Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center; Public Interest Clean Energy & Environmental Attorney
Howard A. Learner
President and Executive Director, Environmental Law & Policy Center
Howard A. Learner is an experienced public interest litigation attorney serving as the President and Executive Director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center – the Midwest's premier environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization, and among the nation’s leaders. Mr. Learner is responsible for the overall strategic leadership, policy direction and financial platform for ELPC’s successful work promoting clean energy development solutions to climate change problems, advancing transportation innovations and improvements, including development of regional high-speed rail solutions, and preserving the Midwest’s valued natural resources and heritage.
ELPC combines successful strategic legal and policy advocacy with its core premise that environmental progress, job creation, and economic growth can be achieved together. Mr. Learner and his multidisciplinary staff put this sustainability policy vision into practice by building diverse coalitions to grow the "green economy" with innovative solutions that create new jobs, spur economic growth, and improve the environment and public health. Learner and his team led the organizational growth and development of ELPC from a start-up to a leading regional and nationally-influential group with 42 staff and a $7 million budget.
Mr. Learner founded the ELPC in 1993 as an entrepreneurial start-up following his work as the General Counsel for Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, specializing in complex environmental, energy, economic development and civil rights litigation in federal and state courts and policy advocacy. He began his legal career as a civil rights attorney focusing on housing issues, neighborhood revitalization and advancing economic inclusion for diverse communities. He served as a Senior Advisor for Energy and Environmental Issues for President Barack Obama in his successful Presidential campaign in 2007 - 2008.
Much of Mr. Learner’s work has concentrated on developing and advocating new directions on environmental and energy policy issues, including: developing clean renewable energy and energy efficiency resources to avoid greenhouse gases, mercury and other pollution from conventional power plants while creating jobs and advancing economic growth; accelerating sustainable” transportation and land use strategies and leading national and regional efforts to develop a high-speed rail network that can produce complementary environmental quality, economic development and employment benefits; and protecting the Great Lakes and the Midwest’s wild and natural places – forests, waters and biodiversity.
Mr. Learner has successfully represented environmental, clean energy and community organizations in complex civil litigation in the federal and state courts, and before regulatory agencies. He has both significant appellate and trial experience, including recent federal district court victories to protect the Midwest's natural areas and enforce NEPA requirements that agencies fully and fairly consider reasonable alternatives. He represented a coalition of public health, children’s rights and environmental groups to reduce mercury pollution by 90%-95% from coal plants in Illinois. He represented Wisconsin scientists to gain three federal court injunctions on 22,000 acres of proposed logging in which the U.S. Forest Service failed to analyze the cumulative impacts of multiple timber sales that harm clean water, wildlife habitat and biodiversity. Learner served as the lead attorney for a coalition of Illinois consumer organizations and government agencies in litigating and, then, negotiating a settlement with Commonwealth Edison on complicated rate issues that produced more than $2 billion of refunds – the largest ever in the U.S.
Mr. Learner serves as: Vice Chair of the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology (NACEPT), appointed by the U.S. EPA Administrator; Treasurer of the (Cook County) Forest Preserves Foundation; and on the Board of Directors of Citizens Action–Illinois. He has served on: Illinois Executive Ethics Commission; Executive Committee of the Board of the Environmental Law Institute; Board of Directors of the American Council On Renewable Energy; and Board and Chair of the Grantmaking Committee of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.
Mr. Learner received the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois–Federal Bar Association's Award for Excellence in Pro Bono and Public Interest Service; Leadership Greater Chicago’s Distinguished Leadership Fellow Award for the 25th Anniversary; Chicago Magazine’s Green Leader Award; and U.S. Green Building Council – Chicago Chapter’s Natural Leader Award – "Intent to Matter". He also received: Public Interest Law Initiative’s Distinguished Public Service Award; American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy's National Champion of Energy Efficiency Award for Energy Policy; and the American Wind Energy Association's National Wind Energy Advocacy Award. He is in Crain's Chicago Business' “Who’s Who in Chicago Business” (1997 – present), is a Member of the Economic Club of Chicago, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.
Mr. Learner received his J.D. from Harvard Law School (1980) and B.A. (Honors) from the University of Michigan (1976). He is an (Adjunct) Professor at the University of Michigan Law School and Northwestern University Law School teaching advanced seminars on energy law and climate change policy, and on environmental law and sustainable development. He is married to Lauren Rosenthal, an attorney, and they live in the Edgewater neighborhood of Chicago.