The Public Interest Network’s Environment America and U.S. PIRG are working on multiple campaigns to help America get through the coronavirus pandemic as quickly and safely as possible. But we're also working to ensure that when the outbreak ends, the United States’ policies and practices ensure a cleaner, safer, better world for all of us.
This weekly newsletter will highlight recent good news on the environmental front. If you have suggestions or comments, please email Emma Searson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Josh Chetwynd (email@example.com).
Individuals and organizations around the world celebrated the 50th Earth Day online and at home this Wednesday, and live virtual events continue through the week. In other good news from Earth Week:
New Jersey invests big in electrifying transportation
New Jersey committed to investing millions of dollars toward electrifying the state’s transportation system, according to two announcements made during the past week. First, New Jersey state agencies jointly revealed their final Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) Strategic Funding Plan last Friday. The plan dedicates 75 percent of an estimated annual $80 million in RGGI auction proceeds to investing primarily in electrification strategies for the transportation sector.
Building on the RGGI Strategic Funding Plan, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe announced on Earth Day that the state will pour an additional $45 million from the national Volkswagen settlement into reducing transportation emissions. The investment will fund projects converting diesel trucks, buses, trains and other vehicles to electric power. The money will also be used to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure throughout the state.
“RGGI clean energy investments have never been more needed. These funds are a green economic stimulus for New Jersey and provide a hefty down payment on electrifying diesel trucks and vehicles across the state,” said Environment New Jersey Director Doug O’Malley about the RGGI announcement. “The RGGI program has allowed our neighboring states to invest in a clean energy economy for more than a decade and reap the benefits of reducing carbon pollution from our power plants and investing in clean energy solutions. Especially amidst the COVID-19 crisis, we need to make investments that further public health and expand the clean energy economy.”
U.S. wind energy hits new milestone; New York leans in
Wind energy accounted for more new utility-scale generation capacity in the U.S. than any other energy source in 2019, according to a new report from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). The report found that wind energy made up 39 percent of all new U.S. generation capacity last year. Overall, U.S. wind has surpassed 100 GW generation capacity in total, which is enough to power 32 million American homes. That makes wind the largest source of renewable energy in the U.S., and the single largest source of electric power in the windy states of Iowa and Kansas.
In addition, New York is poised to continue seeing wind energy growth. On Thursday, the state’s Public Service Commission authorized the nation’s largest offshore wind solicitation. The decision enables New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to solicit bids for new wind projects of up to 2,500 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity.
“Wind turbines felt like novelties just ten years ago, but their vast potential coupled with technological improvements and a desire to advance clean energy have fueled this remarkable growth,” said Johanna Neumann, senior director of Environment America’s Campaign for 100% Renewable Energy. “It’s exciting to see that this clean renewable resource has taken off, and with so much potential, America should continue to harness the power of the wind for years to come.”
Houston’s Climate Action Plan tackles carbon, transportation
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the city’s Office of Sustainability released Houston’s first Climate Action Plan on Earth Day. In it, America’s fourth-largest city laid out a vision for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions and reaching carbon neutrality by 2050. The plan outlines a strategy for decreasing global warming pollution from transportation and building electricity use, which are the primary sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the city. This will be done by shifting to electric and low-emission vehicles, reducing vehicle miles traveled per capita, and investing in solar and energy efficiency.
“We applaud the city's commitment to electric vehicles, including 100 percent electric vehicles for its own fleet, partnering with METRO to electrify buses, and working to make 30 percent of new car purchases in Houston electric by 2030,” said Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas. “The coronavirus crisis shows us that clean air is possible without so many polluting cars on the road. We don’t have to settle for dirty air again when life returns to normal.”
What else we’re celebrating:
California moves to protect mountain lions: In response to pressure from the environmental community, the California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously on April 16 to review Southern California and Central Coast mountain lions as candidates for protection under the state’s Endangered Species Act.
Wolf population grows in Washington: The wolf population in Washington state increased by 11 percent in 2019, up to an estimated 145 wolves in 26 packs, according to a new report from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
With less smog, Germany breaks solar power record: Reduced pollution combined with clear spring skies have enabled Germany to reach a new peak in solar electricity production on Monday. Solar power supplied on that day represented approximately 40 percent of the country’s power. Rapid renewable energy growth is expected to continue in the country throughout the next decade.
Quiet beaches bring more sea turtle nests: In Thailand, where beaches are unusually empty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities have found the largest number of rare leatherback sea turtle nests in two decades. No leatherback sea turtle nests were identified in Thailand during each of the last five years, making this year’s resurgence a particularly welcomed discovery.
Golden parakeet populations are in recovery: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shared Endangered Species Act progress on Earth Day, announcing the downlisting of the golden parakeet (also known as the golden conure) from endangered to threatened status.
Looking for even more uplifting environmental content?
Environment America recently launched our Greener Together project. As people are practicing social distancing, the project aims to help us all foster a stronger connection with the natural world and with each other. The initiative includes engaging events, fun activities and helpful guides for both adults and children. It now also includes special Earth Day materials.
Environment America is a national network with affiliates in 29 states. Our staff and members work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment.
U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.
U.S. PIRG and Environment America are part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done.