Good as news: positive environmental stories you may have missed this week

This week's roundup of good news for the environment features wins for clean water and climate in New York, renewable wind energy in North Carolina, and electric vehicles in Colorado. 

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Emma Searson
Director, 100% Renewable Campaign

Author: Emma Searson

Director, 100% Renewable Campaign

(828) 545-7300

Started on staff: 2016
B.A., magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, Washington University in St. Louis

Emma oversees Environment America's national campaign for 100 percent renewable energy, working to deliver a bold vision for a future powered by clean energy one state at a time. Since joining the team at Environment America, Emma has led campaigns building and mobilizing public support for renewable energy and climate action in cities and states across the nation. She has authored reports on energy efficiency, solar energy and other renewable energy policy areas. Originally from North Carolina, Emma now lives in Boston, where she enjoys running, cooking and exploring the great outdoors in her free time.

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 (emma.searson@publicinterestnetwork.org) or Josh Chetwynd (josh.chetwynd@publicinterestnetwork.org).

New York rejects new fracked gas pipeline because of environmental impacts 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration denied a key permit for the Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline last Friday, blocking the project’s development. More commonly known as the Williams Pipeline, the project would have carried natural gas from hydraulic fracturing sites in Pennsylvania under New York’s Raritan Bay and Lower New York Bay to Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Long Island.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation cited water pollution and climate concerns in the decision, finding that the construction of the fracked gas pipeline would be detrimental to water quality and that the pipeline’s construction would be inconsistent with the state's commitment to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

"To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to keep all fossil fuels in the ground,” said Environment America Global Warming Solutions Advocate Morgan Folger. “Part of that fight is stopping any new fossil fuel infrastructure that enables the fracking industry to continue threatening our health and climate. Fracked gas pipelines leak harmful methane, destroy landscapes, and pollute our waterways, making this decision is a huge victory for the environment and public health."

North Carolina opens door to offshore wind 

The North Carolina Department of Commerce issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) last Friday to help identify opportunities for wind energy development along North Carolina’s coast. The  offshore wind supply chain and infrastructure assessment will be an important first step toward potentially expanding the state’s use of wind energy.

Many leading offshore wind states have conducted similar studies to inform their efforts, including Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia. North Carolina has long touted unmatched potential in this sector. Now, following years of wind energy roadblocks imposed by the North Carolina General Assembly, the state is finally signaling that it’s eager to take advantage of its vast renewable energy resources. 

"With this RFP, Governor Cooper is helping North Carolina seize the massive potential for clean offshore energy off our coast,” said Environment North Carolina State Director Drew Ball. “The wind blowing just beyond our shore has the energy potential equivalent to nearly five times our state's current electricity consumption, according to our recent study. We also know that the offshore wind development is strongly desired by coastal residents and its popularity cuts across ideological lines."

Xcel proposes ambitious plan to electrify transportation in Colorado

Colorado’s largest utility, Xcel Energy, filed a new Transportation Electrification Plan with the state Public Utilities Commission last Friday, proposing that the utility invest millions over the next three years to further transportation electrification. The sweeping plan lays out 20 new programs to spur the installation of residential and office vehicle charging infrastructure; transition to electric school buses; and boost access to alternative forms of electric transportation, such as e-bikes and e-scooters. 

If approved, these programs will play an important role in meeting the state’s goal of putting hundreds of thousands more electric vehicles on the road by 2030. 

"Transportation electrification is critical to reducing pollution and saving consumers money,” said Allison Conwell, advocate with COPIRG. “Utilities can play a big role in electrifying our transportation because they can provide assistance in ways that other entities can't. We are excited to see Xcel has gone big on transportation electrification."

What else we’re celebrating:

  • Endangered pygmy hippo born at San Diego Zoo: The San Diego Zoo announced last Friday the birth of a healthy pygmy hippopotamus calf. The West Afrcan pygmy hippopotamus is an endangered species, and last week’s successful birth was the first the zoo has seen in more than three decades. 

  • The University of California divests from fossil fuels: The University of California announced on Tuesday that, after a five-year effort, it has fully divested its $126-billion portfolio from all fossil fuels. The announcement makes the U.C. system the nation’s largest educational institution to fully divest. 

  • Agencies agree to reassess impacts of coal mining: Two U.S. Department of Interior agencies agreed last Friday in federal court to reevaluate the potential impact of surface coal mining on endangered species nationwide. The announcement came as part of a settlement agreement with environmental groups. 

  • Lesser prairie chickens return to Colorado: A four-year joint relocation and tracking program to restore lesser prairie-chicken populations in Colorado is paying off. The bird’s numbers, which have dwindled across the Great Plains due to drought and destruction of habitat, are back on the rise according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The effort has been led by wildlife biologists from both Colorado and Kansas.

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.

Emma Searson
Director, 100% Renewable Campaign

Author: Emma Searson

Director, 100% Renewable Campaign

(828) 545-7300

Started on staff: 2016
B.A., magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, Washington University in St. Louis

Emma oversees Environment America's national campaign for 100 percent renewable energy, working to deliver a bold vision for a future powered by clean energy one state at a time. Since joining the team at Environment America, Emma has led campaigns building and mobilizing public support for renewable energy and climate action in cities and states across the nation. She has authored reports on energy efficiency, solar energy and other renewable energy policy areas. Originally from North Carolina, Emma now lives in Boston, where she enjoys running, cooking and exploring the great outdoors in her free time.