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

In this week's roundup of good news from the environmental front, the U.S. Senate moves to invest in America’s public lands, Massachusetts considers 100 percent renewable energy, endangered wolf pups are born in New Mexico, and more. 

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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). 

U.S. Senate one step closer to a major investment in America’s public lands

The U.S. Senate voted on Monday to end debate on the Great American Outdoors Act, a bipartisan bill to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually and provide $9.5 billion over five years to fix maintenance problems that are plaguing America’s public lands. This key procedural move, which passed 80-17, sets up an expected final vote on the Senate floor early next week.

Alongside other conservation groups, as well as hunting and fishing groups, outdoor recreation businesses, and more, Environment America has prioritized the LWCF, America’s most successful conservation and recreation program. Utilizing billboards in several states; lawn signs and banners; a steady series of op-eds; and a continual presence on Capitol Hill and in congressional districts, the group has pushed legislators to maximize the LWCF as an effective tool for protecting the beautiful public lands that enrich so many lives.

“We’re a step closer to finally fully funding America’s best conservation and recreation program,” said Environment America’s acting President Wendy Wendlandt. “This bill is a big deal -- it’s $900 million a year, plus a short-term infusion of money to fix the maintenance issues that keep Americans from fully enjoying our public lands.

“From local parks and hiking trails to national forests and parks, American’s love their public lands. The Senate’s decision to bring this to the floor couldn’t come at a more crucial moment. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic drags on, people are increasingly looking towards the outdoors for their physical and mental health.”

See Environment America’s full news release for more. 

Proposed rule could triple size of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Building on more than three decades of scientific exploration and public calls for additional protections, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is now accepting public input on a proposal to expand Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. This expansion would protect additional important Gulf of Mexico habitat.

The sanctuary, designated in 1992, is located 115 miles off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana. Encompassing 56 square miles, it safeguards the northernmost coral reefs in the continental United States, deep-water reef communities and other essential habitats for a variety of marine species. 

The proposed rule would add 14 additional reefs and banks to the sanctuary, which provide essential habitat for recreationally and commercially important fish, as well as habitats for threatened or endangered species including sea turtles, corals and manta rays. The sanctuary would grow to 160 square miles in total, tripling its current area.

“This is a rare opportunity under the current administration to protect some of the world’s healthiest coral ecosystems,” said Anna Farrell-Sherman of Environment Texas. “With more steps in this direction, we can make this underwater wilderness the pride of generations of Texans.”

See Environment Texas’s full news release for more.

With deadline extended, civic leaders renew push for 100 percent renewable energy in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts legislature’s energy committee last week extended its deadline to vote on a bill that aims to power the Bay State with 100 percent renewable energy.

With the end of the state’s legislative session approaching on July 31, leaders from environmental organizations, municipal governments, health care institutions and other fields thanked legislators for their careful consideration of this bill, and urged state officials not to let the clock run out without passing the 100% Renewable Energy Act (H.2836). The energy committee now has until July 22 to reach a decision, potentially setting the stage for Massachusetts to become the eighth U.S. state to pass a legislative commitment to 100 percent clean or renewable energy.

“The past few months have reminded us that there’s nothing more important than our health,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for Environment Massachusetts. “Fossil fuels are polluting our air, changing our climate in dangerous ways, and making us more susceptible to diseases like COVID-19. Thank you to Chair Tom Golden, Chair Mike Barrett and members of the energy committee for taking a close look at the Decker/Garballey 100% Renewable Energy Act. We hope to see you advance this essential legislation soon.”

See Environment Massachusetts’s full news release for more, including quotes from the bill’s key sponsors, selected Massachusetts mayors and other community leaders. 

What else we’re celebrating:

  • New Report: 90 percent renewable by 2035 is achievable and affordable in the U.S.: A new report from the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California Berkeley shows that the United States can achieve 90 percent clean carbon-free electricity nationwide by 2035, dependably, at no extra cost to consumers, and without new fossil fuel plants. The key will be ramping up wind, solar and battery storage -- all of which have decreased dramatically in price over the past decade -- and enacting policies that support renewable energy adoption.

  • Britain goes record two months without coal power: Britain has now gone two months without burning coal. This momentous occasion set a new record for the longest period that the nation hasn’t burned the dirty fossil fuel for power since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

  • Albuquerque zoo welcomes seven endangered Mexican wolf pups: Two endangered Mexican gray wolves housed at the Albuquerque zoo are now the proud parents of seven pups. The Albuquerque zoo is part of a nationwide captive-breeding network that aims to support the recovery of the endangered predators in the Southwest U.S. The zoo has welcomed 72 wolf pups since 1983.

  • 1.5M acres of critical habitat proposed for endangered Florida bat: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday proposed designating almost 1.5 million acres across south and central Florida as critical habitat for the endangered Florida bonneted bat. Critical habitat protections will help protect the species from habitat loss due to development and the impacts of climate change, according to advocates. 

  • St. Louis adopts Midwest’s first building performance standard: St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson signed a new mandatory Building Energy Performance Standard into law last week for Missouri’s second largest city. The regulations aim to reduce energy use in and emissions from existing buildings in the city, and is the first of its kind in the Midwest and only the fourth nationwide. 

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. The winners of our Greener Together writing contest were announced last week -- give them a read here.

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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.