News Release

Good as news: positive environmental stories you may have missed this week

For Immediate Release.

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 (ian.corbet@publicinterestnetwork.org) or Josh Chetwynd (josh.chetwynd@publicinterestnetwork.org). 

NOTE: We are including stories from the past two weeks (some good things happened while we were off for Thanksgiving).

Bank of America announces it will not finance drilling in the Arctic

Bank of America confirmed on Monday that they will join five other large banks that have pledged not to finance drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Trump administration has ramped up efforts to jam through oil drilling in the refuge before he leaves office. President-elect Joe Biden has committed to protecting the refuge.

“We welcome Bank of America’s commitment not to finance drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,” said Environment America’s Public Lands Campaign Director Len Montgomery. “The coastal plain of this iconic natural jewel is an irreplaceable area. It is home to endangered polar bears and the calving ground of the porcupine caribou herd. We are pleased that Bank of America recognizes the importance of protecting the Arctic. We urge oil companies to follow the lead of the banks and stay away from this important open space as we move toward our ultimate goal -- permanently protecting the refuge."

Two states release their roadmaps to 100 percent renewable energy

Maine and Nevada released ambitious roadmaps to achieve their goals of moving their states to 100 percent renewable energy. In Nevada, the Nevada Climate Initiative (NCI) officially unveiled the Nevada State Climate Strategy on Tuesday. The plan touches on an array of different climate-related issues, including transportation, energy, natural resources, public lands and economic development. A statement released by the NCI said that the plan was meant to provide a framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across every economic sector in the state. 

In Maine, the Maine Climate Council unveiled a statewide Climate Action Plan on Thursday, outlining the steps required to reduce emissions and achieve carbon neutrality in the state by 2045. Following the council’s presentation, Maine Gov. Janet Mills announced a series of actions and key initiatives her administration will take to ensure that Maine reaches its renewable energy requirements -- 80 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. 

On Nevada’s decision:

“The NCI Climate Strategy is an excellent and necessary step for our state as we work toward meeting the clean energy standards passed in the 2019 legislative session,” said Environment Nevada State Director Levi Kamolnick. “Gov. Sisolak continues to cement his legacy as a leader on climate and his refusal to shy away from the issues isn’t going unnoticed. Environment Nevada and our partners look forward to working with the governor and his team to carry out the lofty goals outlined in the strategy.” 

On Maine’s decision:

“Maine’s Climate Action Plan provides a clear roadmap for reducing pollution, driving clean energy innovation, preserving natural spaces, and protecting the health and resilience of Mainers,” said Environment Maine State Director Anya Fetcher. “We applaud Gov. Mills, the more than 250 Maine people who served on the Climate Council and its working groups, and the thousands of Mainers who advocated for a bold Climate Action Plan. We look forward to partnering with the legislature and the people of Maine to codify and build on these commitments.”

General Motors withdraws from lawsuit over clear cars, commits to electric vehicle future

General Motors announced last Monday that it plans to immediately withdraw from litigation supporting the Trump administration’s effort to block states from setting their own tough tailpipe emissions standards. In a letter sent to Environment America and 10 other groups that sued the Trump administration for going the wrong way on clean cars, GM CEO Mary Barra highlighted the company’s vision for an all-electric future and expressed confidence that the Biden administration, the state of California and automakers could again find common ground on clean car standards. 

“It is about time that major auto companies such as GM head the right way on clean cars,” said Wendy Wendlandt, acting president of Environment America. “We cannot address climate change without phasing out gas-powered cars, and GM embracing the promise of electric cars goes in the right direction. We hope other automakers will follow the lead of GM, Ford, BMW, Honda, Volkswagen, Volvo and others driving toward the right side of history when it comes to the clean car standards. It’s never too late to do the right thing.”

What else we’re celebrating:

  • Canadian marmots see conservation success: Critically endangered Vancouver Island marmots are making  a comeback thanks to conservation and breeding programs as well as species monitoring. As a result, this type of ground squirrels  has seen their numbers rise and territory expand across Vancouver Island. In the past two years alone,100 marmot babies were born in the wild. This is an exciting increase considering the mammals numbered just 30 in the early 2000s.

  • San Jose and Oakland ban natural gas in new construction: Two more cities in California -- San Jose and Oakland -- joined San Francisco, Berkeley and Menlo Park in banning natural gas in almost all new residential and commercial buildings. There are a few exceptions for medical facilities. These cities’ ordinances add to a growing number of municipalities seeking to reduce new buildings’ carbon footprint and indoor air pollution, which are consequences of burning natural gas.

  • Europe sees significant reduction in greenhouse gases: Greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by nearly 25 percent since 1990, according to the European Union’s annual Climate Action Progress Report. In addition, emissions dropped by 3.7 percent in the past year, which is an indicator that the EU is ramping up efforts to meet its target of carbon neutrality by 2050.

Looking for even more uplifting environmental content?

Environment America is counting down the days to 2021 with our 31 Days for the Environment project. Celebrate the holidays and count down to the new year with these fun environmental activities you can do at home!

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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.