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

For Immediate Release.

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 monthly newsletter highlights recent good news on the environmental front. If you have suggestions or comments, please email Josh Chetwynd (josh.chetwynd@publicinterestnetwork.org).

Virginia State Senate passes vital clean cars rule

The Virginia Senate voted to establish advanced clean car standards in the state. The bill, HB 1965, creates a low-emission vehicle (LEV) and zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) program. The LEV rule will strengthen regulations on tailpipe emissions for newly sold vehicles in an effort to reduce air pollution. The ZEV program works to ensure more electric vehicles are manufactured and sold in Virginia. Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to sign the bill into law. Once he does, Virginia will join 12 other states and Washington, D.C. in adopting LEV and ZEV rules. Currently, Minnesota, New Mexico and Nevada are also considering implementing clean car programs.

“The Virginia Senate’s vote to adopt the Advanced Clean Cars Program is a huge climate achievement,” Elly Boehmer, director of Environment Virginia, said. “Last year, Virginia became the seventh state to commit to 100 percent clean energy with the passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act. The Virginia General Assembly is now doubling down on this achievement. It’s a vote that solidifies Virginia’s role as a climate leader both in the South and beyond. Virginia is now just the fifth state in the nation to establish Low Emission Vehicle and Zero Emission Vehicle mandates as well as codifying a commitment to 100 percent clean energy. That’s leadership.”

U.S. officially rejoins the international Paris Agreement

The United States officially rejoined the international Paris Agreement. The act brings America back into a key accord aimed at reducing planet-warming emissions. Environment America had called on President Joe Biden to prioritize rejoining the Paris Agreement on his first day in office in the "First Things to Fix" report. The report presented 20 actions for the Biden administration to undertake in early days of office to undo the Trump administration’s rollbacks of environmental laws and protections.

“With this commitment, our country can reclaim a leadership role in addressing one of the most daunting challenges of our time,” Andrea McGimsey, senior director for Environment America’s Global Warming Solutions campaign, said. “For the past four years, states like Virginia and New Mexico have led on climate action with strong commitments to 100 percent clean energy, but the federal government was missing in action. We now look forward to a rigorous and inspiring coordinated national effort for climate solutions.” 

Biden administration restores key outdoors program

The Interior Department took corrective action to fix last-minute Trump-era changes to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). In a parting shot, the Trump administration had created procedural hurdles to gum up and undermine the Great American Outdoors Act, which was enacted by Congress and signed by the former president last year to put a lock and key on money intended for conservation projects.  

"The last administration appropriately celebrated when the Great American Outdoors Act was passed, but then proceeded to blow up the victory on their way out the door,” Environment America Conservation Advocate Alex Petersen. “This new action by the Biden administration restores the program. We’re thrilled to see the new administration fix this problem. Americans love the great outdoors and there’s nothing more American than conserving the natural wonders that surround us all.”

What else we’re celebrating:

  • Delaware River watershed protected from fracking: After 11 years of raging debate and public discourse, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) permanently banned fracking throughout the Delaware River watershed, affecting four states and water supplies for millions.

  • Big EV school bus boost in Maryland: Montgomery County’s school board voted to invest in replacing its 1,400 fossil-fuel powered school buses with electric vehicles. This is the largest single-district project in the country aimed at making this conversion, which is expected to be completed by 2035.

  • Texas regulators to decrease routine flaring: Citing concerns about the waste of Texas’ natural resources, the Railroad Commission of Texas, which regulates Texas' oil and gas industry, announced support for ending or reducing routine flaring. While the commission’s public discussion on this issue neglected to mention the practice’s environmental and climate implications, following through on this commitment would mean a healthier climate and environment. 

Looking for even more uplifting environmental content?

Environment America also has 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. 

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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.