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Howard A. Learner

ELPC in 2019: Strong Results, Impact, and a Good Reason to Give…

We've had an incredible year at ELPC.

We’re fighting back and playing to win against President Trump’s misguided attempts to rollback protective clean air and clean water standards, systematically weaken the Environmental Protection Agency, and conduct what amounts to a War on the Great Lakes.  We are winning with savvy strategies, our very hardworking and talented staff, dedicated partners, and supporters who value ELPC’s effective legal and policy advocacy.

The best defense is a good offense.  There’s a lot on the line.  Healthy clean air, safe clean drinking water, and the right to live in communities without toxic threats are basic human rights and civil rights. ELPC protects and defends these core environmental rights. In these extraordinary times, please make a generous year-end contribution to support ELPC’s work. Here are some highlights of how ELPC is achieving strong results to protect the Midwest’s environment.

Winning Precedent-Setting Litigation and Public Advocacy Against Trump’s Rollbacks

  • Clean Up Lake Erie’s Toxic Algae Blooms – Reduce Fertilizer and Manure Pollution: We achieved a big litigation victory in the ELPC v. U.S. EPA case as U.S. District Court Judge Carr denied the EPA’s motion to dismiss.  The detailed 31-page Opinion establishes that the Clean Water Act requires Ohio and the U.S. EPA to adopt Total Maximum Daily Loads, which are enforceable regulatory standards.  That will require reductions of agricultural runoff pollution – manure from CAFOs and fertilizer from crop fields – sufficient to alleviate the recurring severe toxic algae outbreaks in Western Lake Erie that threaten safe clean drinking water, damage fisheries, deter outdoor recreation and harm the economy.
  • Challenging U.S. EPA’s Weakening Ozone Standards that Protect Health: EPA is required to designate areas as in “attainment” with clean air standards, or not, based on facts, science and public health, not politics.  When EPA made last-minute changes – some due to shenanigans by former Administrator Scott Pruitt – in ozone nonattainment designations for McHenry County, IL and Lake and Porter Counties, IN, ELPC sued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  EPA then backed off on two of the counties – wins. We recently presented argument before the Court on the third county and expect a decision this spring.
  • More Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Funding – and Trump Throws in the Towel: Three times, President Trump zeroed out or severely cut funding for the successful GLRI program. Three times Congress restored $300 million with strong bipartisan support.  When President Trump visited Grand Rapids, MI, he suddenly said supports full funding.  Well, OK – victory!

Litigation to Retire Old Coal Plants, Protect Clean Air and Reduce Carbon Pollution

ELPC’s sustained Clean Air Act litigation combined with changing electricity market economics is paying off with significant new coal plant shutdowns in the Midwest.

  • Vistra will retire 2,000 megawatts of old coal plants in Illinois – Coffeen (915 MW), Duck Creek (425 MW), Havana (434 MW) and Hennepin (294 MW) – by December.
  • Vistra will also shut down the old Edwards coal plant (585 MW) in Peoria by the end of 2022 as a result of our settlement of ELPC/NRDC/Sierra Club Clean Air Act enforcement litigation. All-in-all, that’s shutting down about one-third of the coal plant capacity in Illinois. Many thousands of tons of carbon pollution will no longer be emitted into the atmosphere.
  • ELPC also succeeded, in representing 11 environmental and consumer groups in achieving a sooner rather than later retirement of AEP’s Rockport coal plant in Southern Indiana.

Stepping Up with Clean Energy & Climate Change Solutions in Midwest States and Cities

As Trump’s federal government steps back from protecting the environment, ELPC is stepping up our work to accelerate clean energy policies and advance climate change solutions in the states.

  • Solar Energy + Storage is a game changer. ELPC is leading the charge to effectively implement the comprehensive new Illinois solar energy legislation where the “rubber hits the road” in the regulatory process before the Illinois Commerce Commission and Illinois Power Agency. In Michigan and Indiana, ELPC is working with utilities that are shutting down coal plants and shifting to solar energy and wind power generation.  The clean energy transition is happening.
  • Electric school buses now. ELPC is driving the advocacy for Midwest states purchasing new EV school buses, which avoid both CO2 and the diesel pollution that harms children’s health.
  • Big win — cleaning up coal ash protects safe clean water. ELPC worked for eight years advocating that polluters be held responsible to clean up their coal ash pits. This year, Illinois passed comprehensive legislation that coal plant owners, not taxpayers, pay for coal ash cleanup.

The Impacts of Climate Change on the Great Lakes and Policy Solutions

ELPC commissioned 18 leading Midwest and Canadian scientists to write a comprehensive state-of-the-science report: An Assessment of the Impacts of Climate Change on the Great Lakes. ELPC advocates developed an accompanying report on policy solutions designed to mitigate climate change and achieve multiple pollution and public health benefits. These influential reports were shared with key policymakers, including with the U.S. Senate Climate Task Force.

Protecting the Midwest’s Special Places

ELPC’s top-rate team of public interest litigation attorneys – one of our strongest weapons – are hard at work in the courts and public agencies to protect the Midwest’s most special places: the Driftless Area (WI), Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (IL), Mississippi River Headwaters (MN), Straits of Mackinac (MI) and the Great Lakes.

Thank you for supporting ELPC’s effective strategic legal and policy advocacy, which achieves environmental progress and economic growth together.  We’re working to protect the planet and people in Midwest communities in these extraordinary times. Please consider and end of year gift today.  Best wishes for a healthy and happy new year!


Howard A. Learner,

President and 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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