2019 year in review: environmental highlights

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON -- Advocates for environmental issues made great strides in 2019, while simultaneously defending existing policies that protect Americans from regressive changes by the federal government and unsustainable corporate practices.

“Too many of the federal regulations that keep our water, air and bodies clean and healthy came under attack in 2019,” said Andre Delattre, the senior vice president and chief operating officer of The Public Interest Network, a transpartisan national advocacy group. “Whether in the Capitol, courts or corporate boardrooms, we have never had more urgency about the need to protect the public interest.”

Despite challenges and setbacks, we have been able to accomplish a great deal this past year. Here is a list of 2019 highlights at the national level from one of The Public Interest Network’s two largest groups, Environment America.

Clean cars lawsuits to protect our climate. 

The Trump administration’s attempt to revoke California’s ability to set its own tough tailpipe emissions standards wasn’t just reckless. It was also illegal, according to two lawsuits filed by Environment America. We joined 10 other organizations in filing suits in federal district court, where we’re defending states’ ability to do all they can under the law to combat climate change.

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) permanently reauthorized

By a big bipartisan majority, Congress voted to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, America’s most successful conservation and recreation program. Environment America had lobbied to save the program ever since it was allowed to expire in 2017. Now that we know the program’s future, as 2019 comes to a close, we’re calling on Congress to allocate the maximum amount to the chronically underfunded program.

Offshore drilling

We won two votes on the House floor to prevent the expansion of oil and gas drilling off our coasts. HR205 from Rep. Francis Rooney (FL) would make a moratorium on oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico permanent. HR1941 from Rep. Joe Cunningham (SC) would block new drilling efforts off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

The Paris Agreement isn’t dead yet… and we’re working on a Plan B

While President Donald Trump says he’ll remove the United States from the multinational Paris climate accords, we’ve worked with Congress to ensure that Americans do whatever we can to keep mitigating the climate crisis. The first climate bill in a decade passed in the House of Representatives. HR9, the Climate Action Now Act sponsored by Rep. Kathy Castor (FL), would keep the United States in the Paris Agreement. It would defund any effort to withdraw and require the Trump administration to submit a plan to meet the U.S. commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2032. 

Rep. Don McEachin (VA) also introduced the 100% Clean Economy Act of 2019, legislation to empower all federal agencies to do everything in their power to put the U.S. on a path to net zero emissions by 2050. A companion Senate bill is expected in 2020.

PFAS -- the “forever chemicals”

As 2019 comes to a close, we are gratified that Congress heeded our call and compelled the military to phase out its use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) by 2024. These toxic, carcinogenic chemicals contaminate drinking water sources across the United States. The military has been one of the largest contributors to this widespread drinking water contamination due to its use of toxic firefighting foams; the Pentagon’s adoption of safer alternatives will significantly limit pollution going forward. While we had hoped for stronger action to spur cleanup and limit dumping into waterways, we remain hopeful that Congress will pass into law provisions that would utilize the Superfund program and Clean Water Act, respectively.

 

Click here for 2019 highlights from Environment America's state affiliates, and click here to see the 2020 agenda for Environment America's state affiliates.