As the summer comes to an end, we wanted to look back at the positive environmental stories of the past few months. Finding good news during the COVID-19 pandemic was a tough task, but also an inspiring one. Amidst all the bad there was some incredible good. At Environment America and U.S. PIRG, we didn’t stop our work for the environment; we were able to celebrate victories and make serious progress on our campaigns.
Combating climate change, protecting our public lands and ensuring a sustainable future are all things that can’t be put on hold, even in the face of a global health crisis. Advocates, lawmakers and communities across the country have been working tirelessly to ensure that when we come out on the other side of the pandemic, we will be a greener and healthier society. Without their work, the stories below might not have happened.
Top 5 Positive Environmental Stories from the Summer:
Coal is becoming a thing of the past:
After weeks of lockdown, with non-essential industries shut down and very limited interstate travel, many people noticed an unexpected silver lining: improved air quality in their communities. Thankfully, as shelter-in-place mandates ended around the United States and the rest of the world, progress continued to ensure that cleaner air will be part of our future. Announcements of imminent coal plant closures came from all across the globe. In Georgia, Arizona, and Colorado, the owners of coal plants set closing dates, with the closures in Colorado coming years ahead of schedule. The United Kingdom, the birthplace of modern coal power, set a 2024 deadline to phase out the polluting fuel. Rounding out the summer, South Korea announced plans to close 30 of its coal-fired power plants on Sept. 8.
A historic conservation bill was signed into law:
The Great American Outdoors Act passed through Congress and was signed into law this August. The historic conservation bill guarantees permanent full funding of $900 million per year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and provides $9.5 billion dollars to maintain America’s parks. Conservationists and lovers of public lands celebrated this monumental victory, which had strong bipartisan support. In the lead-up to the votes, Environment America sent LWCF-themed face masks to lawmakers and posted billboards across the country. This conservation victory will help protect nature so Americans can enjoy it for years to come.
Congress worked to get the lead out:
Two significant events happened in the U.S. House of Representatives this summer to fix the problem of lead in our drinking water. In early July, the House passed an amendment to the Moving Forward Act, which would provide $22.5 billion to replace lead service lines, the single worst source of lead contamination in drinking water. The bill is now waiting for a vote in the U.S. Senate. Later in July, the House introduced the Get the Lead Out Act, which sets a 10-year deadline to replace lead service lines. If enacted, both pieces of legislation have the potential to remove millions of toxic lead pipes.
Oil and gas pipelines were stopped in their tracks:
Bad news for oil and gas pipelines meant good news for the environment this summer as pipeline projects across the country faced legal and financial setbacks. In the first week of July, three large scale pipeline projects ended: a judge shut down the Dakota Access pipeline and ordered a new environmental review, the Supreme Court blocked construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and two utility companies pulled the plug on the Atlantic Coast pipeline. The closures signify America’s move towards renewable energy and away from the reliance on oil and gas.
Congressional reports showed that solving the climate crisis is within our reach:
House Democrats on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis released a comprehensive report in June detailing policies and programs to tackle climate change at the federal level. The report included ambitious ideas for clean energy, electric vehicles, public transportation and reducing plastic pollutions, and was lauded by environmentalists for its comprehensive and far-reaching plans. The Senate Democrats followed suit with their report in August, which includes bold plans to tackle the climate crisis. The policies outlined in the reports are significant, but they are actions that need to be taken immediately to combat the devastating effects of climate change.
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.