Environmental Law and Policy Center

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Founded 1993
Founder Howard A. Learner
Focus Environmentalism
Area served
Midwest U.S.
Method Litigation, Advocacy
$6 million USD
Approx. 40
Slogan "Protecting the Midwest's Environment and Natural Heritage"
Website elpc.org

The Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) is a Midwest-based non-profit environmental advocacy group, with offices in Chicago, Columbus (OH), Des Moines (IA), Duluth (MN), Jamestown (ND), Madison (WI), Sioux Falls (SD), and Washington, D.C. ELPC's mission is to advance environmental progress and economic development together throughout the Midwest through projects that advance clean energy, clean air, clean water and clean transportation.[1]

Founded in 1993, ELPC today has a staff of more than 40 public interest attorneys, public policy analysts, scientists, finance specialists, and media experts. ELPC's annual revenues of about $6 million are raised from more than 160 foundation and individual major donors, as well as many supportive members across the Midwest and nation. The organization has consistently received the highest rating from Charity Navigator, the independent non-profit rating agency.[2]


ELPC was founded in 1993 by Howard A. Learner, a public-interest attorney, after a year-long strategic planning process sponsored by seven major foundations.

The organization advocates for improved policies and policy implementation at the federal, state and local levels related to renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean air, clean water and smart transportation. Attorneys who work for the organization represent local grassroots organization in litigation related to the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and other major pieces of national environmental legislation before federal and state courts as well as state and local administrative bodies. The organization states that its attorneys and policy advocates work on multi-disciplinary teams alongside scientists, finance specialists, media experts and others.

The organization's governing leadership includes a Board of Directors, Science Advisory Council, Next Generation Advisory Council and state-based advisory councils in Iowa, Michigan and South Dakota. Members of the Board and Advisory Councils include individuals from legal, civic, business and non-profit sectors.


ELPC runs a number of environmental advocacy programs:

  • Climate Change Solutions: ELPC aims to transform the Midwest region into a center for climate solutions that address the two most prominent sources of carbon pollution—energy generation and transportation. This work spans the organization's other program areas related to Clean Air, Clean Energy, and Clean Transportation.
  • Clean Energy: ELPC works to create policies that drive markets for clean energy to succeed. This includes creating markets for wind and solar energy, designing energy efficiency programs and policies, promoting farm energy, and advancing transmission policies that support clean energy.
  • Clean Air: ELPC works to clean up or shut down old, dirty coal plants, often providing free legal assistance to local grassroots organizations.
  • Clean Water: ELPC works in Midwest states to make sure the Clean Water Act is implemented and enforced well, often providing free legal assistance to local grassroots organizations.
  • Clean Transportation: ELPC works to advance the Midwest High-Speed Rail Network, create a market for cleaner cars, and oppose wasteful highway spending.
  • Special Places: ELPC works with grassroots groups throughout the Midwest to protect the region's most precious natural treasures, including places like the Driftless Area, Great Lakes, Saugatuck Dunes, Mississippi River, and North Woods.


Some victories that ELPC claims include:


March 15: Indiana adopted anti-degradation standards, an important part of the Clean Water Act meant to protect waterways from unnecessary pollution while at the same time promoting important social and economic development.

February 29: Illinois' Fisk and Crawford coal plants—two of the oldest, dirtiest coal plants left in any urban area of the country—announced planned closures for 2012 and 2014 after years of ELPC's legal advocacy and years of grassroots organizing from our allies at the Chicago Clean Power Coalition.


Won a decade-long advocacy effort to clean up the Chicago River and area waterways. Chicago will soon disinfect the 1.2 billion gallons of wastewater that are dumped into the River each day.

Successfully advocated for Illinois' improved recycling law, which diverts electronic waste with toxic components to landfills where the chemicals can leach and contaminate groundwater used for community drinking water supplies.

Achieved important Clean Water Act phosphorus reduction and anti-degradation standards in Iowa and Wisconsin.

Advanced solar energy policies to drive the market and new installations. Specifically, ELPC successfully advocated a solar "carve out" in Illinois' Renewable Energy Standard that will produce 650 megawatts of installed solar by 2015 and a re-launch of Michigan's incentives for small solar projects.


Secured High-Speed Rail Funding for the Midwest. In January 2010, the Midwest became the big national winner of stimulus grants for major high-speed rail corridors: $2.6 billion of the available $8 billion will finance new and improved rail lines from Chicago to Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Madison and elsewhere. Additional federal and state dollars followed.

Led the charge behind Illinois’ May 2010 adoption a “solar ramp-up” requiring utilities to purchase solar energy four years earlier and creating a $1 billion solar market in Illinois.

Stopped a New Coal Plant in Michigan. In May 2010, after more than three years of ELPC’s dedicated legal advocacy on behalf of local allies, the state of Michigan announced that it would not grant permits to the proposed “Wolverine” coal plant in Rogers City.

Protected Water Quality in Iowa . In February 2010, after years of ELPC's legal advocacy, Iowa approved new “anti-degradation” rules, key to protecting pristine water from increased pollution.

Prevented Pollution into Wisconsin's Waterways. In June 2010, Wisconsin adopted numeric standards to prevent excess phosphorus pollution, which causes toxic, slimy algae blooms.


Led the successful campaign to pass an Energy Efficient Residential Building Code in Illinois. Illinois is the 5th largest energy-using state in the country, and, until this new bill passed, was the largest one without a statewide energy efficiency residential building code.

Expanded the Rural Energy for America Program. In 2009, ELPC’s advocacy led to a quadrupling of federal funding for this innovative farm energy program.


Led the charge to enact the new "best-in-the-nation" electronic waste recycling law in Illinois that requires manufacturers to collect and recycle or re-use E-Waste.

Led the national campaign to improve and expand the innovative clean energy development programs in the 2008 Farm Bill. Congress quadrupled annual funding for the Rural Energy for America Program and improved delivery of economic and environmental benefits for family farmers and rural small businesses.


After more than five years of focused advocacy, ELPC got one of the nation's strongest Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standards passed in Illinois.

Along with our colleagues, ELPC put public pressure on BP to not increase pollution into the Great Lakes and legally challenged a permit issued by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.


Worked with the Illinois Governor's Office and the Illinois EPA to develop and pass a mercury pollution reduction rule that is one of the strongest in the nation, after building a strong environmental and healthcare coalition to support the adoption of these new standards.

Persuaded the Illinois Pollution Control Board to adopta stringent new rule limiting the acceptable concentration of phosphorus in wastewater from most new or expanding city waste-water and industrial plants.

Won a decade-long legal victory to protect Sugar Creek, one of Illinois' last free-flowing streams from an environmentally destructive and unnecessary dam proposed by the City of Marion.

Spearheaded efforts to develop a Midwest High Speed Rail Network, which saw major progress this year as the Illinois General Assembly voted to nearly double funding for Amtrak in Illinois, and Wisconsin broke ground on a new passenger rail station in anticipation of high speed service along the Madison - Milwaukee - Chicago route.


Protected almost 25,000 acres of Wisconsin’s Northwoods from excessive logging through successful emergency legal appeals in Federal District Court to three timber sales approved by the U.S. Forest Service.

Legally intervened in a federal lawsuit to force Dynegy Midwest Generation to put modern pollution controls on its old, highly polluting coal plants in Southern Illinois.


Led the charge to draft, advocate and build an environmental business coalition and pass the new statewide Illinois Energy Efficient Commercial Building Act, a crucial step to improve energy efficiency in green buildings and avoid future pollution.

Stopped the sprawl-inducing and environmentally destructive Hartmann-Hammond Bridge in the nearly pristine Boardman River Valley in Traverse City, Michigan and promoting the Smart Roads Alternative instead.

Won a 12-year campaign to promote better alternatives to the costly and wetlands-destroying Route 53 Tollroad expansion in Lake County, Illinois when the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority removed this proposed $1.3 billion tollroad from its 10-year transportation plan following public advocacy pressure by ELPC and our colleagues.

Spurred development of Illinois’ first wind power farms producing clean energy and leading the Midwest charge for clean renewable energy development now accelerating throughout the region.


Made the Farm Bill’s new Clean Energy Development programs work on the ground – protecting federal funding for the key Section 9006 renewable energy and energy efficiency program against the Administration’s proposed cutbacks, and eco-business deal-making for the Midwest to gain two-thirds of the nation’s Section 9006 grant funds.

Engaged in emergency litigation to hold off two large environmentally destructive timber sales in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Northern Wisconsin that would destroy important clean water resources, biodiversity and habitat.

Ten years later, stalling two massive, sprawl-inducing outlying tollroads in Lake County and Will County, Illinois that were “done deals” when ELPC started work in 1993.


Protected the vital Lake Calumet ecological restoration on the Southeast Side of Chicago from a proposed new 1,000-slip boat marina in the lake.

Promoted “smart growth” planning alternatives by stopping two proposed new outlying bypass roads around Petoskey and Traverse City, Michigan that would have exacerbated sprawl and destroyed farmland.

Spearheaded creation and enactment of the innovative new Clean Energy Development programs in the 2002 Federal Farm Bill–a win-win-win for farmers, rural economic development and the environment.

Lead the legal charge for Illinois’ adoption of the best Clean Water Act “antidegradation” rules in the nation, which will keep our cleanest rivers clean, as we work to protect the Mississippi River as well.


Developed and marketed Repowering the Midwest – The Clean Energy Development Plan for the Heartland, the acclaimed regional blueprint for renewable energy development, less pollution and more jobs. Followed by the release of Job Jolt – The Economic Impacts of Implementing Repowering the Midwest’s Clean Energy Development Plan.

Won a key victory before the United States Supreme Court to halt a steel company’s punitive damages lawsuit against a grassroots citizens’ group that had brought a reasonable environmental enforcement action.


Stopped Detroit Edison’s attempt to restart the old and dirty Connors Creek coal plant in Detroit and encouraging its conversion to relatively cleaner natural gas, thus setting a new precedent in preventing more air pollution from old, mothballed coal plants.

Intervened with our Minnesota grassroots allies to obtain significant environmental quality benefits from Northern States Power Co. in return for dropping our opposition to its proposed merger with New Century Energies.

Created the innovative new Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and driving its start-up to effectively leverage the $240 million in new assets to jump-start the development of energy efficiency and renewable resources in Illinois, which has historically relied almost entirely on polluting coal and nuclear plants.

Protected Bell Smith Springs National Natural Landmark in the Shawnee National Forest by winning an injunction to halt clearcutting on the ridge tops that would have caused soil erosion and destruction of this wild and special public parkland.

Leveraged $750 million for development of a Midwest high-speed rail network and gaining business, labor, civic and political support for the nine-state regional rail initiative.


Stopped the proposed “prison on the Savanna prairie” and thus protected the largest unfragmented sand prairie habitat along the Mississippi River.

Spurring the shutdown of the troubled Zion 1 & 2 nuclear plants on the shores of Lake Michigan, the largest nuclear plant closure in the nation.


Won a landmark federal court environmental lawsuit requiring the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority to consider better alternatives to the proposed I-355 toll road extension in Will County that would exacerbate sprawl and destroy natural resources. Released the Crossroads study of better, faster and cheaper alternatives to the proposed Route 53 tollroad extension in Lake County.

Intervened and helped lead the charge to stop the “Primergy” merger of two Minnesota and Wisconsin utilities that would have produced both environmental harms and potentially higher consumer rates.


Lead the legal intervention to implement Minnesota’s environmental externalities statute that establishes environmental values, including carbon dioxide costs, to be used in utilities’ electricity resource planning.


Co-founded and lead the market-driven Chicagoland Recycled Paper Coalition with the Bank of America, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, City of Chicago, Commonwealth Edison and RR Donnelley & Sons Co.


Promoted the Common Sense Alternative of upgrading US 41 and I-70 and stalling the environmentally destructive I-69 highway in Indiana.

Leveraged our intervention in the Cinergy merger between two Indiana and Ohio utilities to negotiate a major new five-year energy efficiency initiative and then making it work.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://elpc.org/about.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ http://elpc.org/elpcs-financial-status http://elpc.org/elpcs-financial-status.  Missing or empty |title= (help); External link in |website= (help)

External links[edit]