WI State Journal: ELPC Concerned Over Use of Energy Efficiency Money On Broadband Coupons

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More Broadband Money is on the Way for Rural Wisconsin
December 2, 2016
By Judy Newman

Efforts to bring high-speed internet to rural Wisconsin residents and businesses got a double-boost on Thursday, with up to $61.5 million in additional funds being funneled toward projects to expand broadband.

Gov. Scott Walker asked the state Legislature to pass a bill that would allocate an additional $35.5 million over the next three years to make broadband more accessible to rural residents and businesses.

The proposal, to be funded by a surplus in the state’s Universal Service Fund, would triple Wisconsin’s broadband and technology investments to $52 million for the 2017 through 2019 fiscal years, Walker said.

“It will allow Wisconsin communities, especially in rural areas, to compete for jobs, improve education, and provide a higher quality of life,” the governor said.

The money includes grants to expand high-speed internet access in rural areas, and for schools and libraries to upgrade their internet access and train teachers.

Also on Thursday, the state Public Service Commission approved spending up to $26 million in the 2017 and 2018 calendar years toward new programs for rural areas that couple energy efficiency projects with broadband upgrades.

The PSC action puts broadband benefits — for the first time — into the mix of incentives offered through the Focus on Energy program for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. It also calls on internet service providers, from local companies to national giants, to offer a package of energy- and internet-related incentives.

That means, for example, rural homeowners may be able to get a $50 rebate for installing high-speed internet along with a rebate for adding a smart thermostat. “Smart thermostats use the internet to adjust the energy consumption in your home,” said Bob Seitz, executive assistant to PSC chairwoman Ellen Nowak.

The plan drew some critics.

“The Public Service Commission continues to try to fit a square peg in a round hole,” Andy Olsen, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said in a statement. “Using Focus to fund internet subscriptions only helps people who already have broadband access; it doesn’t increase access to those who could most benefit.”

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Energy Wire: Howard Lauds Renewable Energy Victories In Illinois Legislation

EnergyWire

Exelon Nuclear Plants Get Bailout in Sweeping Energy Bill
December 2, 2016
By Jeffrey Tomich

Years of sagging energy prices and eroding electricity demand pushed two Illinois nuclear plants to the brink of closure. A procedural assist in the final hours of the legislative calendar spared the plants from a knockout blow.

In the end, lawmakers approved the most significant rewrite of state energy policy in two decades. Among other things, it authorizes up to $2.4 billion in subsidies over the next decade to keep Exelon Corp.’s Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants running.

The bill, which will also trigger billions of dollars for wind, solar and energy efficiency, was helped by a last-minute maneuver removing the effective date. The seemingly innocuous change lowered the threshold for passage in the House, where it ultimately passed by just three votes.

The “Future Energy Jobs Bill” now goes to Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), who issued a statement late yesterday evening indicating he’ll sign it.

“This legislation will save thousands of jobs. It protects ratepayers, through guaranteed caps, from large rate increases in years to come. It also ensures taxpayers are not on the hook to keep the power plants open and online,” Rauner said in a statement.

The stakes in the battle over S.B. 2814 were high, especially for Chicago-based Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear operator, which has been pushing for state aid for money-losing nuclear plants for the past two years (EnergyWire, June 3). The company threatened to take “irreversible” steps to shut down the plants if the Legislature didn’t pass the bill yesterday.

It’s also a win for clean energy advocates. The measure strengthens the state’s energy efficiency standard and includes a fix for Illinois’ long-broken renewable standard. Specifically, it requires development of enough new wind and solar energy to power 1 million homes by 2030.

Exelon went head-to-head with a coalition of wind and solar groups for much of the past two years over the future of Illinois’ energy mix (EnergyWire, Feb. 27, 2015). The state’s largest energy company and green groups finally reached a compromise last week.

“This forward-looking energy policy levels the playing field and values all carbon-free energy equally, positions Illinois as a national leader in advancing clean energy, and will provide a major boost to the Illinois economy,” Exelon’s chief executive, Chris Crane, said in a statement.

For opponents, including the state’s biggest energy users, the outcome is a setback.

Manufacturers, chemical plants and owners of Chicago skyscrapers repeatedly warned legislators that the bill will increase electric costs, undoing the benefits of competition that grew from deregulation in the late 1990s.

“Beware when you hear Exelon telling you what’s good for the customers,” an official from the Building Owners and Managers Association of Chicago told a Senate committee in a hearing Wednesday. “We’re the customers.”

Power plant owner Dynegy Inc., which has shut down 20 percent of the generating capacity in downstate Illinois in the past six months, also lobbied hard to kill the bill in the final days.

Dynegy supported it until last week, when the sponsor pulled a convoluted provision that would have generated millions of dollars in additional capacity payments for the Houston-based company’s coal plants (EnergyWire, Nov. 23).

A company spokesman didn’t respond to an email seeking comment last night.

Rates, Jobs at Issue

In the end, for legislators who voted on the bill yesterday evening, arguments centered on bill’s impact on electric rates and the state’s economy. And both sides came armed with conflicting data and studies as supporting evidence.

Rep. Bill Mitchell (R), whose district includes the 1,046-megawatt Clinton nuclear plant northeast of Springfield pleaded with lawmakers to spare jobs and taxes that are vital to the area.

Not only the 800 jobs at the plant but also those at nearby schools and businesses that depend on the plant were in jeopardy.

“The people of DeWitt County have been put through hell for the last six months wondering if they’ll have a job,” he said.

Opponents made equally passionate pleas to not ram through a massive, complex bill in the final hours while the state faces so many other pressing needs.

Rep. Mark Batinick (R) said the aid for Exelon was unnecessary because Illinois is a significant exporter of electricity.

“We’re going to subsidize a company so that it can sell its power out of state?” he said. “That’s supposed to be more important than a budget, than social services, than education?”

Bill supporters cited studies by Illinois agencies and another by Brattle Group consultants suggesting that Illinois electricity rates would go up if the nuclear plants shut down prematurely. Rauner pressed for rate caps for all classes of utility customers as a condition for his approval.

Including the energy savings from huge investments in energy efficiency that would be unleashed, consumers would actually see a net savings in energy costs in the long run, according to proponents including the Citizens Utility Board, a utility watchdog group.

St. Louis-based Ameren, a distribution utility that serves the southern half of Illinois, agreed and said its customers would save money even factoring in the cost of the nuclear subsidies.

Other consumer advocates, including Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) and AARP, weren’t convinced. Both fought the bill until the end and raised questions about whether the last-minute rate caps would protect all customers equally.

“We want to gamble on 50-plus lobbyists who spend a lot of money who tell us if we don’t do something, the sky’s going to fall? The sky is not falling, and rates are not guaranteed to go up,” said state Sen. Kyle McCarter (R).

State Sen. Chapin Rose (R), the bill’s lead sponsor in the state Senate, asserted that allowing the Exelon plants to close was the bigger risk. “How would you define losing 20 percent of the power on your grid? That’s a gamble,” he said.

Renewables, Efficiency Score Wins

Almost overshadowed by the drama around Exelon’s nuclear plants was the effect the bill will have on renewable energy development and energy efficiency in Illinois.

Illinois’ 25 percent renewable standard has been broken for years because of an unintended conflict in state law. S.B. 2814 resolves the conflict so the standard can be funded. It also specifically requires development of 1,300 megawatts of new wind and 300 MW of solar — a mix of utility-scale, community and rooftop projects.

The bill also strengthens Illinois’ energy efficiency standard, requiring Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison to reduce electricity usage in its service area by 21.5 percent by 2030. Ameren will be required to cut usage in its mostly rural downstate territory by 13 percent.

“This legislation should reenergize Illinois’ solar energy and wind power development bringing investments and cleaner air and water,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center, in a statement.

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Midwest Energy News: ELPC’s Rob Kelter says New Ohio Energy Bill Could Threaten Jobs

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Critics: Jobs Will Be in Jeopardy if Ohio Energy Bill Becomes Law
December 2, 2016
By Kathiann M. Kowalski

On the same day that a new study reported that more than 300 companies in Ohio are part of the supply chains for the wind and solar industries, lawmakers voted a bill out of committee that would make compliance with the state’s clean energy standards voluntary until 2020.

If House Bill 554 becomes law, critics say the state would lose out on business opportunities and jobs. In their view, the bill would also discourage competition, keep electricity prices high and promote pollution that causes health problems and contributes to climate change.

“We’re either going to move in a clean energy direction that produces new jobs related to solar and wind and efficiency,” said Rob Kelter of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, which released the supply chain report on Nov. 30. “Or we’re going to let other states and other countries manufacture these new products.”

‘Behind the Radar’

According to the supply chain report, 207 Ohio companies supply the solar energy industry, 134 manufacture things for the wind energy industry, and 20 serve as suppliers for both industries.

Those companies’ manufacturing operations “are sort of behind the radar,” Kelter noted.

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Chicago Tribune: ELPC’s Susan Mudd warns of air pollution dangers to Little Village residents from nearby planned factory expansions

ChicagoTribune

Expansion of Little Village Mayonnaise Factory Raises Pollution Fears
November 28, 2016
By Mary Wisniewski

The news of a factory expansion on the city’s West Side is generally a cause for rejoicing — more manufacturing means more jobs in an area that could use them.

But environmental advocates are concerned that the planned expansion of the Hellmann’s mayonnaise factory in the Little Village neighborhood will bring heavy truck traffic near an elementary school, exposing children to harmful diesel fumes.

The Little Village Environmental Justice Organization wants Unilever, parent company of Hellman’s maker Best Foods, to commit to using trucks fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG) or electricity, which produce lower carbon monoxide emissions, rather than diesel.

“We are already overburdened with air pollution,” said Kim Wasserman, executive director of LVEJO, who said 500 to 900 additional trucks will come to the new facility daily. “This is going to exacerbate the situation.”

Construction for the new single-story mayo factory and distribution center on a vacant site near 28th Street and Kilbourn Avenue will start early next year, according to Chicago Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), who has said the facility may need as many as 60 new workers. Site preparation for the facility, an expansion to an existing factory, is going on this fall, Munoz said.

The site is near Zapata Elementary Academy at 2728 S. Kostner Ave. Wasserman said Unilever has donated $20 million to upgrade the school —– but the upgrades do not address air quality concerns.

Munoz said trucks for the facility would travel on Cicero Avenue and not come through the neighborhood. But Wasserman said that her organization wants the company to promise, in writing, to keep trucks off residential streets.

A spokesperson for Unilever, parent company for such well-known brands as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Lipton tea, said in an email that the project will require trucks to enter and exit from the main commercial road. The company also said it is increasing its use of natural gas trucks and has made the Kilbourn Avenue plant “a priority” for their use.

Wasserman said she would like to eventually see 100 percent of the trucks use natural gas or electricity.

With its industrial base and proximity to truck-heavy corridors like I-55, Pulaski Road and Cicero and Western avenues, Little Village has had a history of air quality concerns. The

Crawford and Fisk coal-burning electric plants, located in Little Village and Pilsen, respectively, and shuttered in 2012, were blamed for contributing to asthma and other respiratory health problems in the region.

“They fight and fight to get rid of these old power plants and then there’s another thing that comes in,” said Susan Mudd, senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

Mudd said the center also is concerned about the possible construction of a distribution warehouse in the neighborhood at 31st Street and Kedzie Avenue, which could also require heavy truck traffic.

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The Rock River Times: ELPC’s Dexter Urges EPA to Uphold Clean Water Act

The Rock River Times

Illinois, Other Miss. River States Failing to Address Pollution Worries: Report
November 23, 2016

The Mississippi River Collaborative (MRC) today released a report that implores the U.S. 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 ten states that are the focus of 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.”

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.

“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.”

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Greenwire: ELPC’s Dexter Says EPA’s Coal Ash Pond Hazard Disclosures Good But Don’t Go Far Enough

Greenwire

Coal Ash: Utility Filings Reveal Dump Conditions, EPA Compliance Plans
November 23, 2016
By Sean Reilly

When Dynegy Inc. released information about a coal ash storage pond at its Joppa, Ill., power plant, the resulting picture was unsettling: The pond had a “high hazard” ranking, meaning people could die in the event of a dike failure.

Papers submitted by the utility showed it also barely cleared a safety assessment and had no liner to protect groundwater.

But from a disclosure standpoint, the filings — required by U.S. EPA to be made public this month — represented a noteworthy development for watchdogs.

“It’s interesting to be able to get a glimpse into what has been a black box,” said Jessica Dexter, a staff attorney at the Environmental Law and Policy Center, a Chicago-based advocacy group that favors stricter oversight of coal ash.

Across the country, the newly released records are casting fresh light on the condition of hundreds of coal ash ponds and showing what utilities intend to do with the vast quantities of waste left over from coal-fired electricity generation.

In its disposal rule published last year, EPA gave companies two closure options: leaving the coal ash in place — after “dewatering” the ponds and capping the residue — or excavating the ash and possibly sending it to a landfill.

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Scientific American: ELPC’s Learner Weighs in on Coal and Energy Legislation in Illinois

Scientific American

Will the Rust Belt Stick with Coal Under Trump?
November 22, 2016
By Ben Storrow

Coal remains king in the Rust Belt. But whether the carbon-laden fuel retains its throne depends on state lawmakers in a handful of Midwestern capitals.

Illinois legislators are debating a bill that would provide subsidies to aging nuclear and coal plants. Ohio policymakers are fielding calls from utilities to guarantee a rate of return for their old coal facilities. And Michigan representatives are sorting through an energy package that will determine the future makeup of their state’s electric grid.

The state decisions come at a critical moment for U.S. energy policy. Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential contest means the United States is unlikely to implement the carbon caps on the power sector proposed under President Obama, which are the centerpiece of America’s participation in the Paris climate agreement.

Trump’s victory has added a new wrinkle to Rust Belt energy debates. In Illinois, Exelon Corp. had argued financial assistance for its nuclear plants was essential to meeting the state’s goals under the Clean Power Plan, U.S. EPA’s carbon-cutting regimen. Utility executives, testifying before Illinois lawmakers last week, acknowledged Trump’s victory complicated their position (EnergyWire, Nov. 17).

To the north in Michigan, some Republican lawmakers are calling for policymakers to apply the brakes on an energy package that was developed with the assumption the Clean Power Plan would be put into place. Supporters, who include Gov. Rick Snyder (R), dismiss those arguments. Michigan has witnessed a wave of coal plant closures this year and needs to focus on grid reliability, they say.

“Could some coal plants stay open longer as a result of the Clean Power Plan going away? Yes, I think that’s a possibility,” said Paul Patterson, a financial analyst who tracks the utility sector at Glenrock Associates LLC. “We will have to wait and see what the Trump administration comes up with, but also for what the individual states want to do.”

The decisions made by Midwestern lawmakers figure to be particularly important. The Rust Belt remains disproportionately reliant on coal to meet its electricity needs, meaning a further greening of the U.S. grid will depend to a great degree on state actions.

Michigan gets 46 percent of its power from coal. The fuel accounts for 59 percent of power generation in Ohio. In neighboring Indiana, that figure reaches as high as 75 percent. Nationally, coal power represents about a third of total power production.

Debate over the Clean Power Plan obscures a more important trend, though, analysts said. Economics will be the main driver in deciding the future makeup of the Rust Belt’s power grid.

Electricity demand in the region is stagnating, in large part due to energy efficiency measures.

Natural gas plants are out-competing their coal counterparts. And renewables are fast approaching the point where they can displace coal-fired power, even without subsidies.

There is also this: Many Rust Belt coal plants are simply old.

Analysts predict the region’s electric grid will become less reliant on coal in the coming years, regardless of whether the Clean Power Plan is implemented. But how fast the transition occurs, and what fuels replace it, will depend to a great degree on what state policymakers decide.

“I don’t think the Clean Power Plan is the central story,” said Nachy Kanfer, deputy director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “I think the central story is how wholesale markets reorganize themselves to survive in an era of persistently low wholesale power prices and a market where consumers are persistently demanding cleaner alternatives.”

A Brownish-Green ‘Christmas Tree’ Bill in Ill.

Illinois lawmakers have proposed expanding the state’s ability to procure electrons from coal plants in the southern part of the state (EnergyWire, Nov. 16). The provision was largely aimed at winning the support of coal-reliant utilities, like Dynegy Inc., which might have objected to the bill’s financial support for Exelon’s nuclear facilities. But it has attracted a wide array of opposition from environmentalists, who object to the coal facilities’ emissions, and business groups, which are against paying more to keep old plants online.

To complicate matters further, the legislation also contains measures aimed at enticing greens.

It calls on Commonwealth Edison Co., which serves the Chicago area, to cut electricity demand 23 percent by 2030 through efficiency measures. The bill would also boost the state’s renewable energy standard, requiring 25 percent of Illinois power to come from low-carbon sources by 2025.

“Right now, the bill is a Christmas tree that badly needs some pruning,” said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center in Chicago.

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Des Moines Register: ELPC’s Mandelbaum Says Real-Time Measurements of Water Quality is Vital

Des-Moines-RegisterCan Iowa Improve its Water Quality if it Can’t Agree How to Measure Success?
November 19, 2016
By Donnelle Eller and MacKenzie Elmer

As Iowa lawmakers prepare to battle again over investing hundreds of millions of dollars to improve water quality, a new and controversial debate is looming: What measurement should the state use to determine whether that spending is working?

A big part of Iowa’s efforts to improve its rivers, streams and lakes centers on farmers adopting conservation practices spelled out in the state’s ambitious Nutrient Reduction Strategy, which seeks to slash nitrogen and phosphorous levels in the state’s waterways by 45 percent.

But a political divide has emerged over the best way to measure the success of those improvements:

  • Environmentalists, water advocates and scientists want Iowa to rely on real-time water-quality monitoring, building on the state’s existing work to measure how well the state’s conservation efforts are working.
  • Farm groups prefer a yardstick that leans on counting how many acres of cover crops, grassed waterways and other conservation practices have been put in place, presuming that the more Iowa has, the better its water quality will be. Working with Iowa State University scientists and an industry-led nonprofit, they’re working on a plan to precisely track conservation gains.

The problem is that neither method guarantees that Iowa will be able to quickly figure out whether water quality is actually improving.

The reason: Farm practices that cut nitrate and phosphorus levels likely will take more than a decade to produce results in major rivers and lakes.

Iowa could invest “tens of millions of dollars” in added water-quality monitoring and “not know a lot more than what we do now,” said Bill Northey, Iowa’s agriculture secretary.

Moreover, he said, money spent on monitoring would take away from conservation practice investments that help improve water.

“If we only have a certain pool of dollars, taking from one has an impact on the other,” Northey said.

But without a good measurement for success, persuading lawmakers to fund millions of dollars in water quality improvements could be a difficult sell.

Proposals to fund a major water-quality cleanup in Iowa have ranged from increasing the sales tax three-eighths of 1 cent to diverting projected revenue growth from an existing statewide sales tax for school infrastructure.

‘We’re Tired of Cheerleading’

What’s beyond the dispute is that water quality in Iowa is a serious problem: Half of the rivers, streams and lakes that scientists have assessed are considered impaired.

Environmental advocates such as Josh Mandelbaum, an attorney at Environmental Law & Policy Center, are pushing hard for real-time measurements, arguing that investing in terraces, bioreactors or other water improvement practices without such measurements risks wasting years of money and effort.

“You need to actually check the water to see if the water quality is improved,” Mandelbaum said.

Bill Stowe, CEO of the Des Moines Water Works, the utility suing north Iowa drainage districts over high nitrate levels, said agricultural leaders want to focus on measuring conservation practices, instead of water quality, to hide the state’s lack of progress.

“We’re tired of the cheerleading about minuscule gains in acres of cover crops, and ribbon cutting for biofilters,” said Stowe, who calls the volunteer Nutrient Reduction Plan ineffective, since it has no deadlines to meet its goals.

The utility seeks federal oversight of drainage districts, and indirectly, farmers.

“Data is key, and we’re not seeing that,” he said.

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Alton Telegraph: ELPC’s Dexter says EPA Should Follow Coalition Recommendations to Clean Up Rivers & Streams

Alton-Telegraph-LogoReport: Illinois Among States Failing to Manage Nitrogen and Phosphorous Pollution
November 18, 2016
By Alton Telegraph

ALTON — 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 ten states that are the focus of 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.”

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.

“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.”

Read the article here.

Chicago Tribune: ELPC’s Learner Supports IL Pollution Lawsuit Against VW, Says Everyone is Harmed

The Chicago Tribune

Illinois forcing Volkswagen to clean up its act

Nov. 14, 2016
By Robert Reed

Even those who never owned a Volkswagen car could benefit from the beleaguered company’s desperate need to make “dieselgate,” a moniker for its massive auto emissions scandal, fade in the rearview mirror.

But that’s not going to happen until the German automaker makes peace with Illinois and a bunch of other ticked-off states suing the company for allegedly fouling the environment.

Some may see these lawsuits as blatantly trying to squeeze extra cash from a staggering Volkswagen, which admitted using software designed to cheat on emissions testing. I’d disagree, mainly because no automaker, or company for that matter, should go unchallenged for allegedly violating a bedrock environmental law in such an admittedly blatant manner. It’s not fair to the public or to other businesses that must follow the rules.

This week, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan smacked Volkswagen with a lawsuit claiming the automaker violated the state’s pollution protection rules. Madigan’s office wants the company to pay some form of damages, as do 11 other states also suing Volkswagen on similar grounds.

The legal fallout is linked to the company’s admission last year that about 500,000 of its VWs and Audis with 2-liter, four-cylinder diesel engines were programmed to cheat on government emissions tests. Since then, Volkswagen’s focus has been on making amends with its disgusted car buyers, settling with irate consumer fraud regulators and quelling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Now the saga is entering a new chapter: Volkswagen is dealing with states saying the very air their communities breathe was compromised by the emissions-rigging scheme.

“Not only were consumers harmed by buying cars that were less than advertised; the public as a whole has suffered because there’s more pollution,” says Howard Learner , executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, a Chicago-based watchdog and advocacy group.

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