Howard A. Learner

My 2017 End-of-Year Letter

This is an extraordinary time, and the time for action is now. 

President Trump, U.S. EPA Administrator Pruitt, Department of Interior Secretary Zinke and others do not share the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s and your core environmental, public health, and civic values. The Trump Administration is trying to turn back the clock on almost 50 years of American progress toward cleaner water, healthier air, and safer communities.  It has already canceled 27 regulatory standards that protect public health and our environment.

ELPC is fighting back and playing to win.  ELPC’s effective strategic litigation and public advocacy are more vital than ever to confront the Trump Administration’s anti-environmental agenda in the Midwest and challenge Trump’s “War on the Great Lakes.”

The best defense is a good offense!  There are opportunities for positive progress to accelerate clean energy and clean transportation solutions to climate change problems, protect safe clean drinking water and healthy clean air, and protect the Great Lakes and other vital Midwest natural resources.  ELPC plays to win in these challenging times in the Midwest states where ELPC focuses, leads and knows how to get things done.

Please stretch this year and make a significant contribution to support ELPC’s successful and strategic legal and policy advocacy work.  Your support will help ELPC win: advancing policies that accelerate solar energy and innovative clean cars as they reach tipping points, protecting safe clean drinking water and healthier clear air for all in our communities, and protecting the Great Lakes, rivers, forests and prairies that make the Midwest a great place to live, work and play.

To learn more about all of ELPC’s winning work and 2017 successes, download our End-of-Year brochure. 

Here are some highlights of ELPC achieving strong results at this extraordinary time:

  • Winning Against Trump’s “War on the Great Lakes”.  President Trump won his election in the Great Lakes states, but his misguided policies and budgets amount to a puzzling “War on the Great Lakes.”  When the Administration suggested moving EPA’s Region 5 headquarters from Chicago to Lenexa, Kansas, ELPC exposed this proposal to the public ridicule it deserved, and the Administration backed down. When the Administration zeroed out funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative – a successful program supporting 3,000 projects to keep the lakes clean, preserve shorelines, restore wetlands,, and protect safe clean drinking water – ELPC helped mobilize the public and Congress to restore the full funding of $300 million annually.
  • ELPC attorneys are now in federal court to overturn the U.S. EPA’s approval of the Ohio EPA’s flawed finding that Western Lake Erie is somehow not “impaired” by phosphorus pollution.  In the Toledo area, 500,000 people were without drinking water for three days in 2014 due to toxic blue green algae, which continues to threaten safe clean drinking water, fisheries and ecological health.  This ELPC litigation can be a key Clean Water Act precedent.
  • Winning Against Peabody Energy’s Attempt to Shift Its Environmental Cleanup Costs onto the Public. ELPC took on Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal mining company and prominent climate change denier.  Peabody filed for bankruptcy and tried to escape its $1.3 billion of mine reclamation responsibilities by “self-bonding” and transferring the risks of those costs onto taxpayers. ELPC successfully intervened before the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, gained precedential rulings, and forced Peabody to buy surety bonds for all of its reclamation obligations as a condition for the Court’s approval of Peabody’s reorganization.  Victory for both taxpayers and the environment.  Flawed “self-bonding” ended, subsidies for coal reduced.
  • Progress Accelerating Solar Energy in the Midwest States.  Solar Energy + Storage is a game changer that can transform the electricity market just as wireless technologies transformed telecommunications and the ways that we live and work.  For energy policies, the “rubber hits the road” before the state public utilities commissions, which can either promote competition spurring innovative new clean technologies or create barriers to new market entrants.
  • ELPC advocates led the charge to pass the modernized Illinois Renewable Energy Standard that will drive 3,000 megawatts of new solar energy projects and 1,350 megawatts of wind power.  Now, ELPC and a coalition of solar energy businesses and clean energy and community groups are working to make sure that the Illinois Power Agency and Illinois Commerce Commission implement the new law to achieve its full potential benefits for consumers and the environment.
  • ELPC helped persuade the Michigan Public Service Commission to update the “avoided cost” calculation and increase buyback rates that boost distributed solar energy and cogeneration.  Now, we’re working to replicate that victory in other Midwest states.  In Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, ELPC is on the offense to accelerate community solar policies, and we’re fighting back against barriers to solar development and subsidies for old coal plants.
  • Protecting the Midwest’s Wild and Natural Places.  ELPC’s top-rate team of public interest environmental litigation attorneys – one of our strongest weapons – are striking back in the courts with our conservation group partners to protect the Driftless Area (WI), Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (IL), Mississippi River Headwaters (MI) and Sylvania Wilderness (MI).

Thank you for your engagement and your support.  Please consider making a contribution by mail, phone or online to support ELPC’s effective work to seize opportunities for transformational changes and achieve a brighter Midwest future for all.

Howard A. Learner,

Chief Executive Officer & Executive Director

Howard Learner is an experienced attorney serving as the President and Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center. He is responsible for ELPC’s overall strategic leadership, policy direction, and financial platform.

MORE FROM Howard A. Learner