Environment America To The EPA: "We Need To Go Straight To Renewables"

"Environmental groups dominated a series of public meetings last week on the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to impose carbon-cutting rules on states if they refuse to enact them voluntarily...

"Groups such as Environment America and the Natural Resources Defense Council want the EPA to push ahead on wind and solar energy and not waste time waiting for the coal industry to catch up with cleaner technology or by switching to natural gas.

"'We have neither the time nor the need to transition slowly from coal to gas,' said Margie Alt, the head of Environment America at Thursday's public session in Washington. 'We need to use this opportunity to leapfrog straight to efficiency and renewables.'"

- An excerpt from the Washington Examiner, read the full story here

Trouble In Toyland Report Released

For 30 years, U.S. PIRG Education Fund has conducted an annual survey of toy safety, which has led to more than 150 recalls and other regulatory actions over the years, and has helped educate the public and policymakers on the need for continued action to protect the health and wellbeing of children.

2015 marks our 30th release of the Trouble in Toyland report, which highlights 22 potentially hazardous toys and includes tips for keeping children safe from the toys you already own.

Stand-up events and interviews were held by our staff coast-to-coast Tuesday, as we released our report.

ConnPIRG Defends State Election Public Financing Project

Thanks in part to ConnPIRG Director Evan Preston and his team's quick organizing, the Connecticut Legislature backed down on a proposal to eliminate funding for the state's public financing program for the 2016 elections.

On Monday Nov. 16, a local newspaper indicated that House democrats were planning to eliminate funding for the state's public financing program for the 2016 elections. The program itself costs just $11.7 million, and is one of the only such programs in the country, helping strong (but not wealthy) candidates run for office since its inception. ConnPIRG instantly sprung into action, organizing ConnPIRG Students leaders and democracy campaign volunteers to phone target legislators' offices, making phone calls, circulating a news release to the media, and began planning a news conference to call attention to the issue. 

From this work and that of others, the issue was highlighted in the media, over 100 people made calls into their legislators' offices, and, on Thursday, right when Preston was poised to deliver his statement at a news conference in the State House, he got word that both the House and Senate leadership had backed down. 

850,000 Americans Call For Dark Money Disclosure

PIRG, with our coalition of 57 other organizations, delivered 850,000 petitions to the White House, calling for President Obama to take action against Citizens United before he leaves office. More than 30,000 of the petitions came from PIRG members and supporters. We also helped generate more than 3,500 calls into the White House. 

The petitions call for the president to require federal contracters to disclose their secret political spending.

“Right now, when a corporation gets taxpayer money through a contract with the federal government, they don't have to tell us anything about their political spending,” said Dan Smith, democracy campaign director for U.S. PIRG. “That’s bad for taxpayers, bad for voters, and bad for our democracy. Americans across the country want our elected officials to take a stand against secret-money politics, and President Obama could do that with the stroke of a pen. Today’s petition delivery brought over 850,000 Americans together with a single message: It’s time for executive action to fight big money in politics.”

U.S. Senate Votes To Block Clean Power Plan

The U.S. Senate adopted the first of two resolutions to reverse the Clean Power Plan, the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants and the centerpiece of President Obama’s plan to tackle climate change. The president has promised to veto the resolution by Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.), which blocks the limits on existing plants that are projected to save thousands of lives and hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks. A separate Senate measure to block rules on new power plants is also anticipated this week.

Anna Aurilio, global warming solutions director for Environment America, issued this statement:
“The American people support climate action and cleaner air, and that’s why they support carbon pollution limits on power plants by wide margins. By voting to reverse the Clean Power Plan, the Senate is siding with big polluters and climate deniers instead of our kids’ health and a safer climate.

“The Clean Power Plan is the biggest action the U.S. has ever taken on climate, and it is already helping us lead the world toward a strong international agreement to slash greenhouse gas emissions. Rather than take us backwards, we need politicians to propel us forward on the course charted by the Clean Power Plan, one which ends with deep cuts in pollution and 100 percent clean, renewable energy.”

Green Century Featured In Guardian Article On Divestment

A recent Guardian article on "How to free your investment portfolio from fossil fuels" features Green Century Funds as one of the few fossil-free investment options available to individuals. Leslie Samuelrich, president of Green Century Capitol Management, is quoted in the article. Read the full article here.

Voters In Maine, Seattle Approve Initiatives To Fight Big Money In Elections

On Tuesday, two ballot initiatives in Maine and Seattle passed by referendum, putting both localities at the forefront of a nationwide movement to empower regular voters and reduce the influence of special interests and mega-donors in elections. U.S. PIRG knocked on over 10,000 doors in the lead up to election day, and helped turn out voters for major victories for Maine’s Clean Elections Initiative and Seattle’s Honest Elections Initiative.

“Americans across the political spectrum want action to stop the flood of big money in our elections, and this Tuesday, voters took matters into their own hands,” said Dan Smith, democracy campaign director for U.S. PIRG. “The clean election measures that passed in Maine and Seattle make regular constituents a top priority in our elections, and that’s a major win for voters. Coast-to-coast, these victories are a big step forward in putting average Americans back in control of our democracy.”

Read the full news release here. 

100,000 Californians In Support Of Solar

Together with our allies, Environment California has collected 100,000 postcards signed by Californians across the state in support of solar power and net metering, and will be delivering these to the Public Utilities Commission this week.

These comments of support come as major utility company Southern California Edison submitted a proposal in October that would cripple rooftop solar power by ending net metering and eliminate consumer choice. We're mobilizing Californians to stand up to this proposal and call on the Public Utilities Commission to keep solar going strong in California. 

California Steps Up Its Global Warming Game

Last week, a California bill that will bring more renewables and energy efficiency to the state was signed into law -- thanks in large part to the great advocacy and organizing work of Environment California and our clean energy coalitions. The bill signing was at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.

The same week, California made history when the Legislature passed and Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 185 (De León), a bill that requires California’s public pension funds, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), to divest from holdings in thermal coal.

Jugglers, Snakes And Al Gore: Green Corps Helps Organize Climate Day Of Action

Green Corps organizers helped make the #KnowTomorrow Day of Action a success last week. More than 3,850 students attended the day of action and more than 4,500 students signed petitions, took to social media, or posed for photo petitions. The events included jugglers, snakes, trivia competitions and speakers, including Al Gore, who spoke at an event at Stanford.

The Know Tomorrow Day of Action was a nationwide effort on more than 50 university campuses to amplify the voices of thousands of students, activists, politicians, and celebrities who joined together to demand climate action.

Healthy Lawns Bill Passes In Montgomery County, Md.

The Montgomery County Council voted to restrict the cosmetic use of toxic lawn pesticides, protecting public health and our environment. Mounting evidence shows links between exposure to these toxic chemicals and serious chronic diseases like cancer, autism, ADHD, asthma, and a whole host of other illnesses. These toxic chemicals drift, polluting our air, running into our waterways, and tracking into our homes on our shoes and clothing.

Safe Grow Montgomery volunteers built grassroots support to stand up to the chemical industry and Maryland PIRG was proud to join them and support the bill. The council voted 6-3 with Councilmembers Leventhal, Hucker, Riemer, Elrich, Navarro, and Floreen voting yes.

Pilgrim Nuclear may shut down

Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station could be on the way out. For years, the power plant has posed a danger to residents in Massachusetts. Now, after more than 43 years, it may finally be shut down, if officials decide they cannot afford to make repairs on the aging power plant. The plant's safety rating was downgraded in September to the second-to-lowest category, making it one of the least-safe plants in the country. If the needed repairs are not made, the plant will move into the lowest category -- and close.

Dozens of groups in Massachusetts, including MASSPIRG and Toxics Action Center have long fought against nuclear power, and Pilgrim in particular. A report released in April, endorsed by MASSPIRG and Toxics Action Center, shows that Pilgrim pollutes Cape Cod Bay and destroys marine life in the area. Toxics Action Center, along with a broad coalition, has kept up the pressure on Gov. Charlie Baker and state leaders to close the plant and turn to cleaner energy sources. 

Call for an end to Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station now.

Environment New Mexico Wins Fights For Solar Power

This week, Environment New Mexico celebrated a major campaign victory for our Go Solar Campaign.

For months, Environment New Mexico has campaigned against changes proposed by the utility Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM). PNM wanted to change the way rooftop solar customers earn credit for solar energy through net metering, but this week the utility finally backed off and did not propose new net metering changes in its recent filing to the utility commission.

Environment New Mexico's Go Solar campaign team has certainly been busy over the last few months. In early September, Environment New Mexico's Carly Poremba released the group's third Lighting the Way report. The report ranks the top solar-producing states in the country (New Mexico ranked #6). And in late August, Environment New Mexico held a solar celebration picnic with their members and supporters.

With the net-metering policy defended against PNM, Environment New Mexico is now looking to pass a solar goal with the Albuquerque City Council this year.

Updated Report Ranks This Year's Top Solar States

Last Thursday in 20 states, Environment America released the third annual “Lighting the Way” solar report. The report ranks states by solar per capita and solar growth. 

Hawaii, Arizona and Nevada are leading the pack, with more states close behind. Did you state make the cut? Read the full report here to find out.

A diverse group joined us at our report releases across the country, including the governors of Hawaii and Delaware, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, state and local officials, solar business owners, school children, environmental justice advocates and solar energy consumers.

ConnPIRG And Sen. Blumenthal Take On Faulty Car Sales

CarMax is selling unsafe, recalled auto parts in some of their used vehicles in Connecticut, a new report by ConnPIRG and Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety Foundation (CARS) found this week. ConnPIRG joined Sen. Richard Blumenthal and CARS Foundation on Aug. 25 to release "CarMax: Endangering Lives in Connecticut," which documents the extent of the problem posed to consumers and calls for action at the state and federal level to protect the lives of drivers.

70+ Organizers Participate In 3-Day Global Warming Blitz

More than 70 Impact organizers, PIRG fellows and state organizers participated in a three-day blitz to build support for the Clean Power Plan.

Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized the Clean Power Plan -- its proposal to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants 30 percent by 2030. Despite broad public support, polluters and their allies in Congress have been working to block the rule, and Congress can pass bills that stop the EPA from acting.

It is possible that we will see an attack on the Clean Power Plan that will pass both houses and that we will need President Obama to veto. Congress can override a veto with 2/3 majority in both the House and the Senate, which means we can uphold a veto by mustering 34 Senate votes or 146 House votes.

Colorado and Pennsylvania are ground zero in the battle between clean renewable energy and fossil fuels and Sens. Bennet (CO) and Casey (PA) are critical votes on this issue. Senator Bennet has been with us, so we wanted to thank him, and show him all the support in Colorado so that he continues to be a leader. Senator Casey is a swing who is leaning the right way, but who we need to focus on tipping over. 

In Colorado, 49 organizers and 9 trainers collected 507 business sign-ons with 173 secondary actions including posting signs in their window, making an activist call or doing a photo petition, 1,054 handwritten letters, 8 visibility events and 7 media hits, 703 photo petitions, 1,145 activist calls (we filled up his voicemail box in Denver and Grand Junction), and four district meetings.

In Pennsylvania, 11 organizers and two trainers collected 157 business sign-ons, 473 handwritten letters, and 236 petitions. 

Methane Restrictions An Important Band-Aid, But Not A Cure

Last Tuesday, the Obama administration proposed first-ever limits on methane from oil and gas -- the greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide. 

The rule is a major piece of the Obama administrations plan, announced in January, to cut methane pollution 40-45 percent in 10 years.

But of course no amount of methane control can make natural gas a good way to fight global warming. As Environment America's Anna Aurilio said in our news statement: "The best way to limit methane pollution is to limit drilling and fracking."

Environment California Testifies At CA Transportation Conference

On Wednesday, Environment California Clean Energy Advocate Michelle Kinman testified at the Asilomar Transportation Conference to push the state's policies even further to get cleaner cars on the road, clean up our air, and fight global warming. 

The conference was organized by the Energy and Alternative Fuels Committees and the Climate Change Task Force of the U.S. Transportation Research Board, and it was hosted by the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. According to the conference's website, this year’s conference focused on near- and medium-term policy and market strategies, and supporting innovation to reach climate, economic and mobility goals for transportation.

Environment California is also currently working on passing SB 350, a bill that would require the doubling of California's energy efficiency by 2030. This means that California would generate 50% of its energy from clean energy sources by 2040 and cut petroleum use in half by 2030. Just this past week, Environment California has held 53 lobby meetings and has testified in every committee the bill has been heard in.

WashPIRG Gives Textbook Tips

WashPIRG Director Bruce Speight went on KCPQ Fox 13 last week to give college students tips for saving money on textbooks. Watch the full segment here. 

The cost of textbooks has grown more than 80 percent in the past decade, making them one of the biggest expenses for college students. One of the best options for students is open textbooks, which are published under an open license, meaning they're free online, free to download, and affordable in print. 

Change Corps Partners With CoPIRG To Put Pressure On Subway

New Change Corps organizers partnered with CoPIRG this week during their practicum training to put pressure on Subway to stop using meat raised with the routine use of antibiotics.