ELPC Events

Howard A. Learner

ELPC Gala Celebrates 30 Years

To celebrate ELPC's 30th Anniversary, 450 of our closest friends joined us for an evening to remember in the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier.

What a night! 450 of our closest friends joined us for an evening to remember in the Aon Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier. I want to thank Senator Dick Durbin, the many sponsors, friends, and allies who joined us, and each person who has made ELPC a success over the last 30 years.

As I said to everyone in the room, life is a journey. ELPC is a mission and a calling. To make a difference for the Midwest’s environment, our communities, and our planet.

Collage of gala photos shows the Navy Pier Aon Grand ballroom with seating and glamping tents, performers dressed as trees, and speakers including Senator Dick Durbin and Director Howard Learner

ELPC’s 30th Anniversary Gala included glamping tents, theatrical performers, and Senator Dick Durbin

We built ELPC from a ground floor startup with a vision into a Midwest powerhouse for the environment. We’re all in this together. Thank you all for your support and partnership in many ways during ELPC’s 30 years. Look what ELPC’s terrific staff has accomplished. And, we’re not stopping.

It’s our mission to make sure that all people have healthy clean air to breathe, safe clean water to drink, and can live in communities without toxic threats.

  • We protect the Great Lakes.
  • We hold polluters accountable.
  • We work on clean energy, modern transportation, and other climate solutions.
  • ELPC fights to protect the Midwest’s environment.

We’ve had some big wins this year and aren’t stopping.

Harmful algae bloom. Lake Erie. July 22, 2011. Credit: NOAA.

Here’s what Lake Erie looks like almost every summer. Agricultural runoff pollution –manure and excess fertilizers – end up into Lake Erie.  They cause toxic algae outbreaks.

ELPC prevailed in our federal court lawsuit to force the State of Ohio to apply the Clean Water Act to reduce this pollution. On May 4th, the Court approved a settlement requiring Ohio to develop a cleanup plan with enforceable deadlines. If Ohio fails, then US EPA is required to step in. Federal Judge James Carr’s Order called ELPC’s work a “persistent, unyielding quest…towards the restoration of Lake Erie’s Western Basin.”

That’s ELPC.  That’s what we do well.  This is why we do it.

Here’s four examples of what’s next:

First Example: ELPC attorneys represent two community groups, Alliance for the Southeast and Friends of the Parks, to challenge the Army Corps of Engineers’ new toxic dredge waste dump on the Lake Michigan shoreline on Chicago’s Southeast Side. Here’s the story.

Quick update: We’ve won the first battle in federal court. The Army Corps has been forced to hold off its build first – permit later plans. Thank you to Amalia Nieto-Gomez, Juanita Irizarry and Linda Gonzales who are in the fight every day. We’re all in this together.

Second Example: Following our big litigation victory against Cleveland-Cliffs’ steel mill discharging excessive ammonia and cyanide pollution into Lake Michigan, ELPC is now focusing more legal firepower in Northwest Indiana. This region has a combination of diverse communities, heavily polluting industries, the Indiana Dunes, and Lake Michigan shoreline. Last month, ELPC filed a civil rights complaint on behalf of the Gary Advocates for Responsible Development. Why? Because Indiana regulators refused to deal with the harmful impacts of allowing a waste incinerator near a Gary, Indiana K-12 school.

Third Example:  Clean energy requires clean government. In March, the powerful Ohio Republican former House Speaker and former Party Chair were convicted in a federal court of engaging in a racketeering conspiracy with the utility FirstEnergy. $60 million in bribes, and a $1.3 billion bailout for two struggling nuclear plants.

In May, the powerful ComEd Four were also found guilty of conspiracy and multiple bribery charges in a federal court here in Chicago. ELPC will be working hard for ethics reform. We all need to be in this together. Clean energy requires clean government.

Photo of a coal plant along a river in Michigan

Consumers Energy’s J.H. Campbell coal plant in Ottawa County, MI is slated to close in 2025.

Fourth Example:

In Michigan, ELPC’s innovative Power Plants to Parklands Project seizes a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform retired coal plant sites that sit along the Great Lakes shoreline. We’re working with utilities and local partners to replace historic pollution with new clean solar energy plus storage that’s hard-wired into the grid – and new beach parks and greenways for outdoor recreation, and wildlife refuges. That’s a win-win-win for jobs, clean economic growth, and the environment together.

ELPC has a mission

ELPC’s mission is to fundamentally improve the Midwest’s environment and healthy communities, and to protect the planet. It’s my mission in life, and I’m passionate about it.  In my religion, we only live once. We have one chance, one life to make differences that are ripples of change.  It’s a mission and purpose.

And, I’m honored and proud to work with an ELPC staff who likewise are driven by a mission to make a difference.

Group photo of ELPC staff in a bowling alley, wearing multicolored bowling shirts

ELPC staff at the 2022 holiday bowling party

Looking back over 30 years, I see incredible changes.  30 years ago, our vision that environmental progress and economic development can be achieved together was called ambitious. Today, sustainability is conventional wisdom. Renewable energy is becoming a trillion-dollar global industry. Today, we can shop among dozens of new electric cars.

Imagine what we can do together in the next 30 years. That will require tenacious, effective public interest attorneys, policy advocates and scientists. That will require forward-thinking business leaders, creative union leaders, and expansive civic thinkers. That will require us to make choices to save the planet – choices of what we purchase, and who gets our votes.

Working together, we can do it! For people and Midwest communities, for nature, and for the future of our planet. Thank you for what all of you do to help ELPC succeed. And, thank you for all that you will keep doing to protect our planet.

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.

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