Updates

Super PACs Have Raised Nearly $350 Million So Far

According to new data published by the Federal Election Commission, Super PACs have raised nearly $350 million so far this election cycle. PIRG crunched the numbers, and found that this is more than seven times the amount Super PACs had collected at this point in 2012. 

These numbers are highlighted in a USA Today story and U.S. PIRG's Dan Smith is quoted saying, "Super PACs funded by wealthy donors and special-interest groups have more influence in our elections today than they have at any time in recent memory, and their influence is growing.”

Read the full story here

Keep Our Shores Safe From Drilling

On Feb. 3, Environment America joined Greenpeace, 350.org, Alaska Wilderness League, and many others to represent the more than 3 million comments advocacy groups have collected over the past year in opposition to arctic and atlantic drilling to CEQ officials. 

Back in September, Environment America released a letter signed by more than 350 businesses against atlantic offshore drilling. Two weeks from now, we will be joining Surfrider and SACE who have also been focused on mobilizing the coastal tourism community, to announce more than 1,000 small businesses in opposition to offshore drilling. This is on top of the more than 100 coastal communities, 500+ local electeds, and 100+ members of congress who oppose the plan.

Victory For Solar In California

The California Public Utilities Commission voted to protect net metering, the crucial policy that has allowed rooftop solar to expand across the state by requiring utilities to pay consumers fairly for the solar electricity they generate.

U.S PIRG Celebrates A Victory Against Boondoggles

Thanks in part to WashPIRG's efforts, plans to expand the I-5 are no longer moving forward. Although this is just one section of a three-legged project, the expansion of the Puget Sound Gateway, it is nonetheless a victory and a step in the right direction.

This boondoggle was one that was highlighted in this year's Highway Boondoggles report that U.S. PIRG Education Fund released.

You can read about the other boondoggles that U.S. PIRG is working to stop across the country here.

Rob Sargent Talks 100% Renewable In Think Progress

How will we get to 100% renewable energy? Rob Sargent, Environment America's energy program director, talked to Think Progress about our 100% renewable campaign, and the importance of cities moving toward clean energy.

"In general, cities have always driven sustainability,” Sargent said. “People see firsthand that solar panels are being put on local schools and businesses, so they can picture it and see that the economic benefit is real.”

Read the full article here

PIRG State Directors Testify For Congress On Antibiotics Overuse

As part of a series of Capitol Hill briefings on antibiotics by Rep. Slaughter (NY), Dave Rosenfeld, executive director of OSPIRG, and Emily Scarr, director of Maryland PIRG, joined a number of partners in discussing the connection between food production, antibiotic overuse and the rise of bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Michael Berger, founding member and vice president of supply for Elevation Burger, Russ Kremer, farmer/owner of Heritage Farms and Mae Wu, and NRDC Senior Staff Attorney also testified.

The speakers discussed legislation in California, Oregon and Maryland that addresses antibiotic misuse, and how companies and farmers are moving away from routine antibiotic use and are thriving in the marketplace. Approximately 25 Hill staffers, many of whom from Congressional offices of House Agriculture Committee members, attended the briefing.

Victory For Clean Power Plan

The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a major win Thursday for the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s plan to tackle climate change, announcing it will leave carbon pollution limits on new power plants in place while it hears lawsuits from polluters and their allies in state government who want to kill the rule. Anna Aurilio, director of Environment America’s Global Warming Solutions program, issued this statement:

“On the heels of scientists confirming that 2015 was by far the hottest year on record, this good news from the court couldn’t be more timely. The Clean Power Plan stands on solid legal ground, and we’re thrilled this centerpiece of the president’s climate action agenda has survived its first legal hurdle. This is a big win for the majority of Americans who support carbon pollution limits on power plants and great news for our kids’ future.”

U.S. House Votes Against Clean Water, Again

The U.S. House voted to block the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule, the joint regulation issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that restores Clean Water Act protections to 2 million miles of streams and millions of acres of wetlands. The measure passed the Senate last year, but neither chamber secured enough votes to overcome President Obama’s promised veto.

The House action comes on the heels of governors in multiple states declaring emergencies due to flooding from the Mississippi River.

John Rumpler, senior attorney for Environment America, issued the following statement:

“Just weeks after states of emergency were declared due to flooding from the Mississippi River, the House has voted to strip protections from wetlands, our best natural safeguard against floods. What's more, the Clean Water Rule protects our streams and the drinking water for 1 in 3 Americans. Agribusinesses, coal companies, and their congressional allies don't want to take “no pollution” for an answer. But with hundreds of thousands of Americans, local elected officials, farmers, small businesses and the president standing strongly behind this rule; ultimately, clean water will win.”

"Make VW Pay" Campaign Hits The Road

On Thursday, CoPIRG Director Danny Katz helped two Volkswagen owners, Marcus and Elisabeth, kick off their cross-country road trip to Volkswagen headquarters in Virginia to make VW pay for misleading consumers and polluting our air.

Marcus and Elisabeth own one of the 567,000 diesel vehicles in the U.S. that Volkswagen sold as “clean” but was secretly designed with a “defeat device” to emit as much as 40 times the legal limit for smog-forming pollutants. Like many of these “clean diesel” owners, Marcus and Elisabeth put a lot of thought into purchasing their vehicle. Their top priority was emissions and the environment – they founded a non-profit that does climate change work around the world. They chose their VW Jetta thinking it was the cleanest on the market and drove it proudly for six years until they found out they were deceived. 

Over the last few months they have partnered with us to call on VW to pay, doing a media event at Volkswagen dealership and writing opinion pieces in the local media. 

The two are taking petitions and their defective car to the VW headquarters in Virginia, where they will call on VW to pay. Along the way we're organizing events for them to stop at in Austin, Chicago, Detroit, New York City and Washington, D.C. At each event we’ll be recruiting additional VW owners, local coalition partners, and elected officials to speak to the media about our MakeVWpay campaign.

In the coming days you can follow their route through our blog at makevwpay.org

30 Days To Renew Critical N.M. Solar Tax Credit

The New Mexico Legislative Session in Santa Fe is about to begin. Starting on Jan. 19 and lasting for a mere 30 calendar days, Environment New Mexico will work with legislators and coalition partners to renew the state solar tax credit — a tax credit that has played an important role in the growth and development of rooftop solar and has expanded the income range for which going solar is affordable.

Because the legislative session is so brief, and because the tax credit is set to expire at the end of 2016, Environment New Mexico has taken a number of steps to ensure the bill makes its way to the governor’s desk as quickly as possible. In addition to pre-filing the bill in both Houses before the commencement of the session, Environment New Mexico and our coalition partners have worked to strategically lobby legislators in key committees in advance of the session.

in preparation, we hosted a Citizen Lobby Training, where we trained our members to effectively make the case for the solar bill when the session opens.

MASSPIRG Finds CarMax Endangering Lives In Massachusetts

According to a new report released by MASSPIRG, CarMax, the nation's largest used car retailer, has been selling potentially unsafe vehicles in Massachusetts. More than 17 percent of vehicles for sale on October 28 were part of federal safety recalls. Some of the possible issues include failing seat belts, catching on fire, and faulty steering.

"Consumers rightly have the expectation that when shopping at any car dealership they will be sold a safe car, and at the very least, they certainly would not expect that any car for sale would still be under a safety recall,” said Deirdre Cummings, consumer program director with the MASSPIRG Education Fund.

Read the full report here.

Judges Keep EPA Mercury Rule In Place

In a win for the Obama administration (and The Public Interest Network), federal judges Wednesday said they won't toss out the EPA's standards to curb power plants' mercury emissions. A three-judge panel agreed to keep the EPA's rule in place, allowing the agency to tweak the regulation to bring it in line with a Supreme Court ruling that the agency had failed to properly consider costs.

Environment America and our national federation helped build the grassroots support for the original mercury rule, and won victories in key states that made it easier to adopt the federal standards. All of which has made coal more costly to burn -- one more reason we’ve been turning away from coal.

The original rule, issued by the EPA in December 2011, requires coal-burning power plants to reduce emissions of mercury, lead, arsenic and other hazardous air pollutants. Coal plants are the country's largest emitters of mercury, and the EPA said the standards would prevent 11,000 premature deaths a year and yield up to $90 billion in health benefits (Robin Bravender, Greenwire).

Historic Climate Agreement Finalized In Paris

World leaders voted Saturday on a final agreement to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, a benchmark scientists say is critical to avoid devastating impacts of global warming that could render the planet uninhabitable. The document includes provisions to track, verify, and update individual nations’ pollution reduction strategies every five years.

"Too many of us already know that global warming is hitting close to home, and none of us wants to leave the next generation an even more dangerous and extreme climate," said Environment America Executive Director Margie Alt in a statement. "That’s why the Paris agreement is incredible news for our environment, our health, and the future of our planet."

The historic agreement lays the foundation for the 100 percent pollution-free energy future that we need in order to curb the worsening effects of global warming. Now, the United States needs to continue on the progress we've already made to curb pollution and propel wind and solar energy forward by ensuring the success of the Clean Power Plan. the biggest step our country has taken to cut global warming pollution.

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. 

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