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).
Pittsburgh clean air activists call on officials for action
With hopes of protecting Pittsburghers from toxic air pollution, local organizations and concerned citizens this week observed "Toxic Ten Week," a campaign with daily activities meant to spur officials in Allegheny County to act on the 10 worst industrial toxic emitters in the area. Participants in Toxic Ten Week are calling on local officials to take a number of steps to address the issue, including increasing penalties for these polluters, setting stricter limits on certain sites, and keeping the health department funded to properly implement and enforce the Clean Air Act.
“Toxic Ten Week is a concerted online campaign to convince local leaders that it is not acceptable to let the dirtiest facilities pollute this great city,” said Zachary Barber, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center’s Clean Air advocate. “Data shows that the Toxic Ten facilities are responsible for more than 70 percent of the industrial air pollution reported in Allegheny County. We’ve seen progress in recent years, but Pittsburghers know that ‘better’ isn’t good enough. Toxic Ten Week gives concerned locals the information and online tools they need to remain engaged civically while at home during the pandemic. Pittsburghers know clean air is a right and not a privilege, and they're going to make sure our elected officials in Allegheny County embrace that.”
Northeast commission votes to delay construction of pipeline
The Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted this past Thursday to delay a decision on permitting for the controversial liquid natural gas export terminal in Gibbstown, N.J. port. The pause will allow further assessment of the issues involved. The DRBC also voted to stop any construction until final permit decisions are made by the commissioners in a public vote. The three votes needed for passage of the delay and stay were cast by the New York, New Jersey and Delaware representatives. The public had weighed in with more than 71,000 petition signatures to DRBC in opposition to the project
“We applaud Govs. Andrew Cuomo, Phil Murphy and John Carney and their administrations for hearing the public outcry and providing the majority necessary to ensure a thorough and fair review of this complex proposal,” said Environment New Jersey State Director Doug O’Malley. “These delays will give the public the time it needs to be heard and decision-makers the time they need to make the right choice to deny these plans, which will help the Delaware River Basin and protect our water, land, air, communities and climate.”
Baltimore moves towards restricting harmful pesticides
The Baltimore City Council Health Committee voted favorably this week on a bill that would implement comprehensive regulations on the use of pesticides in the city. The bill restricts the use of chlorpyrifos, neonicotinoids and glyphosate (the main ingredient in RoundUp) in Baltimore. The regulations will go into effect in the summer of 2022. The bill now heads to the full Baltimore City Council for final approval.
“Scientists, farmers, beekeepers and advocates have sounded the alarm: These toxic pesticides have got to go,” said Environment Maryland Director Kate Breimann. “We’re grateful to Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke for sponsoring this legislation and to the committee for voting it through. Our pollinators are dying at an unprecedented rate, and banning these chemicals are a critical first step to protecting our bees, our food and our planet.”
What else we’re celebrating:
New botanical garden opens in Houston: The brand new Houston Botanic Garden opens to the public this Friday. It will provide 132 acres of nature to city residents and visitors looking for outdoor activities. The garden includes sections of native prairie and wetlands, which will help promote conservation of the area and attract local wildlife. A section will also be available as a community garden and allow for neighborhood use.
Pennsylvania moves toward limiting greenhouse gases: The Pennsylvania Environmental Quality Board passed a measure that moves the state closer to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The decision requires electric power plants that emit carbon emissions to purchase carbon credits that are compatible with the other states in the RGGI. This regulation has the potential to reduce nearly 200 million tons of carbon emissions from 2022 to 2030.
Major U.S. cities bolster bike lanes: Three major U.S. cities have either announced or begun new construction on bike lanes to improve cycling infrastructure and safety for their residents. Austin, Chicago and Boston are all expanding and securing bike lanes along some of their busiest roadways, in part, because of increased cycling during the pandemic.
Australian state passes plastics ban: South Australia passed legislation this week to become the first state in Australia to ban certain single-use plastics. The law will go into effect in 2021 and will prohibit the sale, supply and distribution of certain single-use plastic products such as straws and utensils. Further bans on other plastic items are expected to pass in the coming years.
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.