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

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. 

Emma Searson

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 ([email protected]) or Josh Chetwynd ([email protected]). 


Pittsburgh plans for lead-free pipes and electric buses:

The city of Pittsburgh, Pa., recently committed to removing residential water service lines containing lead by 2026. As part of a legal settlement approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) will now be tasked with coming up with a plan to replace thousands of lead drinking water pipes throughout the city.

Lead exposure is known to be harmful, especially to children’s health. Lead service lines are the biggest single source of lead contamination in water for the homes they supply. “Pittsburgh’s commitment to removing these toxic pipes is a critical step to ensuring safe drinking water for all residents, especially children,” said Environment America’s Clean Water Program Director John Rumpler.

In other good news for the area, the Port Authority of Allegheny County (of which Pittsburgh is the county seat) put two electric buses on the road Monday. These are the first two electric-powered buses to join its fleet. Electric buses offer an emission- and exhaust-free alternative to fossil-fuel models that can help protect public health and the environment. 

Ann Arbor unveils plan for 100 percent renewable energy, carbon neutrality:

On Monday, Ann Arbor, Mich., unveiled a new plan for achieving the city’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2030. The blueprint includes strategies for procuring 100 percent renewable electricity, electrifying buildings and transportation, and improving energy efficiency practices. City leaders have called the plan “audacious, ambitious and inspirational.”

Ann Arbor is one of more than 160 cities across the United States that have committed to transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy or electricity.  Most recently, the Savannah, Ga., City Council voted unanimously to adopt a community-wide goal of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 last week.  

“Even with the extraordinary challenges we currently face, cities across the country are continuing to aim for a cleaner, healthier future powered entirely by renewable energy sources like the sun and wind,” said Ben Sonnega, Environment America’s Cities Go Solar campaign associate. “Clear, ambitious plans like Ann Arbor’s will ensure that progress continues both tomorrow and in the months and years ahead.” 

Penn. Gov. Tom Wolf vetoes tax breaks for fracking, single-use plastics: 

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill (HB 1100) last Friday that would have given the fracking and petrochemical industries a massive tax break. If upheld by the legislature, his veto will prevent a revenue loss of more than $660 million for the commonwealth and protect funding for important statewide priorities such as environmental protection, public health and education. 

In a statement, PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur applauded Gov. Wolf for striking the bill down. “With all the important challenges facing the commonwealth today, giving massive tax breaks to companies with both deep pockets and long-standing legacies of pollution is outrageous,” Masur said. “Rather than give huge handouts to those who make climate change worse and increase plastic pollution, elected officials should be working to solve those serious problems.”

Oceans can be successfully restored by 2050: 

The world’s oceans are resilient enough to be successfully restored by 2050 with aggressive climate and conservation measures, according to a scientific review published in the journal Nature on Wednesday. The study concludes that “substantial rebuilding across many components of marine life by 2050 is an achievable Grand Challenge for science and society.” 

“We know that when we take action to protect our oceans, nature comes back,” said Kelsey Lamp, Environment America’s oceans advocate. “We have the tools we need to restore our oceans — from managing fisheries to protecting endangered species like whales — and where we’ve used them, they have proven effective. Now, it’s up to us to make sure we implement these tools at scale so that future generations can enjoy the sight of whales breaching and manatees munching on seagrass.” 


What else we’re celebrating:

  • Renewables continue to set records: For the first time ever, more electricity was generated from renewable energy sources than from coal for an entire quarter in the U.S. The first quarter of 2020 was a milestone for renewables, according to a new report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). 

  • The last coal-fired power plant in New York closes its doors: Located north of Buffalo, N.Y., the 675-megawatt coal-fired Somerset power plant officially retired on March 31. Its close marks the end of coal-fired power plants in the state.

  • CALPIRG Students recognized for climate leadership: CALPIRG Students, who led eight University of California campuses to win a UC-wide commitment to 100 percent renewable energy by 2025, won the American Climate Leadership Award during a recent virtual ceremony. 

Looking for even more uplifting environmental content?

Environment America just launched a new 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.


Emma Searson

Find Out More