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 Emma Searson (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Josh Chetwynd (email@example.com).
House bill looks to protect U.S. rivers and other waterways
The Clean Water for All Act, which was introduced last Friday in Congress, would repeal the Trump administration’s “Dirty Water Rule.” The bill aims to stop the administration’s effort to weaken the Clean Water Act -- a move that would endanger drinking water for millions of Americans. U.S. Reps. Peter Defazio (Oregon) and Grace Napolitano (California) introduced the legislation.
The bill is the latest in a long line of rebukes to the Dirty Water Rule, which has been criticized by EPA’s own scientists, challenged in court by Environment America and several conservation groups, and opposed by the overwhelming number of public comments submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“Congress now has an opportunity to stop the worst rollback in the history of the Clean Water Act,” said Environment America Clean Water Program Director John Rumpler. “From the Chesapeake Bay to Puget Sound, wetlands filter out pollutants, provide wildlife habitat, and protect communities by absorbing floodwaters. And across the country, thousands of small streams help provide drinking water to millions of people. Yet the Dirty Water Rule leaves more than half our remaining wetlands and millions of miles of streams without federal protection, and thereby opens the floodgates for pollution. The Clean Water for All Act can prevent that destruction. It is an essential step toward the Clean Water Act’s bipartisan vision of ensuring that all of our waters are truly safe and clean.”
Hundreds of organizations, 118 members of Congress rally behind the Great American Outdoors Act
Environment America joined more than 850 organizations on Monday in calling on Congress to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, which would ensure full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). On the same day, U.S. Reps. Joe Neguse, Joe Cunningham, Derek Kilmer, Brian Fitzpatrick and 114 of their colleagues penned a bipartisan letter to Congressional leaders in support of the act.
Since it was enacted in 1964, the LWCF program has served as the federal government’s primary funding tool for public lands. It supports outdoor spaces from our best known national parks to neighborhood ballparks across the country. The program has been consistently underfunded throughout its lifetime -- a problem that the Great American Outdoors Act would solve.
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is America’s best conservation and recreation program, and it’s never been more important to fully fund it,” said Steve Blackledge, senior director of Environment America’s Conservation America Campaign. “Public lands protect wild spaces, offer open space for outdoor recreation and give Americans a chance to connect with nature. Congress has the opportunity to support our public lands and ensure their protection for generations to come by passing the Great American Outdoors Act, which would fully fund LWCF, and we’re glad to see so many members of Congress and organizations come together to get this program fully funded.”
Current reductions in car emissions mirror long-term electric vehicle benefits
Current reductions in smog-causing nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compound emissions, stemming from a decrease in driving due to stay-at-home efforts, could reflect what America can achieve long-term through a transition toward electric vehicles. According to researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration labs, urban areas in the United States might see improvements in air quality and related public health benefits similar to those currently being experienced if half the U.S. car fleet was electrified and some continued to work from home.
"While it shouldn't take a pandemic for us to achieve cleaner air, it is encouraging to see that burning less fossil fuels can have such a positive impact for public health,” said Environment America’s Clean Cars Campaign Director Morgan Folger. “Each year, millions of Americans suffer from adverse health impacts linked to air pollution, and tens of thousands have their lives cut short. We need to make sure that the ‘new normal’ that emerges after this crisis is one of clearer skies and healthier lives."
What else we’re celebrating:
2019 U.S. coal power hits 42-year low; renewables are projected to surpass coal in 2020: U.S. coal-fired power generation dropped to 966,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) in 2019, the lowest total since 1976, according to new data the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released last Friday. In addition, the EIA projects that the U.S. will produce more electricity from renewable sources in 2020 than from coal for the first time ever.
Nine state attorneys general sue for federal environmental enforcement: Nine state attorneys general took the Trump administration to court on Wednesday over the Environmental Protection Agency’s non-enforcement policy of federal pollution laws during the coronavirus pandemic. The suit follows a similar action by environmental organizations in April.
Florida officials restore threatened snake population: Last Friday, wildlife officials released 22 threatened eastern indigo snakes at The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve in Florida. This year’s release is the fourth in a 10-year effort to restore the native population of these nonvenomous snakes.
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.