Director of Media Relations, The Public Interest Network
Director of Media Relations, The Public Interest Network
DENVER – This year, Environment America’s advocates were a driving force behind many national- and state-level changes that will clean up and protect the United States’ land, water and air. These environmental victories will benefit all Americans across all regions and demographics, transcending political polarization.
“This year we’ve not only protected the environment from toxic threats but also won victories which allow our wild, open spaces to expand and thrive,” said Environment America President Wendy Wendlandt. “We can’t wait to get to work in the new year to continue this momentum. We can bring Americans from all backgrounds together to support a clean, healthy environment.”
Environment America and its state groups, together with our partners and supporters, celebrated the following highlights and milestones in 2023:
Renewables rise, and rise, and rise…
As we detailed in the eighth edition of our Renewables on the Rise report, in 2023, the United States produced more than three times as much power from the sun, the wind and the earth as we did in 2013, with growth in all 50 states.
This year, Minnesota and Michigan codified commitments to generating 100% of their electricity from clean power sources in the near future, bringing the number of states on “team 100%” to 12.
We educated hundreds of thousands of Americans about the opportunities to go solar, switch to an electric vehicle or save energy at home, with help from financial incentives in the federal Inflation Reduction Act. We also ran webinars and worked to inspire more houses of worship to get their power from above by spreading the word about new federal solar incentives.
Environment California worked with PIRG alum State Sen. Josh Becker to pass a bill encouraging solar power infrastructure in underutilized space alongside highways.
Virginia received approval for the nation’s largest wind farm off its coast. That will be key in helping the state reach its commitment to reaching 100% clean energy by mid century. In Maryland, the General Assembly passed the POWER Act to expand offshore wind generation and make necessary upgrades to the grid. In Georgia, we helped to drive dozens of new solar installations through community-based group-purchasing programs.
Protecting canyons, critters and other natural wonders
Thanks to our and our allies’ campaigns, President Joe Biden designated the Castner Range near El Paso in Texas, Avi Kwa Ame (Spirit Mountain) in Nevada, and the Baaj Nwaavjo I’tah Kukveni – Ancestral Footprints of the Grand Canyon in Arizona as national monuments, protecting them from environmentally damaging activities. In the case of the new monument surrounding Grand Canyon National Park, this permanently protected more than 900,000 acres of land from toxic uranium mining.
In Alaska, after more than 20 years of campaigning by Environment America, Alaska Environment and our allies, President Biden instructed the EPA to use the Clean Water Act to permanently protect the Bristol Bay region and wild sockeye salmon runs.
In a historic victory, Texans voted for Proposition 14 to create the Centennial Parks Conservation Fund. The fund will allocate $1 billion — the largest investment in nature in Texas’ history — toward state parks. Environment Texas played a crucial role, working with fellow state park enthusiasts and supporters from a range of backgrounds and getting Grammy award-winning singer-songwriter (and Texas native) Kacey Musgraves to narrate our video promoting the expansion of the state park system.
In a win for our beloved sea otters, Environment California mobilized public support to convince the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to keep the otters on a list of protected species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
One-third of bees are at risk of extinction, thereby threatening local ecosystems and our entire web of life. Leveraging research, lobbying, organizing and canvassing, we called on governors and state lawmakers to restrict bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides. As a result, 10 states now have limits on these pesticides, and 1 in 4 Americans lives in a state with such a law.
Thanks to our campaigning, the Department of Transportation launched the Wildlife Crossings Pilot Project, which will provide $350 million in grants over five years to states and communities. The funds will be used to construct wildlife road crossings to prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve habitat connectivity.
Historic clean water victory and other progress
Following years of campaigning by Environment America, our allies and community groups, the EPA issued a landmark rule setting a national 10-year deadline for the replacement of lead piping. Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund have been urging the EPA to stop lead contamination since they launched their joint Get the Lead Out campaign in 2017. Leading up to the EPA’s announcement, the groups also published significant research, including a report evaluating state policies on the matter and a map displaying lead contamination at schools.
Environment Michigan joined a broad coalition to pass bipartisan legislation in the Michigan Legislature to prevent lead contamination of water in schools and child care facilities. By requiring installation of water stations with filters certified to remove lead, the new legislation gives Michigan the strongest policy in the nation, according to Environment America Research & Policy Center’s Get The Lead Out report, which grades all 50 states’ laws on the matter.
Environment Texas convinced the Houston school district to spend $6 million on water fountain filters to protect kids from lead in drinking water.
PennEnvironment and Three Rivers Waterkeeper filed a federal lawsuit against BVPV Styrenics LLC and its parent company, Styropek USA, Inc., for alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act involving illegal discharges of plastics from their plastic manufacturing facility near Pittsburgh.
An important year for electric vehicles
The federal Inflation Reduction Act included incentives for electric vehicle adoption, leading to increased support for EVs across the country.
In addition, a substantial increase in EPA funding for electric school buses (ESBs) means that five and a half million students across the country now attend school in districts that have electric school buses on the road, rather than having to rely on buses that are making them sick from diesel exhaust fumes.
New Jersey, Colorado, and New Mexico all adopted clean car targets, committing to ensuring that at least 80% of vehicles on lots in those states are electric by 2032. CoPIRG and Environment New Jersey did significant organizing work in support of the rules in their respective states.
California hit the milestone of 1.5 million clean cars two years ahead of schedule and more than one quarter of new car sales there are now zero emission. Environment California helped secure $2 billion to fund EV charging stations and defended $10 billion in zero emission vehicle funding in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s climate budget. Environment California’s partner group CALPIRG also campaigned to ensure the passing of a new state law that will transition California’s school buses to an 100% electric fleet.
In Virginia, we defended climate progress by protecting Virginia’s 100% Clean Energy bill and Clean Cars program from rollback attempts in the state legislature.