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).
Bill introduced to permanently protect the wildest U.S. forests
Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington and Reps. Ruben Gallego of Arizona and Diana DeGette of Colorado introduced the Roadless Area Conservation Act of 2021 on Tuesday. This new act would reinforce the 2001 Roadless Rule, which was enacted by the Clinton administration 20 years ago this week. The bill would protect almost 60 million acres of pristine wild forests and lands from road building, road reconstruction and logging. America’s roadless areas are essential for safeguarding countless species’ habitats, drinking water for millions of Americans and recreation opportunities for hikers, fishers and climbers. If enacted, this law would have an immediate impact on the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska, which was just stripped of protection by the outgoing Trump administration.
“The vision behind the Roadless Rule is to keep pristine areas in America’s forests untamed and wild,” said Ellen Montgomery, Public Lands director for Environment America. “The rule has done that for exactly 20 years, protecting habitats for thousands of wildlife species, preserving clean water sources for millions of Americans, and providing fantastic recreation and outdoor experiences for people wanting to get into the wild. With the Roadless Rule, alongside other environmental policies, under attack, now is the time to strengthen this rule and enshrine it in congressionally mandated law.”
Massachusetts sewage-disclosure bill signed into law
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill Tuesday requiring public notification when sewage is discharged into rivers and coastal waters. The bill compels municipalities to alert residents of sewage or industrial waste discharge into local waters. As highlighted in the Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center report Safe for Swimming?, more than 250 of Massachusetts beaches saw days with potentially unsafe levels of sewage contamination. The bill puts Massachusetts in the right direction when it comes to making sure its rivers, waterways and beaches can eventually be safe for swimming.
“We can and must do a better job of keeping waste out of our water,” said Ben Hellerstein, Environment Massachusetts state director. “This bill will ensure the public’s right to know about sewage pollution in our waterways. We believe that more awareness of the problem will lead to more action on solutions. Now that Massachusetts is shining a light on pollution in our waterways, let’s improve our water infrastructure to end these sewage discharges once and for all. With the right investments, a cleaner, healthier pollution-free future is within reach.”
New Jersey senate passes bill to boost EV infrastructure
The New Jersey state Senate unanimously passed bill S3223 on Monday, which aims to make the permitting process for municipalities looking to build electric vehicle (EV) charging stations significantly easier and faster. This bill would categorize electric vehicle charging stations for permitted accessory use and structure, which will result in streamlining the process for electric vehicle charging stations in parking garages and lots, at multi-family housing complexes, and, generally, in municipalities.
“It can currently take more than two years for municipalities to obtain permits to install EV charging stations, which is way too long considering the sheer number of charging stations we need to meet our EV goals,” said Hayley Berliner, Clean Energy associate with Environment New Jersey. “This bill will cut that time considerably and allow municipalities to install charging stations where they are needed most. This is another small, but incredibly important step on the way toward our goal of getting 330,000 electric vehicles on New Jersey roads by 2025. We thank state Sens. Bob Smith and Kip Bateman for their leadership on this bill, and we look forward to swift passage through the state Assembly.
What else we’re celebrating:
More right whale calves spotted: The official total for newborn calves of the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale has grown to 11 this past week with two new calves spotted off the coast of Florida. The news comes as an exciting boost for the struggling species, which is under consideration for greater protections, such as seasonal habitat closures, to protect against fishing line entanglement.
Des Moines, Iowa, adopts strong clean energy plan: Des Moines City Council voted unanimously this week to set a goal to have the city run 24/7 on clean energy by 2035. The plan for Iowa’s capital is one of the most ambitious clean energy plans to-date and sets a model for other cities and municipalities to reduce their carbon emissions quickly.
Timber company leaves logging behind: Sealaska, an Alaska Native Corporation and one of the largest timber harvesters in the state, announced this week that it will transition away from timber logging, and focus instead on its other operations. This is an exciting announcement, as the company spent decades operating in the Tongass National Forest, a critical habitat for numerous animals and an invaluable carbon sink.
Minnesota power company to close down coal plants: A Minnesota-based utility company, Minnesota Power, has announced plans to close down its remaining two coal-fired power plants by 2035. The decision aligns with the company’s commitment to becoming 100 percent carbon-free by 2050. Minnesota Power intends to replace its coal power plants with solar and wind operations.
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.
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.