Updates

Will Your Turkey Be Antibiotic-Free This Thanksgiving?

Pumpkin pie filling? Check. Potatoes? Check. Antibiotic-free Turkey? That's more difficult to answer. As many families across the country prepare to enjoy Thanksgiving meals, U.S. PIRG has been sending organizers to turkey farms to ask that very question and raise awareness about the threat the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms poses to public health. 

Jake Peters of NMPIRG earned a spot in the local news, and was quoted on channel 4 news with the following statement: "By making the choice to use an antibiotic-free turkey this Thanksgiving, you're providing a healthier option for your family and also making sure these drugs are going to be effective for our children and generations to come."

Annapolis 'Climate Frontline Tour' Highlighted Risks To Chesapeake Bay

This Saturday, Environment Maryland brought local and state leaders face to face with the effects climate change has already begun to have on Maryland, when we hosted a 'Climate Frontline Tour' in Annapolis -- one of four that Environment America's state affiliates are organizing this week as part of our Global Warming Solutions Campaign.

The Chesapeake Bay is home to booming industry, waterfront businesses, ecological diversity, and historical sites. But the Bay is already feeling the increasing strain of climate change with changes in temperature, sea level, acidification and ecological health. At the event, held at the Annapolis City Dock, Environment Maryland highlighted these adverse effects, as well as the unique opportunity we have with the Clean Power Plan to mitigate harm to our environment. Speakers included Dr. Anson Hines of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

Oregon GMO Measure "Too Close To Call"

After weeks of deliberation, the Oregon ballot measure on GMOs is "too close to call" according to political analyst Tim Hibbits. The measure was originally predicted to fail, but as new election returns are counted, the gap between both sides has become increasingly closer. As of now, the Yes on 92 side is only trailing by 3,000 votes, making both sides about 50%.

 

It's uncertain when all votes will be counted, but with the gap closing steadily, it's safe to say that the fight isn't over yet. 

Climate Frontline Tours Kicking Off In Colorado On Friday

Colorado will be the first of four states to host a Climate Frontline Tour this Friday, Nov. 21. The purpose of the tours, happening next week in Maryland, Ohio and Virginia, is to bring state leaders face to face with the local impacts of global warming in their states and highlight the local solutions available.

Colorado's event will be held at INSTAAR, the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research from 9 to 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 21.

The dates and times of the other events are as follows:

 

  • Virginia: VCU Rice Rivers Center on Nov. 22 from 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
  • Ohio: Ohio State University Buckeye Grove on Nov. 23 at 11 a.m.
  • Maryland: The Annapolis City Dock on Nov. 22 at 11 a.m.
BREAKING: Senate Defeats Keystone XL Pipeline By One Vote

Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. ET, The New York Times reported that the Senate defeated a bill, 59 to 41, that would have approved the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The battle over approving the pipeline, which will carry petroleum from the oil sands of Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas, ultimately became a proxy war for the Louisiana Senate seat, where Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Bill Cassidy are locked in fight for votes in their oil-rich state ahead of a Dec. 6 runoff election.

Earlier in the day, Environment America Executive Director Margie Alt reminded us what was at stake in this vote: 

 

  • Pipelines spill and leak, and this one will be worse. Experts say that tar sands oil is especially tough, and the pipeline would cross one of our country's largest and most vital aquifers, not to mention the nation's bread basket.
  • Developing the tar sands is 'game over' for climate. James Hansen calculated the amount of carbon in the tar sands alone would add 120 parts per million of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. We're at 400 ppm now. Scientists say we need to keep levels below 500 ppm to have a good chance of avoiding the worst impacts of global warming. You do the math.
  • Keystone would be one more big obstacle to tackling climate change. The State Department itself estimates that tar sands puts 17 percent more carbon into the atmosphere than normal crude. Building the pipeline would be investing in a future of tar sands and make it that much harder to keep the dirtiest fuel on earth in the ground.
  • It's a line in the sand. Finally, like it or not, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is our governments most high-profile, politically significant moment to take a stand and make real choices when it comes to tackling warming.
This Week: An International Social Media Surge To #saveabx

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) kicked off an annual "Get Smart About Antibiotics Week," in partnership with local government agencies, health care providers, and non-profit organizations, to raise awareness about the threats that the overuse of antibiotics pose to public health. Canada, Europe and Australia are also collaborating to host coinciding awareness weeks.

With momentum growing in PIRG's campaign to limit the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms, the CDC's awareness week represents a decisive call to action by our nation's public health authority. 

This week, PIRG will join the CDC in taking to social media to engage the public in discussion and raise awareness about the action needed to keep our antibiotics effective. Throughout the week, the CDC will be hosting "Antibiotic Resistant Twitter Chats" under the hashtag #saveabx, and we'll be joining the efforts with shareable memes. 

Read about Get Smart About Antibiotics Week here. 

Toy Safety Report Coming To A News Conference Near You

This year marks the 29th release of our annual toy safety report. As is tradition, we will be releasing the report the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, giving parents important tips for buying safe toys just in time for the holiday season.

This week, organizers on the antibiotics and democracy teams have started to organize toy safety news conferences at children's hospitals or child care centers, inviting legislators and key coalition partners, and taking the list of hazardous toys to stores to buy the visuals for the events. 

Our toy safety events always get a lot of media attention, and this year will be no exception. Unfortunately, our researchers have found toys, currently on store shelves, in every hazard category: choking, toxics, magnets and noise. Our toy safety reports have led to over 150 toy recalls and have helped parents and caregivers across the country navigate store shelves and find toys that are safe for kids.

Clean Water Network Back With A Splash

Late last spring, Environment America Research & Policy Center restarted the Clean Water Network, a nationwide coalition of local, regional and national groups, under its auspices. Reinvigorating the Clean Water Network will help build up an arsenal of grassroots support for clean water by creating a forum for groups across the country to stay updated on what's happening in Washington, get the resources they need to take action locally, and connect with their peers who face the same challenges. 

While each of the groups has its own local priorities, right now, the biggest thing for watershed groups to take action on in a nationally coordinated way is the EPA's Clean Water Rule, which would close loopholes in the clean water act and safeguard the waterways that these local groups are dedicated to protecting. And if all the local watershed groups across the country rally in support of the rule, they could be the force that takes it to the finish line.

That's where second-year Environment America Fellow Kimberly Williams comes in. 

This past week Williams organized a webinar briefing for local groups to learn more about the EPA's plan to restore protection to our waterways. More than 60 local organizations attended the briefing, which featured special guest EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. During the webinar, Administrator McCarthy praised Environment America's work to bring together businesses, farmers, and regular citizens. She also emphasized how this rulemaking will help to protect the waterways we love, the important role that watershed groups play, and how glad she is that Clean Water Network is working on this issue.  

U.S. And China Reach Historic Agreement On Climate Change

The United States and China, the world's top carbon offenders, came to a historic agreement regarding climate change on Wednesday, when President Obama and President Xi Jinping of China made a deal to cut carbon emissions in both countries. 

As part of the deal, the U.S. will reduce carbon emissions 26% to 28% by 2025 and China will reach peak emissions by 2030 or sooner. The agreement, which comes months before a global summit on climate change, signals the first steps toward addressing climate change globally and will hopefully inspire other countries to follow suit and pledge to cut their own carbon emissions. 

Washington State Passes I-594

On Tuesday night, Initiative 594 in Washington State passed, making it the first state to close the background checks loophole for all gun sales by popular vote. Change Corps Organizer Sunny Frothingham ran the field operation in Legislative District 45 in Seattle this fall with her team of volunteers brought in over 2,200 pledges to vote yes on 594.

Commonsense gun laws have proved difficult to pass through both Congress and state Legislatures, even after tragedies such as the Sandy Hook and Aurora theater shootings, because of the overwhelming power and influence groups like the NRA have over elected officials. Giving the voters this chance to decide on gun safety showed that Washingtonians want stronger gun safety laws, and background checks for all gun sales are a critical piece in reducing gun violence in America. With 60% of voters supporting the initiative, Washington provided a strong model for how we can win on this critical issue moving forward.

All Aboard The Democracy Train

On Tuesday, another 11 communities in Wisconsin voted in favor of a constitutional amendment that would overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. 

Milwaukee County, Dunn County, Green Bay, Appleton, Fond du Lac, Neenah, Menasha, Ripon, Oregon, Wausau, and the Village of Park Ridge all passed referenda with at least 70% of the vote. Stoughton also voted on the issue, but the results were tallied improperly, and haven't been confirmed at this time.

These communities join 16 states and more than 550 towns and cities across the country that have gone on record in support of returning common sense to our campaign finance laws. U.S. PIRG's Reclaim Our Democracy campaign helped get such an amendment all the way to the floor of the Senate this summer, and recently kicked off a campaign to empower small donors in our elections.   

Fox News Highlights PIRG Report To Condemn Chicago Highway Boondoggle

Last week, PIRG and Frontier Group's report "Highway Boondoggles" gained a spotlight on Chicago's Fox News station when its General Manager Dennis Welsh cited it as a key argument in his condemnation of Chicago's proposed $1.3-2.8 billion Iliana Expressway project. Our report cites the Iliana Expressway project as one of the nation's top 10 highway boondoggles -- or, unneeded and expensive highway expansion projects that suck money away from needed repairs to existing roads or public transportation. 

As Welsh puts PIRG's report in front of the camera, he asks, "It didn't raise eyebrows that the Iliana made it onto the U.S. Public Interest Group's [sic] top 10 boondoggles list?" Welsh goes on to criticize the project as unnecessary, bad for the economy, and unpopular among voters.

Our report calls on the federal and state governments to reprioritize scarce transportation dollars to other projects.

Read our report here, or watch the editorial segment on Fox

Birthplace Of Fracking Bans Fracking

On Tuesday, voters in Denton, Texas, banned fracking within the city limits by a large margin of 59 to 41%. The win is both significant and symbolic due to the fact that Denton, a city of about 125,000 residents located 35 miles northwest of Dallas, sits atop the Barnett shale, and already has some 275 fracked wells.

While Denton has been considered the birthplace of fracking, voters came out in droves to oppose the drilling practice within city limits due to worry about water and air pollution, the heavy demand for water, and the possibility that the process causes earthquakes. Researchers recently found alarming amounts of heavy metals such as arsenic in groundwater near fracking sites in Texas.

"Hydraulic fracturing, as determined by our citizens, will be prohibited in the Denton city limits," Mayor Chris Watts said in a statement. "The City Council is committed to defending the ordinance and will exercise the legal remedies that are available to us should the ordinance be challenged."

Voters also approved bans on fracking in California's San Benito and Mendocino Counties and in Athens, Ohio.

Change Corps Organizers Break 1 Million Calls Goal

On Nov. 3, Change Corps organizers running field offices with MoveOn.org Political Action to Save the Senate broke their original goal of 1 million phone calls to voters. Field organizers and volunteers were briefed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Sunday and Rep. Keith Ellison on Thursday, Chair of the Progressive Caucus in the House. Organizers are working to turn out voters in CO, IA, NH, KY, SD, NC and more to the polls on Election Day. 

After breaking through 1 million calls, they upped the ante and set a new goal of 1.25 million calls by Nov. 4 and will be working to get more than 600 additional callers to volunteer in the final hours to get there.

Carcinogens And Fracking Go Hand-In-Hand

A new study published in the Environmental Health Journal found that toxic chemicals are present in huge amounts near fracking sites. In some cases, there were over 770,000 times the normal concentrations. Chemicals like formaldehyde and benzene, both carcinogens, are commonly found near fracking operations. 

Fracking uses these chemicals in a toxic cocktail that is blasted deep into the earth to fracture shale rocks and release natural gas. These chemicals can leach into the ground and waters nearby, affecting residents and causing everything from nosebleeds to cancer. 

These results come as no surprise to anyone who has knows the dangers of fracking, and or the truth behind the lies the fracking industry has spread. That's why Environment America's campaigns across the country are calling on Congress and other decision makers to put an end to fracking, and all of the environmental and health hazards that come with it. 

Oregon's Measure 92 Coming Down To The Wire

With just four days left until Election Day, polls are showing a tight race in Oregon for Measure 92, the ballot measure that would require labels for genetically engineered foods. A poll released yesterday by the Yes on 92 campaign shows the Yes vote leading, 52 to 44. Meanwhile, another poll released earlier this week shows the Yes side trailing 48 to 42.

Measure 92 has already become the most expensive ballot fight in Oregon history, with the No side pulling in more than $19 million in campaign contributions -- virtually all of that coming from special interests like Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, PespiCo. and Coca Cola. Meanwhile, thousands of individual donors have chipped in to the Yes on 92 side, in support of making Oregon the fourth state to require GMO labels -- and the first to do so via ballot measure.

Public Calls For Chemical Safety

Because of lax rules around dangerous chemicals, dangerous accidents and spills threaten communities across the U.S., from the 2012 derailment of a train car carrying toxic chemicals in Paulsboro, N.J., to the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, that killed fifteen people. We've advocated for common-sense protections that would require chemical companies to switch to safer alternatives, making the case directly to policymakers and talking to over 50,000 people through citizen outreach in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Texas. Through canvassing, we helped 17,000 people send petitions to the EPA calling for action. Last week, we sent an email to our members who had taken action on toxics issues and another 7,000 people joined in and sent public comments to the EPA.

This advocacy is paying off, beginning last year when President Obama issued an executive order, instructing agencies to develop a plan to improve the safety of chemical facilities and transportation. The EPA called for public comments on what their plan should look like, so working with our coalition partners (including Greenpeace, the Blue Green Alliance, Sierra Club, and CHEJ), we helped deliver over 100,000 public comments urging the EPA to stake out a strong position to protect the public. On Wednesday's comment deadline, we attended a coalition event at EPA headquarters to mark the delivery of the comments.

Student PIRGs GOTV Efforts In Full Swing

This weekend, as the Student PIRGs rev up to get-out-the-vote (GOTV), about 80 CALPIRG staff and student volunteers from across the state met at UCLA for a day of training, campaign planning, and a phone bank to turn out the youth vote on Election Day. Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz attended the event as a guest speaker, and reiterated the importance of the youth vote.

University of Maryland Campus Organizer Kristen Jackson also launched a social media GOTV effort via a Thunderclap, which will unleash its message at 8 p.m. ET on Nov. 3: "Make sure to cast your vote in midterm elections tomorrow, November 4th. It's our future, our voice, and our vote!"

The Thunderclap had a goal of 100 participants, and at the time of this post, surpassed its goal at 103 participants.

"Frack Or Fiction" Series Hits Facebook

Pro-fracking forces have been getting away with gross distortions and outright lies. Environment America is setting the record straight this week and you can help by sharing this on your Facebook page. 

The second in their week-long "Frack or Fiction" series fact-checked Anadarko Petroleum's claim that "Hydraulic fracturing is ... not a significant source of [methane] emissions." A 2014 analysis of fracking wells along the Pennsylvania Marcellus region found that methane leakage rates were 100 to 1,000 times greater than the EPA's previous estimates, averaging emissions 34 grams of methane per second. 

"When It's Not Transparent, It's Shady"

We've been critical of the loopholes in settlements for wrongdoing that allow some or all of the penalties to be tax deductible for any period of time. Our original report on the topic, "Subsidizing Bad Behavior," was released January of 2013. Since then, we've been banging the drum in the media with each major settlement as it happens -- praising those that disallow a tax deduction and calling out those that do not.

We've also helped nearly 200,000 people send petitions to the Justice Department, calling for an end to this loophole. The attention we've drawn has prompted Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tom Coburn to team up to tackle this problem by introducing "Truth in Settlements" legislation, which we helped draft.

On Monday, Newsweek ran a very good and lengthy piece on the issue, which mentions the Warren/Coburn legislation and quotes U.S. PIRG's Phineas Baxandall:

"When people hear that this stuff is deductible, it just feels like adding insult to injury," says Phineas Baxandall, a senior policy analyst and tax specialist at U.S. PIRG, a left-leaning consumer protection research group that has written reports on the tax deductions. "And when it's not transparent, it's shady."

Pages