Guest Column: Help make another difference in 2011

Editor’s note: In last week’s issue, the Quad Cities Waterkeeper asked our readers as environmental team members to help with a tax-deductible donation as the year ends to help acquire a nonpolluting engine for our new patrol boat (I’m vice president of the Quad Cities Waterkeeper Board of Directors, so I’m asking, too.) Please send your check to Quad Cities Waterkeeper, 101 Main St., P.O. Box 67, Port Byron, IL 61275

This week, another fine organization needs your help to keep helping the environment and all things sustainable in Illinois—The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). As you’ll see in the following column, they do great work, and Howard Learner has been a leading light for the environment in Illinois for years. Please support them.

By Howard A. Learner
Executive Director, ELPC

This has been both a remarkable and challenging year for our nation’s political durability, our economy and the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s (ELPC) work to protect our environment, preserve the Midwest’s natural heritage and grow the green economy. ELPC is promoting win-win-win solutions for environmental progress, job creation and economic development. We are achieving remarkable progress in these challenging times.

I am writing to ask you to make a financial contribution to ELPC during this holiday season. ELPC combines strong legal advocacy with a core belief that we can achieve environmental progress and economic development together—the right approach for our times. ELPC’s pioneering “green economy” vision has become a defining policy driver for the Obama Administration and governors on both sides of the partisan divide.

ELPC has achieved banner successes over the past year. Clean water, clean air and natural resources protection litigation victories in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Breakthrough energy efficiency and renewable energy development policies in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota.

Overall, there are three game-changing policy shifts: (1) Clean renewable energy development and energy efficiency strategies and technologies have moved from hope and vision to a central driving mission to achieve the win-win-win of job creation, economic growth and environmental quality benefits; (2) High-speed rail development has moved from ELPC’s and a few others’ vision to be the president’s “No. 1 transportation priority” with major federal funding; but (3) The previously growing bipartisan Congressional and state movements to achieve climate change solutions have broken down into partisan battling and regional divisiveness.

The clean energy and high-speed rail development shifts represent strategic opportunities that ELPC must seize. Carpe diem! Scientists make clear that climate change is occurring; we can’t just “push the pause button” on smart advocacy until the economy and political climate improve.

Ohio HSRHigh-Speed Rail Development—Huge Success:

ELPC’s long-time leadership led to dramatic breakthroughs in 2010. The Federal Railroad Administration made $10.5 billion in grants to jumpstart high-speed rail development nationally. The Midwest High-Speed Rail Network received $3 billion to advance modern, fast, comfortable and convenient trains connecting Chicago and the 11 major cities within a 400-mile radius. The impacts: improved mobility, less pollution, more jobs and greater economic growth by better connecting our region and pulling jobs, people and business into the downtowns. High-speed rail is the much-needed cleaner “third option” that will transform our national and regional transportation systems.

High-speed rail development is viewed very differently by the new Midwest Governors: Two Democratic champions (Pat Quinn—Ill. and Mark Dayton—Minn.), two Republican opponents (John Kasich—Ohio and Scott Walker—Wis.) and two Republicans proponents (Terry Branstad—Iowa and Rick Snyder—Mich.). We hope as the detractors transition from campaigning to governing that their views will evolve as they face losing jobs and returning hundreds of millions of dollars of grant funds to the Federal Railroad Administration. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood made clear that states cannot transfer and use rail funds for highways.

Illinois, Michigan and, it is hoped, Iowa appear ready to go for the jobs and to request re-allocated high-speed rail funds to support even better Chicago—St. Louis, Chicago—Detroit and Chicago—Des Moines development as the initial backbone for the Midwest network. Challenge coming in 2011: Gain high-speed rail funding in the federal transportation reauthorization legislation.

Federal Climate Change Solutions Legislation—Huge Challenge:

Solving our global warming problems is the moral, business, economic, policy, political and technological challenge of our generation. As a global leader, the United States must step up and lead. The federal climate change legislation is sadly stuck in Congress’ partisan quagmire. ELPC and our colleagues are calling on Congress to not impede the U.S. EPA from exercising its legal responsibility to reduce carbon dioxide and other harmful pollution. It’s time for solutions now.

Solar Power—Big Opportunity:

Solar photovoltaic panel prices are low because of excess global supply, and the technology is rapidly improving. The Midwest is not Arizona, but Chicago has more solar intensity than Berlin and Tokyo, which are among the world’s leading solar markets. ELPC is advancing pro-solar policies throughout the Midwest states to capture environmental benefits and create new green jobs. Solar can play a key role in meeting peak demand with clean energy.

ELPC is the Midwest’s premier environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization, and we’re among the very best in the country. Thank you for considering a contribution to support our success in protecting the Midwest’s environmental quality and preserving our natural resources. My best wishes to you for a happy and healthy new year.

P.S. ELPC received the independent Charity Navigator’s highest “exceptional” rating for the fourth year in a row—only 9 percent of charities achieve this success! ELPC is a sound investment. To make an online contribution, visit and click the “Donate Now!” link.  We appreciate your support that enables ELPC to seize new opportunities to succeed.

From the Dec. 8-14, 2010 issue

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