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). 

New report presents policy opportunities despite political divides

A new report from U.S. PIRG, Environment America and Frontier Group, Moving Forward Together, shows that there is more common ground among the American public than the partisan nature of modern politics suggests. It also highlights the urgent need to bring Americans together to solve problems. The report lays out 12 policy areas  that bridge the partisan divide and offer potential for real reform. Some of those include cutting wasteful spending, improving gun safety, offering clean energy tax credits, increasing government transparency and giving Americans the right to repair the things that we own.

“Polarization is the bedrock problem that is preventing us from addressing America's other problems,” said Frontier Group Director Susan Rakov. “The good news is that despite the heat of our current political debate, Americans actually agree on a lot of core issues. By daring to venture across the political divide and find compromise on areas of public concern, leaders can get important work done for the American people and that work itself will forge a pathway out of the nation’s dangerous, counterproductive and toxic polarization.”

New York bans PFAS “forever chemicals” in food packaging

New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill last week banning toxic PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals,” from use in food containers sold across the state of New York. New York joins Washington and Maine to become the third state to pass a bill addressing PFAS exposure and pollution from food packaging. The new law will become effective Dec. 31, 2022. When PFAS-treated food packaging is used, the chemicals can leach into the food and then into our bodies. These dangerous chemicals can also seep out into our soil and water when the packaging ends up in a landfill. As a result, scientists have found PFAS has contaminated the blood of 97 percent of Americans. 

“New York’s ban on PFAS-treated food packaging helps move us in the right direction.” said Danielle Melgar, U.S. PIRG’s Toxics Program advocate. “Consumers should be able to trust that the packaging wrapped around the food we eat every day isn’t full of toxic chemicals. Alternatives to PFAS-treated food packaging already exist. But even if they didn’t, is the threat of greasy fingers worth the risk of cancer?”

Philadelphia votes to ban herbicides on city properties

The Philadelphia City Council passed the Healthy Outdoor Public Spaces Act this past week, banning the use of toxic herbicides on municipal property. Beginning next July, the city council and the public must be notified of any pesticide use on city grounds. Then, within 18 months, the law will prohibit certain toxic chemicals on all city property except golf courses and athletic fields, which must comply in no more than 36 months. The banned herbicides include glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s product Roundup, which has been linked to human health concerns and declining bee populations.

“We applaud this act from the city council and thank Councilmember Cindy Bass for her leadership on this issue,” said PennPIRG Advocate Emma Horst-Martz.”The Healthy Outdoor Public Spaces Act is an important step toward making our city healthier and safer for Philidelphians and the workers who keep our parks beautiful. Organic land management is a safe and effective alternative to spraying toxic chemicals in our parks and playgrounds. We encourage Mayor Jim Kenney to sign this bill into law and look forward to continued action to reduce the use of toxic chemicals across Philadelphia.”

What else we’re celebrating:

  • Two newborn right whales spotted: Researchers were excited to see two newborn North Atlantic right whale calves off the coasts of Georgia and Florida. These are the first calves of the whales’ breeding season and a positive boost for the critically endangered species, which currently has a population of less than 400. These iconic whales are at a critical crossroads in the survival of their species and need a variety of different conservation measures to stave off extinction.

  • New York state divests from fossil fuels: New York state has announced plans to divest its pension fund, which is valued at $226 billion, from fossil fuels in the next five years. The state also set a portfolio-wide goal of net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2040. The announcement came after years of activism to push New York to stop financially supporting projects and companies that are contributing to the ongoing climate crisis. The state becomes the first to divest its pension fund from fossil fuels and joins a number of universities, foundations and companies that have made similar climate commitments.

  • Possum rediscovered after Australian fires: Pygmy possums on Kangaroo Island, thought lost after the devastating fires in Australia this past year, have been rediscovered in the past weeks. The pygmy possum had already faced numerous challenges to its conservation and was devastated when fire ravaged nearly 90 percent of its habitat on the island. Now, with this discovery, researchers are optimistic that the possum can continue to survive on the island, albeit with the aid of strong conservation efforts

  • Utility company plans to replace coal power with wind: Great River Energy, an electric utilities company based in Minnesota, plans to replace the power lost from the shutdown of its coal plant, with energy generated from five wind farms. The large coal plant, which is located in North Dakota, is set to close in three years, and will now be replaced by clean energy from wind farms across Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa.

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.