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).

U.S. House passes key clean energy and transportation legislation

The U.S. House passed a major piece of legislation last Thursday that marks meaningful progress on clean energy and climate. The Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act reduces greenhouse gas emissions and accelerates vehicle electrification. It also modernizes and bolsters funding authorizations for clean energy research and development programs – including solar energy, wind energy, energy storage and other Department of Energy (DOE) programs.

“The American West is on fire, Midwestern communities face increasingly intense flooding, and hurricanes are hammering southern states. Climate change is not a hypothetical future problem -- it’s here now,” said Matt Casale, U.S. PIRG’s Environment Campaigns director. “It is imperative that we take swift action on climate change if we’re going to have any chance of avoiding its worst impacts. We’re grateful to the House for stepping up and making this meaningful progress. Phasing out HFCs -- known as ‘super greenhouse gases’ -- will bring significant climate relief relatively quickly. And investing in energy efficiency, renewable energy and electric vehicles will put us on the path toward a cleaner, healthier future.”

Maryland’s polystyrene foam ban goes into effect

Maryland’s statewide ban on polystyrene foam cups and containers began on Thursday. In March 2019, Maryland became the first state in the country to pass a foam ban through its state legislature. Polystyrene foam -- commonly referred to as Styrofoam -- is one of the most common and hazardous forms of single-use plastic. Less than 3 percent of it is recycled, and once in landfills or the natural environment, it persists for hundreds of years. In a single year, Americans throw out 25 billion polystyrene foam cups, part of the 8 million tons of plastic dumped in waterways every year. 

“With this new ban, Maryland is proving it’s a national leader when it comes to addressing the plastic pollution crisis,” says Environment Maryland State Director Kate Breimann. “Study after study has shown that polystyrene is a threat to our water, our wildlife and our air and our communities. From the Chesapeake Bay and Baltimore’s Inner Harbor to the Patapsco River, microplastics have contaminated our precious waterway, and polystyrene is a huge contributor to this problem. This safeguard is a long time coming.”

Senator Udall introduces ambitious plastic pollution bill:

Senator Udall introduces ambitious plastic pollution bill: In an effort to protect wildlife and wild places across the United States, Sen. Tom Udall introduced The Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act on Thursday. The act would help keep our oceans free of plastic pellets. Researchers estimate that every year, 9,200 truckloads of these plastic pellets -- which are called “nurdles” and used as the building blocks for most plastic products -- are dumped into our oceans. The bill, which requires the Environmental Protection Administration to prohibit the discharge of plastic pellets and other pre-production plastic into our waterways, would help keep our waterways clean, our beaches beautiful, and our wildlife healthy. 

“This zero-tolerance policy for plastic pellet pollution helps lay the foundation for a zero-waste world where we always choose wildlife over waste,” says Michaela Morris, oceans associate at Environment America. “The whales, dolphins, sea turtles and sea birds that call our oceans home deserve clean, plastic-free waters and this bill is a huge step towards making that a reality.

What else we’re celebrating:

  • Baby orca born in Puget Sound: A baby orca was born to a pod of endangered orcas in Puget Sound this past week. It’s the second calf born in the pod this month. Conservationists and researchers celebrated the births of two calves in one month as a positive sign for the endangered species.

  • Poland announces an end to coal mining: Following a deal reached between the government and trade unions, Poland announced this past week that it will phase out coal mining by 2049. While some environmentalists criticized the proposed phase-out date as being too far in the future, others celebrated that the country has finally taken definitive action to phase out the use of coal power.

  • Countries announce ambitious conservation plans: More than 70 countries from around the world have signed onto a “Pledge for Nature” to reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. The pledge comes a few weeks after the U.N. released a report highlighting the failures of nations to protect the world’s biodiversity. Canada and the United Kingdom went a step further and committed to protecting 30 percent of their land and oceans by 2030, joining the European Union in this commitment.

  • Endangered woodpecker is a conservation success story: After decades of conservation efforts, the red-cockaded woodpecker is being heralded as a success story for the Endangered Species Act. The species has recovered to a point where the Trump administration is considering taking it off the endangered species list. However, conservationists oppose that choice, pointing out that despite this improvement, more needs to be done.

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.