Environmental Quality Protection, Beautification

Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest

  • Chicago, IL
  • http://www.elpc.org

Mission Statement

The Environmental Law & Policy Center is the Midwest’s leading public interest environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization, and among the nation’s leaders. We develop 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 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. 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 was founded in 1993 and has achieved a strong track record of successes on national and regional clean energy development and pollution reduction, transportation and land use reform, and natural resources protection issues. ELPC’s creative public advocacy effectively links environmental progress and economic development together and improves the quality of life in our Midwestern communities.

Main Programs

  1. Climate Change Solutions
  2. Clean Energy
  3. Clean Air
  4. Clean Water
  5. Clean Transportation
  6. Protecting the Midwest's Special Natural Places
Service Areas

Self-reported

National

ELPC’s work is strategically focused to generate national and regional impacts through efforts focused in the Midwest and Great Plains states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. 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.

ruling year

1993

Executive Director since 1993

Self-reported

Mr. Howard A. Learner

Keywords

Self-reported

Environmental Advocacy, public interest, non-profit, Clean Energy, wind, solar, energy efficiency, farm energy, Clean Air, coal, coal plant, mercury, diesel, air pollution, Clean Water, nitrogen, phos

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 $6 million in revenue during FY 2014 – and the breadth and diversity of our funding base – from the seven “founding foundation” supporters to more than 150 foundations and donors committing $1,000 or more in the past year to support the organization’s growth and stability.

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Also Known As

ELPC

EIN

36-3866530

 Number

4079388294

Contact

Cause Area (NTEE Code)

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.

Programs + Results

How does this organization make a difference?

Programs

Self-reported by organization

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

Program 1

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.

Category

Climatic Change

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

None

None

Budget

Program 2

Clean Energy

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.

Category

Energy Resources

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

None

None

Budget

Program 3

Clean Air

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.

Category

Air Pollution Control

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

Poor/Economically Disadvantaged, Indigent, General

None

Budget

Program 4

Clean Water

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.

Category

Water Pollution Control

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

None

None

Budget

Program 5

Clean Transportation

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.

Category

Transportation

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

None

None

Budget

Program 6

Protecting the Midwest's Special Natural Places

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.

Category

Natural Resources Conservation & Protection

Population(s) Served

General Public/Unspecified

None

None

Budget

Charting Impact

Self-reported by organization

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

  1. What is the organization aiming to accomplish?
    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.
  2. What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?
    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.”
  3. What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?
    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.
  4. How will they know if they are making progress?
    ELPC's Energy Efficiency team of public interest environmental attorneys and eco-business specialists works with utility companies and the public utility commissions that govern them in the key Midwest states of Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Iowa. The utilities in these states must propose multi-year energy efficiency programs to comply with state laws to conserve energy. Advocating with utilities and public regulators for improved energy efficiency in multiple states with tens of millions of electricity customers allows ELPC to achieve substantial reductions in energy demand measured in megawatt hours of electricity, along with the resulting avoidance of tons of greenhouse gas emissions and gallons of water consumption.

    ELPC's Renewable Energy team works throughout the region to eliminate barriers to the growth of renewable energy. We design and implement policies like interconnection and net metering that make it easier and more affordable to connect home-grown renewable energy to the grid. We create and defend innovative incentives that provide creative opportunities to green our energy mix, like the renewable energy standards that guarantee increasing investments in wind and solar in Illinois and Michigan. We even provide pro-bono legal defense to small businesses under attack from utilities that want to stifle clean energy innovation and choice. These efforts lead to measurable increases in the amount of renewable energy capacity that is constructed in each state, measured in megawatts of installed generating capacity.

    Our Clean Air team leverages expert legal, economic, and policy strategies to move the Midwest past its dirty coal past and into a clean energy future. We use multiple sources of legal and policy pressure to force old coal plants to internalize the true health and climate change costs of their pollution. For example, advocating for high state and federal standards for cleaner air and water, and then aggressively litigating plant owners when they fail to meet those standards. This work drives measurable decreases in the amount of energy generated from old coal plants, measured in megawatts of coal generation capacity eliminated or prevented.

    Our Clean Water team protects water quality in multiple states by carefully reviewing sources of pollution to enforce Clean Water Act standards, through litigation if necessary. We also design, implement and defend new state water quality standards to keep clean water clean, and work to prevent flooding caused by poor wastewater management policies.

    Our Natural Resource Protection team is the legal force behind the Midwestern conservation movement. Our pro-bono attorneys represent conservation colleagues and ordinary citizens in court, often responding to requests for immediate help to protect the Midwest’s natural heritage in their own home state. We work in the courts and in the court of public opinion through savvy media campaigns to accomplish our allies conservation goals.
  5. What have and haven't they accomplished so far?
    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.
Service Areas

Self-reported

National

ELPC’s work is strategically focused to generate national and regional impacts through efforts focused in the Midwest and Great Plains states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. 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.

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Financials

Financial information is an important part of gauging the short- and long-term health of the organization.

Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest
Fiscal year: Jul 01-Jun 30
Yes, financials were audited by an independent accountant.

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Operations

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

Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest

Leadership

NEED MORE INFO ON THIS NONPROFIT?

Free: Gain immediate access to the following:
  • Address, phone, website and contact information
  • Forms 990 for 2015, 2014 and 2014
  • Board Chair and Board Members
  • Access to the GuideStar Community
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Executive Director

Mr. Howard A. Learner

BIO

Howard A. Learner is an experienced attorney serving as the President and Executive Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Mr. Learner is responsible for the overall strategic policy direction, development and leadership of this public interest organization. Before founding ELPC, he was the General Counsel of Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, a public interest law center, specializing in complex civil litigation and policy development. Mr. Learner is an Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University Law School, teaching an advanced environmental law seminar. J.D., Harvard Law School, 1980; B.A., University of Michigan, 1976.

STATEMENT FROM THE Executive Director

"ELPC has achieved extraordinary program successes and vibrant organizational growth over two decades. We have grown from a ground-floor start-up in 1993 to be the Midwest’s premier environmental legal advocacy and eco-business innovation organization with offices in seven states and Washington, D.C. We’re proud of ELPC’s impact through solutions-oriented advocacy strategies that achieve powerful results. Through it all, we’ve effectively advanced three core principles:

First, smart, strategic legal and policy advocacy can improve the Midwest’s environmental quality and protect our natural heritage. ELPC plays to win, produces results and makes a major difference for people, our communities and our environment.

Second, ELPC puts into practice our principle that environmental progress and economic development can be achieved together. That’s in ELPC’s organizational DNA. We do sustainability.

Third, whenever ELPC says “no,” we always say “yes” to a better alternative. ELPC advocates positive solutions that are good for job creation, good for economic growth and good for the environment.

That’s how to get things done in the Midwest (and much of the rest of the country as well). This sustainable development principle of environmental progress and economic growth together is key to our success. ELPC’s founding vision is becoming today’s reality. Your partnership and engagement helps ELPC advance the right clean energy development for our region, transform the Midwest’s transportation infrastructure, and cleanup the Great Lakes and Midwest rivers."

Governance

BOARD CHAIR

Mr. David Wilhelm

BOARD LEADERSHIP PRACTICES

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about essential board leadership practices. Self-reported by organization

Yes

BOARD ORIENTATION & EDUCATION

Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

Yes

CEO OVERSIGHT

Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Yes

ETHICS & TRANSPARENCY

Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?

Yes

BOARD COMPOSITION

Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

Yes

BOARD PERFORMANCE

Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?