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

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 weekly newsletter will highlight recent good news on the environmental front. If you have suggestions or comments, please email Ian Corbet (ian.corbet@publicinterestnetwork.org) or Josh Chetwynd (josh.chetwynd@publicinterestnetwork.org). 

President-elect Biden is building a powerhouse environmental leadership team

President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate a powerhouse slate of environmental leaders to key positions in his administration. Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is set to join the Biden cabinet as the next Secretary of Energy. Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg will reportedly be the nominee to head the Department of Transportation. U.S. Rep. Deb Halaand was announced to take over as Secretary of the Interior and Michael Regan will be nominated to head the Environmental Protection Agency. In addition, former Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy is expected to serve as the White House advisor on climate, overseeing domestic efforts to combat climate change.

“With these picks, President-elect Biden is acting on his campaign promise to prioritize climate action,” said Environment America’s acting President Wendy Wendlandt. “All three bring a wealth of experience and qualifications to help the Biden administration resolve climate issues through shifts in clean energy and transportation policy. Each is demonstrably committed to building a cleaner, healthier future for all Americans -- all of which is necessary to create smart, comprehensive and durable solutions. We look forward to collaborating with the Biden administration on clean transportation, a rapid transition to renewable energy, and cutting carbon pollution as quickly as possible -- and once again making protection of the environment and public health a top priority.” 

Electric vehicle rebates extremely successful in New Jersey program

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) announced that it was ending Phase One of the state’s electric vehicle (EV) rebate program, citing the program’s success as the reason for its early completion. The NJBPU had $30 million available for rebates, and the program is on track to allocate all those funds, which will lead to about 6,000 new EVs on New Jersey roads. The EV rebate program was created by the omnibus EV legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in January. It provides up to $5,000 in rebates to anyone who buys or leases a new electric vehicle in New Jersey.

“The EV rebate program has clearly been a huge success, even during the pandemic, and we are thrilled to see the growing demand for these vehicles in New Jersey,” says Hayley Berliner, Clean Energy associate at Environment New Jersey. “This program was designed to spur EV demand and increase the number of electric cars on the road, and it’s done precisely that. Nevertheless, this must be just a start.To meet the state mandate of 330,000 EVs by 2025 and expand our electric vehicle charging infrastructure, more work is necessary. That said, we want to thank NJBPU President Joseph Fiordaliso and the staff at NJBPU for creating and implementing a successful EV rebate program amidst a pandemic.”

All major U.S. and Canadian banks rule out drilling in Arctic Refuge

With an announcement this week, Scotiabank joins a growing list of financial institutions that have committed to not finance oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. With Scotiabank’s statement, every major bank in Canada and the U.S. has now ruled out providing financial assistance to companies and projects that plan to drill in the refuge. The Arctic Refuge, an incredible coastal ecosystem that is home to polar bears, caribou and muskoxen, is currently being threatened by an attempt by the Trump administration to allow drilling in the area.

"The big banks understand that Arctic drilling is a bad idea,” said Environment America’s Public Lands Campaign Director Len Montgomery. “With renewable energy on the rise, we should be reducing drilling. This is a big win for polar bears, caribou and all the wildlife that call the refuge home."

What else we’re celebrating:

  • Honolulu unveils first electric bus: Hawaii’s capital city unveiled its first all-electric city bus to the public this past week. The vehicle is the first in what is planned to be a large fleet of electric buses serving the Honolulu area. The bus will start operations in a few weeks and, in the coming months, the city plans to bring more of these vehicles online, along with building up the area’s charging infrastructure.

  • New species discovered: Scientists have published research from an expedition into the wild cloud forests of Bolivia. The exciting findings include descriptions of 20 newly discovered species and the rediscovery of some species thought extinct, including the return of a butterfly that hadn’t been recorded for nearly 100 years. The expedition, which lasted two weeks deep in the forests surrounding the Andes Mountains, revealed unique frog and snake species as well as a variety of new plant species living in the incredible ecosystem.

  • Georgia town unveils solar roadway: Peachtree Corners in Georgia unveiled a “solar roadway” system. This system features solar panels embedded in the road that generate power to operate electric vehicle charging stations in the town. This model of the solar roadway is being tested in cities around the world and the one in Peachtree Corners is the first example on a U.S. public roadway utilizing the system. Along with the roadway’s announcement, the city also unveiled a new fast-charging EV hub that greatly expands the city’s electric vehicle charging capabilities.

  • 100 percent of new U.S. power capacity in October came from renewables: Amidst a strong year for wind and solar, a new report found that clean renewable energy technologies accounted for all of America’s added power capacity to the electrical grid in October. The majority came from wind power and about one-third came from large and small scale solar panels. The news shows renewable energy’s promise for the U.S. power grid. 

Looking for even more uplifting environmental content?

Environment America is counting down the days to 2021 with our 31 Days for the Environment project. Celebrate the holidays and count down to the new year with these fun environmental activities you can do at home!

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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.