Good as news: positive environmental stories you may have missed

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Josh Chetwynd

Environment America

The Public Interest Network’s Environment America and PIRG work on multiple campaigns to ensure the country’s policies and practices create a cleaner, safer, better world for all of us. This weekly newsletter highlights recent good news on the environmental front — both from the work we do and elsewhere. If you have suggestions or comments, please email Arielle Ostry ([email protected]) or Josh Chetwynd ([email protected]). 

A victory for nature’s best pollinators in the Pine Tree State

Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed LD 155 into law after it passed through the Maine Legislature with bipartisan support. The new law implements the strongest statewide restriction in the United States on the use of neonicotinoids (or neonics), which are pervasive, bee-killing pesticides that can contaminate the soil and groundwater long after they are initially applied. 

Scientific evidence has linked the use of neonics to the decline of healthy bee colonies in recent years. This development not only threatens honeybees but also the 270 bee species native to the state of Maine. This law, which completely bans the use of neonics in residential landscapes, is a reflection of the staunch grassroots support Environment Maine’s Save the Bees campaign has managed to activate. In the lead up to the bill’s passage, Environment Maine collected more than 10,500 signatures, urging lawmakers to protect the bees. Now, even licensed applicators, such as landscapers and pest control specialists, are included in this ban. 

“Thousands of Mainers have voiced their support for a ban on these bee-killing pesticides, and the governor clearly took that to heart,” said Anya Fetcher, Environment Maine state director. “We applaud Gov. Mills and Rep. Nicole Grohoski, who led the charge in the legislature. We are also grateful to all the cosponsors for doing the work necessary to protect Maine’s bees and other pollinators.”

Colorado’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Act headed to the governor’s desk 

A plastic bill that takes aim at some of the most harmful forms of plastic pollution, including plastic bags and foam cups and containers, passed through the Colorado State Legislature on June 8. Now for the first time, a non-coastal state has made the move to phase out single-use plastic products.

Once signed into law, the bill will also remove restrictions on local governments, allowing them to enact stricter policies to curb plastic waste and its impact on wildlife.

“This bill provides an example for preventing single-use plastic pollution,” said U.S. PIRG’s Zero Waste Campaign Director Alex Truelove. “Not only does it effectively target some of the most unnecessary and wasteful products such as shopping bags and foam containers, but it also gives power back to municipalities to take local action.” 

TC Energy cancels Keystone XL pipeline 

The developer of the Keystone XL pipeline announced the official cancellation of this project this month. The decision came after the Biden administration revoked permits for the pipeline in January. Keystone XL would have run from tar sands in Canada,through Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska as well as across two major rivers. Tar sands are one of the dirtiest sources of oil on the planet. 

The pipeline’s construction and eventual usage would have disrupted fragile ecosystems and contributed to millions of tons of additional planet-warming carbon emissions. The project would have also introduced the risk of potentially devastating oil spills. In 2019, an earlier phase of the Keystone pipeline system caused a spill that dumped almost 400,000 gallons of crude oil into a North Dakotan wetland. 

“As the United States moves closer to a clean energy future, the writing is on the wall for dirty energy like tar sands oil,” said Ellen Montgomery, the public lands director for Environment America. “By stopping these projects and inevitable spills that come with them, we ensure more clean water and safer areas for species like whooping cranes to flourish.”

What else we’re celebrating:

  • Restoring protections to the Tongass: The Department of Agriculture proposed to “repeal or replace” the Trump administration’s rollback of protections for the Tongass National Forest. This development suggests that safeguards previously in place to keep this forest wild will be restored. The Tongass is a critical habitat for local wildlife and also serves as a natural buffer for climate change by absorbing and storing carbon emissions. You can catch a glimpse of the wild beauty of the Tongass by checking out our Journey Through the Tongass virtual tour.

  • Defending solar in sunny California: AB1139, a bill which would have dramatically undercut solar progress in the state of California, failed to make it off the California Assembly floor this month. Thousands of Californians called their legislators, urging them to vote no on the bill, which threatened a pro-solar policy called net metering. Net metering is used in many states as a way to fairly compensate solar panel owners for the excess energy they contribute to the electric grid.  

  • Target commits to reduce their use of plastic packaging: Target announced a new goal to reduce their use of virgin plastic 20 percent by 2025. Similar commitments have been made by companies like Coca-Cola and Walmart. Promises like these mark a significant step forward in protecting ocean wildlife and ensuring our wild places stay as clean and plastic-free as possible. 

  • Gray wolf pups return to Colorado: For the first time in 80 years, a family of gray wolves have been spotted living north of Denver, Colo. The species was completely eradicated from the state in the 1940s, but this new litter of wolf pups is a positive indicator that efforts to restore Colorado’s gray wolf population may turn out to be successful.

Looking for even more uplifting environmental content?

Environment America Research & Policy Center released a new report this month with Frontier Group on the capacity of the U.S. to power itself with clean, renewable energy sources. The study found that we have more than enough renewable power potential to transform our energy system. In fact we could meet our 2020 electricity demand 78 times over with solar and 11 times over with wind. You can check out the “We Have the Power” report for more highlights.  


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.