DENVER -- After a 2021 full of environmental victories, Environment America, the national network of 29 state organizations, has a slate of priorities ready for the new year that will ensure more renewable energy, zero carbon climate solutions, conservation, clean water and zero waste progress at the federal and state levels.
“From a ninth state committing to 100% renewable energy to new meaningful national conservation and clean transportation policies, 2021 was a great year of change – but 2022 needs to be even better,” said Environment America President Wendy Wendlandt. “Our national and state advocates know that the challenges facing our planet continue to mount and that, no matter the victories, we must press forward until our air and water is clean, our energy is renewable, our climate safe, and our wild lands and the animals who inhabit them are fully protected. We look forward to working toward those goals in the coming year.”
Here is a roundup of some of the other top issues that Environment America and its 29 state organizations will be working on across the country in 2022:
Dan Jacobson, Senior Advisor for Environment California, rallying to save rooftop solar. Photo credit: staff.
Environment America will continue its longstanding campaign to get states, cities, corporations and academic institutions to commit to powering all their operations with 100% renewable energy. We will continue our work on solar, which means pressing for expanded general solar goals, encouraging rooftop installation and defending pro-solar policies. We will also remain focused on offshore wind efforts. In addition, national advocates will increase their work on energy storage by asking states to set energy goals.
In addition, Environment America will continue to advocate for cutting energy waste by making our appliances and buildings more efficient. To that end, we will work to accelerate the adoption of electric heating, cooling and cooking technologies in buildings and will defend communities’ freedom to choose clean energy.
At the federal level, the Build Back Better Act provides substantial tax incentives for wind and solar energy, clean transportation and energy efficiency.
At the state level, Environment California will work to protect solar incentive programs – as well as push to increase the use of solar panels on public roofs – from schools to fire stations – and make access to solar easier through programs like the free SolarAPP+. In addition, the group will push for the implementation of a million solar batteries to match the group’s previously successful campaign to build more than a million solar roofs.
Environment Georgia, Environment Massachusetts, Environment North Carolina, Environment New Jersey, Environment VIrginia and Wisconsin Environment will all be calling on their states to commit to 100% clean renewable energy. In addition, Environment Georgia will advocate for fair compensation for using solar generation, and work to get the state to join the Atlantic offshore wind task force in order to increase its participation in utilizing this renewable energy. Environment Massachusetts will work to get the state to require all large buildings to replace fossil fuel heating with clean alternatives that meet efficiency standards — including in office buildings, apartment buildings, hospitals and university campuses.
In North Carolina, advocates will also call for policies that increase solar storage and amplify efficient and gas-free homes. In Virginia, we will push the commonwealth to not only emerge as a national offshore wind leader but also embrace clean building codes that make where we work and live all-electric.
New Jersey organizers will press the state to codify its goal for 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind off the Jersey Shore by 2035 through legislation; to expand community solar projects; to adopt policies to turbocharge green financing for commercial projects to finance clean energy improvements; and to oppose legislation to ban state electrification mandates in the building sector. Wisconsin Environment will seek opportunities for households and major energy users to adopt renewables and energy storage. The Wisconsin group will also look to advance solar and wind energy incentives at the state and local level and develop solar farms to generate renewable energy in a responsible way.
Along with calling for more incentives for solar energy and an emphasis on making buildings all-electric, Environment Illinois will advocate for improved appliance efficiency standards and a transition from a gas infrastructure to renewable energy sources. Environment Maine will engage the public and stakeholders in the process of creating Maine’s Offshore Wind Roadmap (to be finalized and released December 2022). Environment Missouri will work for an increase in the state’s renewable energy standard from just 15% in 2021 to at least 50% in 2035. Other policies in Missouri include: incentives for expanding community rooftop solar; a banning of new gas infrastructure; and the construction of the Grain Belt Express, an 800-mile transmission line delivering abundant wind energy from Kansas, across Missouri, in order to assist in the renewable energy standard goals.
Environment Washington will also be working toward clean, all-electric buildings and community solar. Environment Texas will work to protect renewable energy from discriminatory fees as state regulators redesign the electric market in the wake of the February blackouts. The group will also advocate to get Texas cities in the deregulated electric market to offer a public option for 100% renewable energy for their residents, and will support the development of offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico (in particular, when the U.S. Department of the Interior begins offering leasing at the end of 2022).
Environment America staff fighting to protect the Arctic. Photo credit: staff.
Protecting our wild spaces and a cross-section of species is high on Environment America’s agenda. This includes: Getting the federal government to finalize protections for the Tongass National Forest; continuing to move the tissue products market away from virgin wood toward such alternatives as recycled paper, bamboo and wheat straw (that includes particular focus on the likes of Costco and Procter & Gamble); ending oil leasing in the Arctic Refuge (as well as ending offshore drilling along the United States’ contiguous 48 coast); permanently protecting land surrounding the Grand Canyon and Chaco Canyon; safeguarding Alaska’s Bristol Bay from copper mining; and ending dangerous old-school lobster and fishing practices in New England Right whale ocean habitats.
The new year will also see new campaigns, including an effort to save mature trees in all natural forests as well as fresh efforts to expand ocean monuments and sanctuaries, where appropriate, off our coasts.
State partners will lean in on a number of nationwide priorities. For example, efforts to protect indispensable pollinators, in particular bees, will occur in such states as California, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin. Policies will vary by state, but banning bee-killing pesticides like neonicotinoids and chlorpyrifos for both agricultural and nonagricultural uses is a key in most places.
Erecting wildlife corridors that reconnect fragile species is also imperative. Environment California, Environment North Carolina, Environment Virginia and Environment Washington are among the groups that will be working on that issue.
There are also a number of state-specific priorities. For instance, Environment Maine will work to protect Frenchman Bay and Acadia National Park by stopping the development of a massive industrial salmon farm and pass legislation (LD 736) to expand and enhance Maine’s ecological reserve system to protect additional ecosystems and wildlife habitat. Environment Georgia will advocate to preserve the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge from a proposed titanium mine close to the southeastern corner of the swamp.
In New Jersey, some specific plans include: ensuring constitutionally dedicated funds for open space increase; watchdogging state funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and the National Park Service to protect our natural lands and state and national parks; and pressing for the federal designation of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreational Area as the state’s first national park. Environment Oregon will be working to reintroduce sea otters to the state after years of environmental degradation forced them out, and Environment Texas will press to get candidates for Texas governor to support the creation of one million additional acres of state parks.
Among its many conservation priorities, Environment Virginia will continue to call on protections for the Chesapeake Bay, while Environment Washington will press for the removal of dams along the Snake River as part of a statewide effort to promote salmon restoration and the elimination of pollution in the Salish region.
Environment America works to eliminate threats from fossil fuels and mining, industrial pollution, urban and agricultural runoff, and sewage systems. Photo credits: (from left) ILoveMountains.org/CC BY 2.0, Public Domain, Public Domain, Kate Boicourt / Integration and Application Network, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
With the Clean Water Act celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2022, Environment America will spearhead a massive education effort to build public awareness and support for this bedrock environmental law. Our successful Get the Lead Out campaign will continue to press forward. At the federal level, the Environmental Protection Agency will be updating the Lead & Copper Rule, and we will call on the agency to require replacement of lead service lines within 10 years (with narrow exceptions for cities like Chicago to demonstrate they cannot meet that deadline).
State partners will also work on this issue. For example, Environment Georgia will advocate for the state to use funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and other federal sources to immediately start addressing this threat by replacing lead service lines, especially near child care centers and schools. This can be done by replacing fountains with filtered water bottle stations, and installing filters certified to remove lead at all other taps used for cooking and drinking. Similar efforts will take place in Illinois, where Environment Illinois found in 2018 that 78% of suburban Cook County schools detected lead in their water. Additional locales where advocates will push for policies to get rid of lead in our water system – particularly in schools – include Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
Other clean water priorities include pressing state and local officials to use new federal infrastructure funding to adopt stronger local policies to make waterways safe for swimming – from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to Austin, Texas. Enhancing factory farm pollution regulations will be on the agenda in Illinois and Wisconsin. Environment New Jersey is placing the implementation of a comprehensive clean-up plan for Barnegat Bay among its priorities and Environment Georgia will work to protect communities from the toxins in coal ash by ensuring that all coal ash is stored away from waterways in dry, lined and capped facilities.
Morgan Folger, Environment America's Destination: Zero Carbon Campaign Director, working to electrify New Jersey transit. Photo credit: staff.
Destination: Zero Carbon
With transportation continuing to be the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., reimagining our transportation system with a clean renewable roadmap remains high on Environment America’s to-do list.
At the federal level, we will press for the next generation of clean car standards for model years 2027 and beyond to continue the trend toward stronger regulations in order to put us on the path to 100% EV sales by 2035 or sooner. Also, we will press for greater federal incentives for EV purchases and, as part of our Charge Across America campaign, we're supporting the Green Spaces, Green Vehicles Act to bring electric vehicle charging to national parks and forests.
In the states, Environment California will press for a commitment to build a network of a million electric vehicle charging stations statewide, and will support expanding such local programs as Clean Cars 4 All, which works to take the dirtiest cars off the roads, throughout California. Environment Georgia will advocate for tax credits for new EV owners and a removal of fees levied on EV owners. The group will also work to increase state support for mass transit and greater autonomy for counties to determine their own transit futures.
A number of our groups, including Environment Illinois, Environment Maine, Environment New Jersey, Environment Oregon, Environment Texas, Environment Virginia and Environment Washington will focus on increasing fleets of electric school buses. Improving EV charging infrastructure will be on the agenda for a number of these groups as well.
Beyond that, our Maine group will push for the Pine Tree State to adopt the Advanced Clean Truck rule as well as pass legislation (LD 1579) to establish targets and timetables for the state, counties and municipalities to transition to zero-emission light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicle fleets. Environment Missouri will work to remove alternative fuel decal requirements for electric vehicles. In New Jersey, goals include fully funding consumer rebates at the point of EV purchase of up to $5,000; implementing NJ Transit electric bus pilot programs across the state (including in Camden and Newark); and instituting advanced clean truck regulations.
PennEnvironment will push for the Keystone State to join the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) portion of the CA clean cars program. In Texas, Environment Texas will also work to get Austin and other cities to require new buildings be EV-ready. In addition, our Texas group will press to stop the expansion of I-35 through Austin. In Virginia, that will include advocating for the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), and, in Wisconsin, efforts will be made to increase the state’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) by $10 million per biennium.
Environment America staff rallying to ban single-use polystyrene in Colorado. Photo credit: staff.
Stamping out waste to protect not only people but also animals and our wild spaces is a longstanding goal for Environment America. Holding producers responsible for the cost of managing and cleaning up their wasteful packaging and products is a key part of that effort. Campaigns will occur in Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia and Washington, among other states.
We'll continue to both advance bans on single-use plastics and protect against preemptive statewide efforts to stop them. Action will take place on this issue in such states as California, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Advocates will also work to prevent chemical incineration and plastic-to-fuel conversion (wrongly called chemical or advanced "recycling"). This will happen at the state level, by opposing the permitting and building of these facilities – for example, stopping the construction of the Brightmark facility in Macon, Georgia. And, at the federal level, by urging the EPA to set rules to cover this currently unregulated and dangerous technology. We're also working with federal legislators to advance important bills, including banning the sale of polluting single-use plastics in national parks, and the strongest bill in U.S. history to reduce plastic waste, the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act.