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). 

Mayors across the U.S. call Congress to take clean energy action

A bipartisan coalition of 64 mayors, representing cities in 25 states across the country, joined with Environment America on Thursday to call on Congress to take action on clean energy. Specifically, the mayors have sent a letter to Congress urging members to extend solar and wind energy tax credits; expand incentives for electric vehicles and energy efficiency; and create new tax credits for energy storage projects.  Local leaders who joined in this message to Congress come from all regions of the country, including Mayor Sylvester Turner of Houston; Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin of Raleigh; and Mayor Francis X. Suarez of Miami.

“Mayors are on the ground working to clean up the air and improve the health of their communities,” said Ben Sonnega, Environment America’s Go Solar Campaign advocate. “Congressional leaders from both sides of the aisle need to heed the call to act from local leaders and seize the opportunity to invest in clean energy now.” 

Congressional memo provides blueprint to reduce plastic pollution

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico and U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal of California circulated a memo Tuesday to state legislative offices around the country. The document encourages lawmakers to draw from their Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act to effectively reduce plastic pollution and packaging waste at the state and municipal levels. U.S. PIRG worked closely with the offices of Sen. Udall, Rep. Lowenthal and others to develop the legislation, which includes bans of some of  the most harmful single-use plastics and requires plastic producers to take responsibility for waste they create. It remains the most comprehensive approach to reducing plastic pollution ever introduced in the U.S. Congress.

“The Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act assembled our best policies to reduce plastic pollution at the source,” says Alex Truelove, U.S. PIRG’s Zero Waste Campaign director. “Now, the full blueprint is available for state and local leaders, many of whom contributed to the process, to take the actions recommended at the federal level. With this comprehensive model, we can effectively reduce the amount of disposable plastic in our lives and hold producers responsible for the problematic waste they create."

Utility company announces ambitious electric vehicle plan

Xcel Energy, a major utility company based in Minnesota, announced their plan on Wednesday to drastically increase the number of electric vehicles (EVs) on the road in the coming decade. This plan includes a $300 million investment in Colorado, New Mexico, Minnesota and Wisconsin with the goal of increasing  EV totals to 1.5 million by 2030. In combination with Xcel’s plan to provide 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050, its expanded EV efforts will drastically reduce carbon emissions and save customers hundreds of dollars in fuel expenses.

"Converting 1.5 million dirty gas-powered cars to cleaner, electric-powered ones will result in huge pollution reductions but the benefits of more electric vehicles aren’t just environmental," said Danny Katz, director of COPIRG. "Another result should be lower utility bills for everyone. As more and more people adopt electric vehicles, you’re taking transportation fuel dollars that used to go into the gas pump and instead you're putting them into the utility grid, which can put downward pressure on your utility bills.”

What else we’re celebrating:

  • Judge blocks rule change affecting migratory birds: A New York judge overturned a Trump administration change to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act Tuesday that would have allowed for the “unintentional” killing of birds through industry activities. The judge harshly rebuked the administration’s rule change, which would have let industry off the hook for activities that end up killing large numbers of birds, such as oil spills.

  • Pennsylvania zoo welcomes newborn red pandas: The Erie Zoo in Pennsylvania announced the birth of two red panda cubs, a boy and a girl and the first litter for the mom and dad. The mating pair were set up as part of the Red Panda Species Survival Plan, which works to conserve the critically endangered species. In the announcement, the zoo said that the babies are doing well and gaining weight, but have yet to be named.

  • Start-up plans to build thousands of electric garbage trucks: Nikola Corp. has secured a large deal for the production of electric garbage trucks. The Arizona-based electrical vehicle start-up has received an order to make 2.500 electric garbage trucks for Republic Services, with the possibility of doubling the order. The move shows the industry shift toward electric versions of common utility vehicles, such as postal and package delivery units.

  • Emperor penguin colonies discovered by satellite: The British Antarctic Survey has discovered 11 new emperor penguin colonies through the use of satellite imagery. This revelation raises the number of known colonies by 20 percent to 61, an exciting development for a species that is vulnerable to climate change. Future monitoring will help scientists understand the effects of our changing climate on the species' survival.

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. 

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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.