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 Ian Corbet (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Josh Chetwynd (email@example.com).
House advances greenest budget in recent memory
The House Appropriations Committee approved funding for a number of important environmental programs this past Friday as part of the FY21 funding bill for the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior. Most notably, the budget dedicates emergency funding for many of the infrastructure proposals in the Moving Forward Act (H.R.2), including $10.2 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds. Additionally, the bill blocks the administration’s attempts to: open the Tongass National Forest to logging; drill for oil in the Arctic Refuge; expand offshore drilling; weaken protections on toxic mercury and arsenic emissions; and open the Boundary Waters to toxic pollution from sulfide mining.
“The House is officially putting their money where their mouth is, using their constitutional power of the purse to protect and restore our environment,” said Bart Johnsen-Harris, director of federal government affairs for Environment America. “This is the greenest budget in recent memory, and we applaud Chairwomen Nita Lowey and Betty McCollum for their leadership. Key EPA programs—and the agency itself—have been chronically underfunded for years. This bill makes up for lost time, and then some. Environment America will fight for this bill to become law. This is the kind of green budget we have been waiting for.”
Fifteen-state EV truck pact shows dedication to global warming fight
Fifteen states announced Tuesday a first-of-its-kind agreement for zero-emission trucks. These plans follow California’s leadership. In late June, the California Air Resources Board approved the Advanced Clean Trucks (ACT) rule, which requires every new truck sold in California be zero-emission by 2045. The memorandum of understanding between the states in this agreement sets targets for achieving full electrification of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by 2050, including big rigs, school and transit buses, and delivery trucks. They also set an interim sales target of 30 percent zero-emission trucks by 2030 for truck manufacturers.
“No package delivered by a diesel truck is worth dirty air, asthma and climate change,” said Environment America’s Clean Cars Campaign Director Morgan Folger. “It's time to shift past the old ways of thinking and move toward a clean environment with trucks that don't pollute. Clean electric trucks can clear the air and help stave off the worst impacts of climate change. That's the delivery we are all waiting for. This plan will play a major role in realizing that goal. We applaud the states involved for charting a path for zero-emission electric trucks to clean up our roads.”
Regulatory commission prevents a federal takeover of solar rights
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) dismissed a petition Thursday from the New England Ratepayers Association (NERA) that threatened crucial state net metering policies and states’ long-held jurisdiction over solar rights. This ruling comes after more than 57,000 comments from utility commissions, advocacy organizations, state officials, members of Congress and the public were submitted in opposition to the petition. In contrast, there were only 22 public comments in support of NERA’s request.
“Today’s decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission speaks for the entire country. Americans have made it clear that they want solar power,” said Environment America’s Go Solar Campaign director Bronte Payne. “That’s why more than 2.2 million families and 100,000 businesses have already invested tens of billions of their own dollars in energy independence. FERC has acted in their best interest by protecting the rights of solar owners.”
What else we’re celebrating:
California condors are making a recovery: Conservation efforts are showing promising results for the iconic California condor, a species that was once on the brink of extinction. The bird was recently spotted in Sequoia National Park, where it had been absent for decades, inspiring hope for conservationists and wildlife lovers alike.
University of Vermont votes to divest from fossil fuels: The University of Vermont announced its decision to divest the university’s endowments from the fossil fuel industry. The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to meet this commitment by July 2023. This declaration comes as part of a wave of student-led activism that has led to university administrations agreeing to flex their financial power to stop the acceleration of climate change.
Offshore wind industry is surging: The renewable energy industry is continuing to rise, bolstered by a significant increase in the offshore wind power sector. Renewables are weathering the economic downturns better than oil and gas companies with offshore wind seeing their investments triple from the past year.
Healthy rate of sea turtle nests on Georgia coast: Thousands of loggerhead sea turtle nests have been recorded on Georgia beaches this season, meeting a key threshold on the path to species recovery. This rare turtle is protected under the Endangered Species Act and has its nesting season from May to August.
Looking for even more uplifting environmental content?
Check out Environment America’s 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. The winners of our Greener Together writing contest were announced last month -- give them a read here.
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.