PLATINUM2023

Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest

We advocate, innovate, and litigate to protect the Midwests environment from the Great Lakes to the Great Plains.

aka ELPC   |   Chicago, IL   |  http://www.elpc.org

Mission

The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy organization. We develop and lead successful strategic environmental advocacy campaigns to protect our natural resources and improve environmental quality. Our multi-disciplinary staff employs a teamwork approach using legal, economic analysis, public policy advocacy and research, and communications tools to produce successes that improve both our environment and our economy.

Notes from the nonprofit

ELPC’s finances are stable in challenging times. We operate with a balanced budget, not at a deficit, thanks to our fairly conservative approach to financial management. That's why ELPC has received a clean, unqualified audit report and opinion letter from our auditors each year. ELPC has a strong and diverse funding base, ranging from large, multi-year grants from international foundations to recurring small donations from committed Midwesterners looking to help us improve and protect their air and water. ELPC has grown both the size of our budget – from a start-up of $850,000 per year to more than $10 million in revenue during FY 2022 – and the breadth and diversity of our funding base – from the seven “founding foundation” supporters to more than 300 foundations and donors committing $1,000 or more in the past year to support the organization’s growth and stability.

Ruling year info

1993

Executive Director

Mr. Howard A. Learner

Main address

35 East Wacker Drive Suite 1600

Chicago, IL 60601 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

36-3866530

NTEE code info

Environmental Quality, Protection, and Beautification N.E.C. (C99)

Energy Resources Conservation and Development (C35)

Public Transportation Systems and Services (W40)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

Sign in or create an account to view Form(s) 990 for 2022, 2021 and 2021.
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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

The Midwest is ground zero in the battle against climate change, and ELPC is working to accelerate smart solutions. Our region is a hub of transportation and industry, with the nations highest concentration of polluting coal plants. But the Midwest is also a fulcrum for clean energy and transportation innovations, which are good for the environment and good for the economy. ELPC is focused on accelerating solar energy, wind power, battery storage, and energy efficiency to replace conventional polluting power plants. With smart transportation, we can improve mobility, reduce pollution, and create jobs. We are working with cities and states on collective climate solutions, and supporting farmers who are implementing clean energy and soil health practices. The time for action is now to shape a strong, sustainable future. Were all in this together.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Climate Change Solutions

Solving our climate change problems is the moral, economic, policy, political and technological challenge of our generation. The Midwest is the center of our nation’s carbon pollution problems – six Midwest states cause 22% of our nation’s and 5% of the world’s CO2 pollution. This pollution is generated primarily by our region’s heavy concentration of old, highly polluting coal plants and the transportation hub centered in Chicago. But we can also be a fulcrum for solutions that make good economic and environmental sense – clean renewable energy and energy efficiency policies, clean air implementation and enforcement, and clean transportation innovation.

ELPC is working to transform the Midwest region into a center for innovative clean energy and clean transportation solutions that are good for our environment and good for our economy. Our vision spans our clean energy, clean air and clean transportation programs.

Coal plants are the #1 source of climate change pollution. ELPC’s Clean Air Act legal advocacy is forcing the clean up or shut down of thousands of megawatts of Midwest coal plants. But we don’t stop there – A core part of ELPC’s ethos is that we don’t just “say no” to sources of pollution; we also say yes to clean energy solutions that make sense for job creation, economic development, and a changing energy marketplace. Alongside our litigation pressure, ELPC’s policy advocates are designing and advancing renewable energy policies are helping make wind and solar power competitive versus coal and energy efficiency policies that are helping hold down energy demand. These clean energy development policies, combined with technological advances and competitive economic market pressures, are further helping to “squeeze out” coal from the energy marketplace.

Transportation is the #2 source of climate change pollution. ELPC promotes solutions that advance cleaner forms of transportation that reduce pollution while increasing mobility, economic development and jobs. Our long-time vision for a Midwest high-speed rail network is becoming a reality, and our support for innovative new clean car technologies is helping create a Midwest-hub for smart electric vehicles.

These climate change solutions create new jobs, grow the economy and protect public health in communities throughout the Midwest.

Population(s) Served
Adults

About one-third of our nation’s carbon pollution comes from generating electric power. How we produce that power, and how much we generate, has a profound impact on our environment and our economy.

In the last 20 years, wind power development has taken off, solar power has become poised for growth, and energy efficiency has begun flattening out energy demand. The state Renewable Energy Standards and Energy Efficiency Performance Standards that ELPC helped design and advocate are making a difference, while technological improvements have made wind turbines, solar panels and lighting equipment more efficient. The Midwest is home to 3 of the top 10 states for wind power development (Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota), and more than $2.5 billion in energy efficiency investments are transforming the energy sector in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio.

ELPC is working hard to create the right policies that drive the right markets for clean energy to succeed. Our energy work includes:

• Creating Markets for Wind and Solar Energy. Renewable energy resources such as wind and solar are the fuel of the future, and passage of renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in every Midwestern state is a critical step to building a clean energy future. ELPC focuses on getting these good policies in place and then making sure that they are implemented well over the long-term.

• Promoting Energy Efficiency Policies and Programs. ELPC’s primary goal is to ensure that utilities design and conduct energy efficiency programs that maximize environmental benefits and consumer savings. We are working to ensure that the Energy Efficiency Performance Standards (EEPS) are implemented wisely to reach their full potential.

• Promoting Farm Energy. Producing energy from biofuels, biogas, wind power and solar energy can reduce our demand for foreign oil, create jobs in America’s heartland, and reduce carbon pollution. We are working to ensure the Farm Bill’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) continues to receive robust federal funding and work well on-the-ground.

• Advancing Transmission Policies to Support Clean Energy. ELPC is leading the Midwest’s focus on expanding demand-side options for consumers in MISO. We are especially working to integrate energy efficiency and demand-response into long-term system planning, bridging the wholesale/retail divide that limits customer participation in the wholesale energy markets, and preventing expensive subsidies that keep coal plants running on the basis of erroneous reliability justifications.

Population(s) Served
Adults

The Midwest has a concentration of old, dirty coal plants and the trains, trucks, boats and heavy construction equipment that form the hub of our nation’s transportation infrastructure. The resulting air pollution – gases, heavy metals and microscopic particles that can become lodged in lungs – can pose serious health risks, as well as air quality and climate impacts.

ELPC promotes innovative, practical clean energy and clean transportation solutions to the Midwest’s clean air challenges. We also work hard to ensure our clean air laws are being implemented and enforced well. This work involves concurrent scientific analysis, community organizing, policy advocacy and legal strategy in collaboration with local community, environmental and public health groups. Working together, we clean up or shut down our region’s old, dirty coal plants and other major sources of air pollution. Read more about our specific efforts related to coal plants, diesel pollution and mercury pollution.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, setting forth the goal of restoring and maintaining the nation’s waters in order to protect fish and wildlife and safeguard health, safety and enjoyment for people. Although some progress has been achieved over 40 years, much work still remains to be done.

Today, many rivers and streams have poor water quality and decreasing biological diversity caused by pollution from agriculture, industry, transportation systems, urban runoff, sprawling development and municipal treatment plants. Some state procedures allow permits for discharging greatly increased levels of pollutants into waterways without seriously studying alternatives.

ELPC works in Midwest states to make sure the Clean Water Act is implemented and enforced well, often providing a model for how strong water policies can work well across the region and nation. Our legal team works with grassroots community organizations to protect local water resources and provides leadership on regional water quality issues affecting the Mississippi River and Great Lakes watersheds. Some focuses of our work include:

• Conserving Water – As metropolitan regions expand rapidly, water quantity has rapidly become a major issue facing municipal and county officials. ELPC is working with key stakeholders in these communities to promote smart growth planning and protect vulnerable water resources.

• Protecting Waterways from Mining Pollution – The Midwest is home to several massive strip mines that have historically been largely unregulated. ELPC has identified chronic violations and pressed state agencies to hold the mine owners accountable and clean up their operations.

• Preventing Runoff – The single largest source of water pollution is runoff from both rural and urban sources. Phosphorus and nitrogen in agricultural communities, oil and metal in urban areas, and soil in every neighborhood can get washed into waterways when it rains, inundating streams and rivers with so many excess nutrients that the native aquatic life gets choked out. ELPC has identified key strategies to lesson this non-point pollution and keep our waterways healthy.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Transportation is the second leading source of climate change pollution, but cleaner cars, cleaner fuels, better transit and more sustainable planning present huge opportunities to reduce pollution while creating jobs and economic development. The Midwest is at the crossroads of the nation’s rail, road and air traffic and can be central to a sustainable transportation future.

Chicago is the hub of a spoke-and-wheel passenger rail system radiating out to Detroit, Columbus, Springfield, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and all the cities in-between. The Midwest is also an auto manufacturing stronghold and can become a leader in battery development that brings us the next generation of clean cars.

ELPC is a leader in the Midwest and Great Plains working to:

• Advance High-Speed Rail. High-speed trains in the Midwest would be three times as energy efficient as cars and six times as energy efficient as planes. Choosing rail travel over driving or flying will decrease our dependence on foreign oil and reduce air pollution that causes global warming and harms public health.

• Create a Market for Cleaner Cars and Electric Cars. Under new federal standards, average fuel economy for passenger cars will increase from 27.5 mpg in 2009 to 54.5 mpg by 2016. What’s more, electric vehicles are next generation clean cars — with smart strategies and the right locations, these vehicles present an exciting opportunity to reduce air pollution, save drivers up to $1,200 per year on gasoline, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

• Oppose Wasteful Highway Spending. ELPC partners with local environmental groups to oppose unnecessary highway projects that promote sprawl and instead promote more economically and environmentally sustainable “fix-it-first” priorities.

Population(s) Served
Adults

The Midwest and Great Plains are home to natural treasures that are both beautiful and important resources.

The Driftless Area that touches parts of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin is one of the top biodiversity “hotspots” in the Midwest. Michigan’s Saugatuck Dunes is an uncommon assembly of beaches, freshwater dunes, water, woods and wetlands running along 2,500 acres of Lake Michigan. The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Northern Wisconsin is a special place covering approximately 1.5 million acres and hosting a number of endangered and threatened species.

The Great Lakes and Mississippi River provide drinking water, food, transportation routes, important habitat and tourism opportunities to almost a third of the country. The Chicago River is an important urban resource that brings thousands of people on the water every year and connects important national resources like Lake Michigan and the Mississippi.

And countless other lakes, streams and forests are our playgrounds, our drinking water sources, our shipping canals, our watering holes, our summer vacations, our homes away from home, and our Midwest vistas.

These special places are increasingly threatened by logging, mining, sprawl and other harmful activities.

ELPC works with grassroots groups throughout the Midwest to protect our environmental heritage and ensure that fragile ecosystems and habitats are preserved. Our advocacy work includes a mix of legal challenges to unlawful permits, enforcement action for permit violations, policy advocacy to better protect essential resources through new legislation, media outreach to call attention to threatened areas, outreach to businesses that want to do the right thing, and scientific analysis of pollution threats.

Often our work helps protect waterways, prairies, forests and other natural areas that most people haven’t heard of but that are essential to a community’s environmental health and future. But here we highlight our work on a few iconic Midwest natural treasures: Chicago River, Driftless Area, Great Lakes, Michigan’s Saugatuck Dunes, Mississippi River, and Wisconsin’s Northwoods.

Population(s) Served
Adults

Where we work

Awards

Green Neighbor Award 2007

ShoreBank

Award for Excellence in Pro Bono and Public Interest Service (Howard Learner, Executive Director) 2006

US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and the Chicago Chapter of the Federal Bar Association

Distinguished Public Service Award (Howard Learner, Executive Director) 2005

Public Interest Law Initiative

Wind Energy Advocacy Award 2004

American Wind Energy Association

National River Hero (Albert Ettinger, Senior Attorney) 2003

River Network

Green Award (Howard Learner, Executive Director) 2009

Chicago Magazine

Distinguished Fellow Award (Howard Learner, Executive Director) 2009

Leadership Greater Chicago

Natural Leader Award 2009

U.S. Green Building Council, Chicago Chapter

President's Award 2009

American Institute of Architects, Illinois Chapter

Special Recognition Award (Senior Attorney Brad Klein) 2010

Interstate Renewable Energy Council

2011 Award (Government Relations Specialist Mel Nickerson) 2011

Illinois Recycling Association

Tier 1 Rank 2012

Chicago Green Office Challenge

LEED Platinum certification (Chicago office) 2011

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC)

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of citizen science air quality data points collected

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Related Program

Clean Air

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

ELPC volunteer citizen scientists are building a database of air quality in Chicago on a block-by-block level.

Renewable energy generated in the Midwest

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults

Related Program

Clean Energy

Type of Metric

Context - describing the issue we work on

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

ELPC develops policies and programs to promote the generation of clean, renewable power in the Midwest. This graph shows that megawatthours of clean power continue to grow.

Coal energy generated in the Midwest (Less is Better)

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Adults

Related Program

Clean Air

Type of Metric

Context - describing the issue we work on

Direction of Success

Decreasing

Context Notes

Reducing our dependence on power generated by coal-fired power plants is an important part of cleaning up our air and reducing global warming pollution.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

The Midwest states where ELPC works are at the center of our planet’s climate change problems. Almost one quarter of the carbon pollution emitted in the U.S. comes from the Midwest. The nine Midwest states ELPC works in are global carbon pollution offenders only surpassed by China, India, Japan and Russia. That’s because the Midwest has more old coal plants and transportation infrastructure than anywhere in the nation. Many were built long before modern environmental regulations, and continue to belch carbon and toxic chemicals like mercury, sulfur and nitrogen into our air and water.

ELPC’s vision embraces both smart, persuasive advocacy and sustainable development principles to win the most important environmental cases and create positive solutions to protect the environment by reducing our reliance on dirty energy and fighting unnecessary developments and sprawl that threaten our treasured natural places.

ELPC develops and lead successful strategic advocacy campaigns to improve environmental quality and protect our natural resources. We are public interest environmental entrepreneurs who engage in creative business dealmaking with diverse interests to put into practice our belief that environmental progress and economic development can be achieved together. ELPC’s multidisciplinary staff of talented and experienced public interest attorneys, environmental business specialists, public policy advocates and communications specialists brings a strong and effective combination of skills to solve environmental problems.

ELPC’s teamwork approach uses legal, economic, scientific and public policy analysis, and communications advocacy tools to produce successes. ELPC’s strategic advocacy and business dealmaking involves proposing solutions when we oppose threats to the Midwest environment. We say “yes” to better solutions; we don’t just say “no.”

ELPC’s multidisciplinary staff of talented and experienced public interest attorneys, environmental business specialists, public policy advocates and communications specialists work strategically to generate national and regional impacts through efforts focused in the Midwest and Great Plains states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota. These states are both a center of our nation’s pollution problems as well as a fulcrum for solutions that make good sense for both our environment and our economy; while the region serves as the nation’s transportation hub and hosts the nation’s largest concentration of old, highly polluting coal-fired power plants, it also holds the nation’s richest and largely untapped clean energy potential. ELPC sometimes works at the national level, influencing policies like the federal Farm Bill and federal transportation legislation, and other times works at the state level, where we can continue raising the bar for state action and working toward tipping points for national action.

ELPC is governed by a 17-member board composed of businesspeople, academics, attorneys, and civic leaders. They meet quarterly to examine our progress and guide staff on major organizational decisions. ELPC's volunteer Science Advisory Council includes leading academics from the University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, Northwestern University, and Loyola University who assure that our program decisions benefit from regular scientific input.

ELPC’s advocacy to improve utility energy efficiency programs in these states has conserved more than 15 million megawatt hours of electricity since 2008 – enough energy to power more than 1.4 million American homes for a year. Reducing that amount of energy use has reduced water consumption at power plants by more than 7 billion gallons and prevented more than 10 million tons of greenhouse gasses from entering our atmosphere.

Since the release of ELPC’s clean energy development roadmap a decade ago, Repowering the Midwest, the amount of installed wind power capacity in the region has grown from less than 1,000 megawatts to almost 20,000 megawatts of generation, enough to power more than 5.2 million homes. Installations of solar power in the Midwest grew by 70% last year, and are on track to become a significant portion of energy generation in Illinois, Wisconsin, and other states. This transformation has brought new businesses and new economic activity. In 2015 ELPC identified more than 2,000 Midwest companies involved in the renewable energy supply chain, up from less than 1,000 in 2011.

ELPC’s legal and policy advocacy over a decade has contributed to the closure, cleanup, or delay of 16 coal plants, totaling more than 9,000 megawatts of coal capacity in the Midwest. The combined emissions of those shuttered coal plants has eliminated more than 35 million tons of annually discharged CO2 greenhouse gas, and thousands of tons of other toxins like mercury, sulfur, and nitrogen. ELPC negotiated the Illinois mercury standards on mercury, nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides, reducing mercury from coal plants by 90% and forcing costly upgrades at many coal plants in the state. Those standards preceded additional federal standards that added even more pressure to older coal plants to clean up, or shut down.

ELPC attorneys have played a pivotal role in some of the largest Midwest conservation battles in the past decade. In Savannah Illinois, ELPC stopped the Prison on the Prairie, a proposed 1,000 cell maximum security prison planned atop an exceedingly rare and ancient habitat – one of the last functioning sand prairie ecosystems in the nation. ELPC and allies established the first-ever limits on toxic algae-causing phosphorus in Wisconsin, and successfully defended state “anti-degradation” laws from legal challenges in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. In Wisconsin’s North Woods in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, ELPC has carried out federal and administrative litigation on 17 proposed large-scale timber sales affecting more than 150,000 acres. And in Saugatuck Michigan, ELPC fought back and won when a billionaire real estate developer tried to bully residents and bulldoze the treasured lakefront dunes, which were named one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Financials

Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest

Board of directors
as of 12/01/2023
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Mr. Manny Flores

Ellen C Craig

Harry W Drucker

North Shore Realty Partners

Manny Flores

SomerCor

Stan Goldblatt

Robert L Graham

Jenner & Block

Scott Heidepriem

Johnson, Heidepriem & Abdallah

Howard A Learner

Environmental Law & Policy Center

Daniel Levin

The Habitat Company

Nancy Loeb

Northwestern University Law School's Environmental Law Clinic

William McNary

Citizen Action/Illinois

Knute Nadelhoffer

University of Michigan Biological Station

Andrew Ross

Sovereign Infrastructure Group

Smita Shah

SPAAN Technology

David Wilhelm

Hecate Energy

Brady C Williamson

Godfrey & Kahn

Alan Chang

Builders Asset Management

Simon Fish

BMO Financial Group

Carl Lingenfelter

Northern Trust

Samir Mayekar

Carlene Schreder

Levin, Schreder and Carey

Alan Chang

Builders Asset Management

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 3/5/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? Candid partnered with CHANGE Philanthropy on this demographic section.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

No data

Transgender Identity

No data

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data