organized citizens was key.

“(U.S. Rep. Pete) Visclosky ensured all residents had scoping meetings in their counties, our state legislators updated our antiquated eminent domain laws creating a level playing field, various local governments including the Porter County Commissioners passed resolutions stating concerns, and our citizens banded together to create a strong grassroots effort and the best decision for the most people was made,” she said via email.

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said “the board made a very sensible, very clear decision.”

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PRESS RELEASE: Midwest Environmental Groups Sound Alarm on Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Cuts & Line 5 Issues

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                          Contact: Judith Nemes

July 6, 2017                                                                      

 

Midwest Environmental Groups Sound Alarm on Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Cuts & Line 5 Issues

ELPC & Groundwork Gathering in Traverse City Urge Attendees to Fight Back Against Trump Administration’s War on the Great Lakes 

TRAVERSE CITY, MI. – Michiganders gathered in Traverse City today to hear two Midwest environmental leaders present strategies to push back on threats to the progress of restoring the Great Lakes and safe clean drinking water. They focused on countering the Trump Administration’s proposed complete elimination of $300 million in funding for the bipartisan-supported Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the FY 2018 budget, which has provided $2.2 billion for about 3,000 projects since its inception, and persuading Michigan policymakers to decide on an alternative to the dangerous Line 5 pipeline.

“President Trump won his election in the pivotal Great Lakes states, but his misguided policies and practices amount to a War on the Great Lakes,” said Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Midwest-based Environmental Law & Policy Center. “The Trump Administration is eliminating funding for the sensible and successful Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, rolling back Clean Water standards and reconsidering the additions to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Lake Huron. The Trump Administration doesn’t seem to understand how much Michiganders care about protecting the Great Lakes where we live, work and play, and which provides safe clean drinking water for 42 million people.”

Hans Voss, Executive Director of Traverse City’s Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and a leader in the campaign to protect the Great Lakes from an oil spill from the Line 5 pipeline, urged attendees to comment this month on safer alternatives proposed by the State Pipeline Safety Advisory Board.

“The time for state decision-makers to study and debate what to do about the Line 5 pipeline is over,” said Voss. “Now is the time for citizens to speak up and push for lawmakers to shut down the pipeline once and for all.”

The gathering took place at the Bluewater Event Center in Traverse City.

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Trains News Wire: ELPC’s Brubaker Comments on Great Lakes Basin’s $151 Net Worth

Trains News Wire
Great Lakes Basin’s Net Worth was $151 in 2016
Railroad Promoter has Accumulated Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in Expenses with No Income
June 26, 2017
By Richard Wronski

CHICAGO — Officials with the private corporation seeking to develop a new $2.8-billion railroad to bypass Chicago congestion said it had a net worth of $151 at the end of 2016, according to a filing with federal regulators.

Great Lakes Basin Transportation Inc. listed $802,000 in accounts payable for its current liabilities in 2016. Equity included $473,573 in stockholder investment but a negative $71,878 in retained earnings and net income of a negative $1,203,445, according to the statement.

In an accompanying statement, the Crete, Ill.,-based company said it had no net income in 2016. The company listed $401,544 in investment revenue from stock sales in 2016, but nothing was left after expenses. The largest category was $312,828 for consultants, followed by $66,360 for legal expenses.

The balance sheet and income statement was filed June 21 by Great Lakes Basin with the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which had requested the information earlier this month.

Great Lakes Basin also filed a list of its 10 top shareholders, led by Frank Patton, the chairman, who controls slightly more than 87 percent. Patton founded and managed Portfolio Dynamics, a software company, according to a company biography on Great Lakes Basin’s website.

The next largest shareholder, with five percent, is James T. Wilson, the vice chairman. Wilson worked for 18 years for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, and 20 years as a railroad industry consultant, according to his biography.

The disclosure followed the board’s rejection of Great Lakes Basin’s claim that its list of principal stockholders was “highly confidential” and should not be released.

Great Lakes Basin officials seek authority from regulators to build and operate a 261-mile rail line around the Chicago area from southeast Wisconsin and northwest Illinois to northwest Indiana.

The line is intended to relieve Chicago’s rail congestion and would interchange with each major rail line operated by the six Class I carriers serving Chicago, along with six regional railroads, at 26 points.

The proposed project has drawn extensive grass-roots opposition, according to filings with the board. Opponents include at least six groups from at least four Illinois counties, the Illinois Farm Bureau and six county farm bureaus, and the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Kevin Brubaker, deputy director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, pointed to the disclosure that Great Lakes Basin claimed a net worth of $151.

“That’s enough to buy about ten used railroad ties,” Brubaker said in a statement to Trains News Wire. “It is hard to imagine how they will demonstrate financial fitness to the Surface Transportation Board.”

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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: ELPC’s Learner Says Proposed Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Line in Driftless isn’t Needed

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Wisconsin Power Line Pits Green Interests Against Each Other
June 11, 2017
By Lee Bergquist

A fight that involves dueling environmental constituencies is brewing over plans for a massive transmission line that would run through the Driftless Region of southwestern Wisconsin.
Developers say the estimated $500 million, 125-mile line would help buttress the regional power grid and provide access to lower-priced electricity in Iowa and other states.

But like the clamor that has erupted over construction of oil pipelines, transmission lines also engender strong emotions, with opponents often raising environmental objections.

In this case, Wisconsin’s newest power-line proposal pits a pair of green interests: those who see the project as a blight on the picturesque ridges and valleys of the region and those who say it opens up a new route for renewable wind energy from other states.

The Cardinal-Hickory Creek power line would run from west of Madison to Dubuque County in Iowa, where it would be linked to a growing fleet of wind farms that produce no greenhouse gases.

The Wisconsin Public Service Commission, whose members have all been appointed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, must decide whether the line is needed, and, if so, the best corridor to build it.

The developers have not yet selected precise route options, but recently sent letters to potentially affected property owners.

Two electric transmission companies — Pewaukee-based American Transmission Co. and ITC Midwest of Cedar Rapids, Iowa — lead the project. A third partner is Dairyland Power Cooperative of La Crosse.

The companies expect to make a formal application in 2018. If approved, the new line would begin operating in 2023.

The PSC’s decision will center on the need for a transmission line in a state now brimming with power. Regulators also will assess the ecological impact of a system whose towers will rise half the length of a football field and occupy 150 feet of right-of-way.

A comparable project can now be seen on stretches of I-90/94 in northern Dane and Columbia counties and the Lake Delton area of Sauk County, where another transmission line, the Badger Coulee, is under construction. It will run between Madison and La Crosse.

The Cardinal-Hickory Creek line has been included in a group of more than a dozen transmission projects that the Midwest’s grid operator and planning agency, known as the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, says should be built to maintain the reliability of the system and help alleviate traffic jams on the wires.

That means Wisconsin utility customers would pay about 15% of the cost of the line because MISO recommended that it be built for the benefit of the region.

Factors favoring the line, said the leader of a utility watchdog group, are falling electricity prices from wind and mandates in neighboring states for renewable energy that are higher than Wisconsin’s 10%.

On the other hand, electric demand in the state has been flat, said Thomas Content, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, which will analyze the case when it reaches the PSC.

“From our perspective, it’s making sure the need is justified,” Content said.

New transmission lines are going up as the power industry evolves from heavy reliance on coal-fired plants to a more varied mix that includes natural gas, wind, solar and other renewable sources.

Advocates for more renewable power say shifting to wind requires bigger transmission systems to move power around.

Wisconsin received 3.4% of its electricity from wind last year — up from 2.6% in 2015, according to PSC documents.

But the mix of wind is expected to grow.

With more wind turbines in development in Iowa and elsewhere, and the price of wind power falling, “we are seeing a pretty quick transition in the Midwest and a pretty big increase in wind,” said Tyler Huebner, executive director of Renew Wisconsin.

“We need a more robust system to take advantage of it.”

But big transmission towers are not what David Clutter and others want to see.

“This isn’t your typical part of the Midwest or Wisconsin,” said Clutter, executive director of the Driftless Area Land Conservancy. “Our concern is that it will permanently change the character of the area.”

The Driftless group and others, including the Nature Conservancy of Wisconsin, have land holdings in the region and want to protect remnants of prairies and other ecological features that escaped the scouring impact of glaciers thousands of years ago.

This spring, the Iowa County Board, the towns of Dodgeville and Wyoming in Iowa County and the Village of Spring Green in Sauk County have all passed resolutions opposing the project and expressed concerns about the effect on tourism and recreation.

One potential route lies near a segment of Highway 18 in Dane and Iowa counties that passes the communities of Mount Horeb, Barneveld and Dodgeville where vistas of cornfields and tall grass prairies with scattered oaks can stretch for miles.

Among the worries: The potential effect on parcels like the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area, which the state Department of Natural Resources has identified as having the highest priority for grassland protection, and the potential scenic harm the line would have on the 40-mile Military Ridge State Trail that runs along the highway.

If the line swings north, there are concerns on how habitat and wildlife would be affected as it cuts through miles of rolling woodlands and oak savannas where there are little or no existing roads or rights-of-way.

Spokeswoman Kaya Freiman of American Transmission Co. said power lines can co-exist with bike trails and sensitive ecosystems. She said the environmental effects will be “thoroughly reviewed” by regulators.

State law also requires that lines be constructed along existing rights-of-way as much as possible, she said.

Opponents are also challenging the line on economic grounds and say the biggest motivation of the transmission companies is receiving the nearly 11% return permitted by regulators on investments to build power lines.

They also note that electric demand has been dropping because of energy conservation and lingering effects of the recession.

On days with peak electric demand, utilities in Wisconsin last year produced 17% more power than was needed, according to PSC figures, and the agency expects it to remain nearly as high in the next five years.

“Very tall towers and transmission lines aren’t needed,” said attorney Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, which has been hired by the Driftless Area Land Conservancy.

“There is already a surplus of generating capacity.”

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The Daily Yonder: ELPC’s Olsen Hopes Paris Accord Pullout Doesn’t Hamper Successful Rural Clean Energy Projects

The Daily Yonder

USDA Climate Change Approach Faces Diminished Role, Worrying Many AG Leaders 

 June 6, 2017

By Bryce Oates

As the President withdraws from the Paris Climate Accords and outlines budget priorities, critics worry about a directional shift with USDA Climate Change.

President Trump announced that the U. S. would “pull out” of the Paris Climate Accords last week, signaling a clear direction for his Administration’s approach to the challenge of a changing, more energy-charged climate.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue applauded the move, stating, “President Trump promised that he would put America first and he has rightly determined that the Paris accord was not in the best interests of the United States. In addition to costing our economy trillions of dollars and millions of jobs, the accord also represented a willful and voluntary ceding of our national sovereignty. The agreement would have had negligible impact on world temperatures, especially since other countries and major world economies were not being held to the same stringent standards as the United States.”

The news does not please some members of the agricultural community, who believe that USDA should be a partner and supporter of efforts to assist farmers in addressing climate change.

“The withdrawal continues a troubling trend,” said Andrew Bahrenburg, National Policy Director of the National Young Farmers Coalition. “The young farmers we represent, to see their President speak about climate change this way, to walk away from progress we’re making on climate resiliency, progress farmers are making to cut emissions and develop on-the-ground solutions, it’s demoralizing. It’s just incredibly discouraging.”

NYFC’s members have already moved on in the discussion about climate change as a reality according to Bahrenburg. They see the evidence every day, with hotter summers, warmer winters, more intense droughts, more intense floods. Their project, Conservation Generation, seeks to assist farmers in the arid West with tools and resources to remain viable in a water-constrained environment.

“While we remain committed to working with Secretary Perdue, he has defended proposed cuts to key conservation programs, cuts to scientific research, a 30% reduction to the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program,” said Bahrenburg. He said that a group of young farmers are traveling to Washington, DC, this week to discuss their opinion with policymakers.

“All of these actions, the budget proposal, walking away from the global community, leaving the Paris Accords, taken together form a real indication of where USDA is headed,” said Tom Driscoll, Director of Conservation Policy for the National Farmers Union. “It’s a scary proposition.”

Driscoll said that many NFU members utilize the climate research and data presented by the Climate Hubs, originating in the Obama Administration. And NFU member families often participate in USDA’s REAP Program, both as farmers and workers for solar companies utilizing REAP (Renewable Energy for America Program) grants. REAP funding, which support renewable energy projects in rural communities, was singled out to be eliminated in the Trump Agriculture budget.

“This is a very, very sensitive time for farmers. There’s a credit crisis upon us. Prices and farm income are low. Choking off programs that deliver cost savings for farmers, that help them to become clean energy producers, undermining the information and tools that help farmers stay in business, it’s just irresponsible for them to behave this way.”

“The Administration’s proposal to eliminate farm bill funding for REAP is not only short-sighted from a climate change adaptation and mitigation perspective, it is also completely counter to their budget narrative,” said Greg Fogel, Policy Director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, in an email to Daily Yonder.

“We’ve heard a lot about agriculture needing to ‘do more with less,” and that is exactly what REAP does. This program puts farmers in the driver’s seat by giving them more control over their energy usage and costs, and helping them to reduce both. In a time when the agricultural economy is in downturn, that kind of independence and control is more important than ever,” said Fogel.

Others have also applauded previous USDA actions related to climate change and energy programs. “We have a program here that helps establish energy projects in rural Wisconsin dairies, for poultry farms of the Southeast, for cattle producers all over America. REAP serves every state, every agricultural sector, and has strong bipartisan support. We hope it continues,” said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Olsen said that he sees rural projects and programs working to create jobs and cut carbon emissions across the board, particularly due to USDA participation and focus. “Programs that cut energy costs for farmers, that increase local energy production through solar and wind, that increase economic investment and activity, that increase jobs in rural America, what’s not to like about that,” asked Olsen, questioning the Trump Administration’s budget priorities.

When presented with these questions about the Trump USDA’s approach to climate change, a USDA spokesperson told the Daily Yonder through email:

“The President has proposed his budget, and now the appropriators in Congress will make their mark on it. We cannot know what form the final budget will take, and so it is premature to comment on the specific impacts it may have on any USDA program. Secretary Perdue has communicated to all USDA staff that there is no sense in sugar coating the budget, but he will be as transparent as possible throughout the budget process.”

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Chicago Tribune: ELPC Asks Surface Transportation Board to Extend Comment Period on Proposed Freight Line

Rail Company, UPS on Different Sides of Proposed Freight Line Debate
By Amy Lavalley

Reiterating a point they made a year ago, representatives from Norfolk Southern Railway Company said in a recent letter to the federal board that will determine the fate of a proposed freight train line that they would not use the line if it comes to fruition.

Another nationally based business, meanwhile, is supporting the plan.

Last May, Norfolk Southern notified the Surface Transportation Board, which will determine whether Great Lakes Basin Transportation can proceed with a 261-mile freight train line from Milton, Wis., into LaPorte County that would cut through southern Lake and Porter counties, that they were “not inclined” to think the proposed line would work well with their system or that they would use the route.

That filing came two months after officials at Union Pacific, another Class 1 railroad and intended user of the freight train line, publicly stated that they were not interested in the proposal.

The new letter from Norfolk Southern, filed May 19, notes that the railroad wants to participate in the proceedings as a party of record, and states that the railroad does not object to the request to extend the comment deadline.

“The requested extensions would promote greater public participation in this proceeding, preserving the integrity of the STB’s decision making process,” wrote an attorney for Norfolk Southern.

Great Lakes filed its formal application with the federal transportation board on May 1. Officials there have said the proposed freight train line would serve as a bypass for the six Class 1 railroads that go through Chicago and alleviate congested rail yards there. None of the railroads have publicly committed to the project so far.

The package delivery service UPS, meanwhile, sent a letter to the transportation board supporting the proposed freight train line. The letter, dated April 28, went online earlier this month.

Officials with the delivery service said the proposal was of “keen interest,” because UPS uses truck-rail transportation to serve its customers throughout the United States.

“Although in its infancy, any effort to build new rail capacity and bypass the notorious Chicago rail bottleneck would have a material positive impact on the fluidity and velocity of the freight rail network, and a direct benefit to UPS and our customers,” the letter states.

Opponents of the freight train line have said they were concerned about safety, drainage woes, the loss of farmland and other worries along the route.

The federal board set a June 5 deadline for public comments on the Great Lakes application, though Thomas McFarland, a Chicago attorney representing opposition groups in all three states along the proposed freight line’s path, has asked for an extension of that deadline.

The transportation board has not yet made a decision on that extension, nor has the board made a decision on a request by Great Lakes for a protective order to maintain the confidentiality of its investors and other related information, which was filed with its application.

Also weighing in as a party of record and asking for the extension on the comment period is the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which filed a May 18 letter with the transportation board. The center challenged the proposed Illiana toll road in court on behalf of three area environmental groups.

“ELPC advocates for smart and sustainable land use and transportation planning and continues to have serious concerns about the proposal,” officials there wrote. “ELPC has members whose financial, recreational, and aesthetic interests may be harmed if GLBT’s application is granted.”

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Janesville (WI) Gazette: Proposed Great Lakes Basin Rail Line Draws Criticism from Local Lawmakers

Janesville (WI) Gazette

Proposed Great Lakes Basin rail line draws criticism from local lawmakers
By Xavier Ward

A transportation company’s request to keep secret a list of investors in its proposed rail line drew criticism Monday from two state lawmakers and an environmental advocacy group.

In a letter to the federal Surface Transportation Board, Rep. Mark Spreitzer, D-Beloit, said Great Lakes Basin Transportation’s proposed rail line through Rock County is a project that demands transparency.

“I have serious concerns over intent, potential investors and stockholders, and transparency,” Spreitzer wrote to the board, which has the authority to approve or deny the project.

“The proposed route is a massive project that deserves a complete application, diligent oversight and full transparency for the sake of all people and lives affected,” Spreitzer wrote.

Although Great Lakes Basin filed an application for the rail line May 1, the project has stirred controversy since it was proposed last year.

The 261-mile rail line would allow trains to bypass Chicago’s congested rail yards, company officials have said. The route would start in Milton, run south and then head west between Beloit and Janesville. It then turns south again through the town of Beloit before crossing into Illinois.

Opponents of the project thought the Surface Transportation Board would respond to the company’s request for confidentiality by Monday, but the board did not.

Spreitzer wrote that he didn’t think the project was realistic because Great Lakes Basin has not produced documentation on financing.

Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton, raised similar concerns about the lack of transparency and the completeness of the application.

She also blasted the company’s decision to reveal a toll road and airport project at the last minute.

Great Lakes Basin President Frank Patton announced plans to build a tollway and a new Chicago-area airport when the company submitted its application.

Those additions changed the project’s price tag from $8 billion—the cost Patton originally quoted—to $2.8 billion, according to the application.

The Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago environmental advocacy group, has filed a request to extend the public comment period on the confidentiality order by 15 days and to extend the comment period on the application by 55 days.

The request states there is no urgency for a decision on the protective order and that the public could benefit from an extended comment period.

The advocacy group also filed a request to become a party of record and a motion of intent to participate in the process, said Kevin Brubaker, deputy director at the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

“The Environmental Law and Policy Center has grave concerns about this project. This 261-mile-long railroad proposal could fundamentally alter the shape of development in northeastern Illinois and Wisconsin,” Brubaker told The Gazette.

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Press Release: New Report Reveals Illinois & Other States Failing to Manage Nitrogen & Phosphorus Pollution in our Waterways, Mississippi River

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 17, 2016

Contact: Judith Nemes, Environmental Law & Policy Center
JNemes@elpc.org 312-795-3706

Kim Knowles, Prairie Rivers Network
KKnowles@prairierivers.org 314-341-1641

New Report Reveals Illinois and Other States Failing to Manage Nitrogen & Phosphorus Pollution in our Waterways
Environmental Coalition Calls on EPA to Step Up Efforts to Reduce Nutrient Pollution in Mississippi River

Mississippi River – The Mississippi River Collaborative (MRC) today released a report that implores the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take specific actions to clean up nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in Illinois and nine other states, because those states have failed to make sufficient pollution reductions. The 10 states included in the report all border the Mississippi River and send their pollution to the river and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico.

The report, “Decades of Delay,” was prepared by MRC, a partnership of 13 environmental and legal groups, and assesses state progress in reducing the pollution that threatens drinking water supplies for millions of Americans and causes the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone.

The report finds that nitrogen and phosphorus continue to pose serious threats to Illinois waters, interfering with the public’s use and enjoyment, and threatening the health of people and aquatic life. Illinois lakes have been especially devastated by phosphorus pollution.

“EPA’s hands-off approach is simply not working in Illinois. Every summer our lakes and beaches are fouled by noxious, smelly and sometimes toxic algal blooms,” said Kim Knowles, Staff Attorney at Prairie Rivers Network. “The state lacks a rigorous program for addressing this scourge.”

“For 20 years, we have been told the EPA and the states would address the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that fouls our rivers and lakes and perpetuates the Gulf Dead Zone,” said Jessica Dexter, Staff Attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center, an MRC member. “This report demonstrates the falsity of that claim. EPA should use the tools outlined in the report to uphold the Clean Water Act and get us on a path to clean rivers and streams.”

The report suggests six specific steps EPA can take to protect human health and water quality in state waters. Recommendations include setting numeric limits of allowable nitrogen and phosphorus in state waters, assessing more waterways to determine the full extent and impact of nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and making sure states develop rigorous plans for reducing pollution and for procuring the funding needed to address this significant problem.

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Decades of Delay Executive Summary
Decades of Delay Full Report

Press Release: Federal Court Decision Protects Michigan’s Sylvania Wilderness Area in the State’s Upper Peninsula

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 15, 2016

Contact: Judith Nemes (312) 795-3706JNemes@elpc.org

Federal Court Decision Protects Michigan’s Sylvania Wilderness Area in the State’s Upper Peninsula
Key decision for protecting lakeshores and other wilderness places

Marquette, Mich. – A Federal District Court judge this week ruled in favor of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, its clients and the U.S. Forest Service to allow restrictions on the use of noisy gas-powered motorboats in the tranquil Sylvania Wilderness Area in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The decision by Federal Judge R. Allan Edgar enables the U.S. Forest Service to continue enforcing a section of the Michigan Wilderness Act (MWA), which provides that the Sylvania Wilderness should be administered and protected as a pristine area in accordance with the provisions of the Wilderness Act of 1964. ELPC represented Sylvania Wilderness Cabins, Friends of Sylvania, and the Upper Peninsula Environmental Coalition in the suit.

“Judge Edgar’s commonsense decision makes clear that the pristine Sylvania Wilderness should be protected from the noise and disruption of motorboats,” says Jennifer Tarr, ELPC Staff Attorney.

The court concluded: “Based on the plain language of the relevant sections of the Wilderness Act and the MWA, it is clear that Congress intended that the U.S. Forest Service would regulate motorboat usage to the extent necessary to preserve the nature and character of Sylvania.”

In addition, the ruling stated: “the Plaintiffs in this case had no pre-existing right to use motorboats on the lake. They purchased the property in 2010 – 23 years after Congress enacted the MWA, and 14 years after Amendment Five had been in effect.”

A homeowner on Crooked Lake in the Sylvania Wilderness of Michigan challenged the U.S. Forest Service’s amendment to the Michigan Wilderness Act of 1987 that enabled the government to protect that area in accordance with the Wilderness Act of 1964.

“This is an important victory in the court that sets a precedent for protecting the Sylvania Wilderness Area and the other wild and special places around the Great Lakes and Midwest,” says Howard Learner, ELPC’s Executive Director.

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