North Carolina Opens Fracking Debate To The Public

This week, Environment North Carolina, along with hundreds of North Carolina residents will have the opportunity to voice their concerns about fracking and weigh in on the 100+ new proposed safety rules at four hearings around the state this week, hosted by the North Carolina Mining and Energy Commission. These hearings come as the state's 3-year moratorium on fracking is set to expire next year, and a public comment period on the proposed regulations comes to a close in mid-September.

Gov. Pat McCrory lifted the ban on fracking in North Carolina just earlier this summer, and the proposed rules are hardly adequate to protect public health and our environment from the vast threats that fracking poses. Among their inadequacies, the proposed regulations don't address air pollution from fracking, and would allow toxic wastewater to be stored in pits, a waste disposal method that's proved hazardous for coal ash. The public hearings will kick off Wednesday in Raleigh, where Environment North Carolina, along with other state environmental organizations that oppose fracking, will be holding a rally to show public support for maintaining the moratorium on fracking and organize people to testify at the hearings about the inadequacies of the Mining and Energy Commission's proposal. 

The New York Times Spotlights Sneaky Campus Debit Card Practices

As students prepare to return to college for the school year, the New York Times highlighted U.S. PIRG's work in an article detailing the challenges of choosing a reliable bank as a student. The article, published last Friday, quoted Higher Education Program Director Chris Lindstrom on how to navigate campus debit cards and avoid such woes as hidden fees, which often plague students already struggling with the costs of college.

Lindstrom advised "researching the details of any campus debit card you are offered, to make sure you're aware of all fees." She explained that school-affiliated accounts may not always be the best kinds available for students. "Our perspective is that students are a captive audience on the campus," she said. "They should be getting a superior deal than they could get elsewhere."

Thanks in part to our work over the past few years, the federal Department of Education is currently considering whether to further regulate student debit cards, to make sure students aren't paying excessive fees to get their federal aid.

Election Day Looks Promising For MA Bottle Bill Update

The majority of Massachusetts voters support updating the Bottle Bill to expand the nickel deposit to new types of beverage containers, a new poll conducted by the Boston Globe found last week. Bay Staters will have the opportunity to vote this November on the measure, Question 2, which won a spot on the ballot thanks to MASSPIRG's public outreach efforts.

The Bottle Bill has gained traction as one of the most effective recycling programs in the state, despite heavy beverage industry opposition. But now, with many new types of beverage containers on the shelves, only 20% of containers not covered under this deposit law end up being recycled. That adds up to more than 1 billion water, energy and sports drink bottles per year that get thrown in our landfills or burned in incinerators.

An update has been pending in the state Legislature for more than a decade, but this year, we're closer than ever to pushing the bill over the finish line. The Globe's poll found that 62 percent of likely voters support expanding the law, while only 27 percent oppose it. Only 10 percent said they were undecided.

California Appropriations Committee Green Lights Charge Ahead Bill

In California, the exhaust from cars, trucks and other vehicles account for 40 percent of the state's global warming pollution, and contributes to some of the highest asthma rates in the country. We know that one of the best ways to cut down on this pollution is to get more electric vehicles on the road, so Environment California is helping to lead the fight to pass the Charge Ahead California Initiative in the Legislature.

Last Thursday, the campaign cleared its latest hurdle by passing through a key appropriations committee.

We aim to put 1 million electric vehicles on the road in the next 10 years, which is 15 times the number currently on the road, according to the recent L.A. Times article that covered the campaign.

The initiative would create a series of rebates for people buying electric vehicles, especially for lower-income residents. Funding for these policies will come from polluter fees paid into the state's cap-and-trade program that our advocacy helped win and went into effect in early 2012. 

20,000 Bay Staters Tell Congress To Stop Slashing Park Funding

Environment Massachusetts gathered on the Boston Common and presented a petition this past Thursday signed by 20,800 Bay Staters calling to save full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), the country's most successful parks and open space program that protects beaches, forests, and local parks and playgrounds across the nation. The LWCF, which receives dedicated funding from off-shore oil royalties, has routinely been slashed year after year, and now the program is set to expire altogether next year.

According to a recent report from MassAudubon, Massachusetts lost approximately 38,000 acres of forest and undeveloped land between 2005 and 2013-equivalent to 13 acres a day -- highlighting the urgent need for increased protection. That's why Environment Massachusetts has gathered 20,800 petitions and had 62,000 conversations with people around the state about the importance of preserving the LWCF to protect all our open spaces, from the iconic Charles River, to the Cape Cod National Seashore, to the neighborhood staple Franklin Park.

The Boston Globe's coverage of the event highlighted the dire need for funding for our parks, and featured Environment Massachusetts' Ben Hellerstein in the lead quote.

Wisconsin Doctors Join WISPIRG To Condemn Overuse Of Antibiotics

Doctors across the country are joining our efforts to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics. Local Wisconsin doctors joined WISPIRG at a widely-covered media event August 5 to speak out against the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms and release the new WISPIRG Foundation report, "Ending the Abuse of Antibiotics in Factory Farms: The Case for Reform."

"The medicine chest may be empty soon. We need to end the abuse of antibiotics on factory farms right now to preserve antibiotics and continue to effectively treat infections," urged Dr. Carol Spiegel, PhD., Professor of Microbiology Emerita, Department of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, University of Wisconsin Madison.

Lifesaving antibiotics are now losing their effectiveness due to their overuse and the consequent emergence of so-called "superbugs," which are resistant to medicine. More than 70 percent of antibiotics are sold to livestock operations to fatten and promote growth in animals.

"The science is overwhelming that antibiotics shouldn't be misused on animals that aren't sick. The Obama administration needs to stop this practice cold turkey," stated Ben Knuth, End the Abuse of Antibiotics Campaign Coordinator for WISPIRG.

Last year the FDA issued guidelines for the use of antibiotics on factory farms, but they leave gaping loopholes and are unlikely to enact real change in the way such drugs are regulated. That's why we, along with medical professionals, are calling for the Obama Administration to act urgently to heed science and protect public health by stopping the overuse and abuse of antibiotics on factory farms. 

Environment America Solar Report Shines In The Media

Environment America's new report, "Lighting the Way," which ranks the top 10 states leading in solar power, was released August 5, and since then has earned more than 100 mentions in the media in national news sources and in 20 states.

The report examines the states with the most effective solar programs and emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have created effective public policy for the development of the solar industry. States with more homeowners and businesses "going solar" share several strong policies, such as net metering and interconnection, which provides for easier integration of solar power into the established grid.

"Solar energy is emerging as a go-to energy option," said Rob Sargent, energy program director with Environment America. "Thanks to the commitment of state and federal leaders, this pollution-free energy option is poised to play a major role in helping us meet our energy needs while achieving our emission reduction goals; including the targets in EPA's recently proposed Clean Power Plan."

Environment America To Gov. Chris Christie: "Step Up And Lead On Climate"

In a public hearing Friday, Environment America and concerned citizens called on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to "step up and lead on climate," in response to the governor's plan to repeal Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) regulations that cut pollution from power plants despite new federal laws and overwhelming public support.

Gov. Christie ended New Jersey's participation in RGGI in 2011. In response to a lawsuit brought by Environment New Jersey and the Natural Resources Defense Council however, the New Jersey Superior Court ruled in March that the Christie administration had acted illegally in making such a major change in policy without providing an opportunity for public participation. Friday's hearing, held at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection headquarters in Trenton, provided an opportunity for citizens to make their voices heard.

With the consequences of global warming becoming increasingly apparent around the country. the Environmental Protection Agency recently proposed a rule to cut carbon pollution from power plants -- the single largest source of climate-altering pollution in the U.S. Under this rule, all states will be required to propose legislation to move toward clean energy development, so repealing the RGGI is a big step in the wrong direction.

"Instead of repealing these rules," said Travis Madsen, senior program manager with Environment America, "Governor Christie should be helping to protect our children and future generations from the worst impacts of global warming."

15,000 Conversations And Counting For Maryland PIRG's Bottle Biill

Maryland PIRG worked with the Fund for the Public Interest's canvass this summer to bolster support for passing the bottle bill. This week, they celebrated their 15,000th conversation and took a photo with a sign thanking Marylanders for supporting the bill would increase recycling in the state and reduce waste. 

The 10 states with bottle bills have an average container recycling rate of 60% and have seen serious reductions in litter.

Massachusetts and Michigan are also working on bottle bill campaigns this summer. MASSPIRG  and PIRGIM are working to update and strengthen their bottle bills to include water bottles and sports drink containers.

Environment California Hands Out Anti-Fracking Lawn Signs In Gov. Brown's Neighborhood

This summer, Environment California organized a massive grassroots campaign to educate and activate hundreds of thousands of people across the state with one simple message: Gov. Jerry Brown, stop fracking now.

Last week, staff hit the streets in Oakland to hand out anti-fracking lawn signs in the hills of Oakland where the governor lives. The team is working to cover major thoroughfares into the Oakland hills with the signs so Gov. Brown can't miss our message. In addition, our team of global warming interns in the Oakland office are working with business owners in the Oakland area to post decals in their storefronts that read "Another Business Against Fracking." We want to show Gov. Brown that his hometown is calling on him to ban fracking.

In another part of the state this past weekend, Global Warming Organizer Mac Farrell held another Fracktivist Training in Culver City, near Los Angeles. He was joined by the Mayor of Culver City, Mayor Saleigh-Wells, and Brenna Norton of Food and Water Watch. Over 20 people from the Los Angeles area attended the training to learn more about fracking, how to phonebank, how to write letters to the editor, and how to meet with their elected officials. Now, more than 115 "fracktivists" have been trained to help us stop fracking in California, and we have one more workshop to do in San Diego.

Rep. Blumenauer Presented With 8,000 Clean Water Petitions From His District

Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon briefed the Fund for the Public Interest's Portland canvass office, which is working with Environment Oregon this summer, on the environmental priorities of his office. After the briefing, staff presented the Congressman with petitions from his district. This summer, Environment Oregon and Fund canvass staff gathered over 8,000 individual signatures from District 3 alone in support of the EPA's proposed Waters of the U.S. rule.

Also this week, Environment Florida staff and Fund canvassers delivered more than 6,000 petitions to protect Florida's rivers and streams to Sen. Nelson's regional staff in Tampa.

Environment America staff across the country are working to demonstrate support for the EPA's rule, which restores protections to 2 million miles of streams and wetlands. At the same time, Big Ag, developers and other polluters are organizing against us. This month, we're delivering all the petitions collected so far this summer to show the support people have for waterways across the country.

Fair Share Releases New Report "Childhood Hunger in America's Suburbs"

Thursday, Fair Share Education Fund released a report entitled "Childhood Hunger in America's Suburbs," written by Fair Share's David Elliot and Frontier Group's Jeff Inglis. The report shows how the geography of childhood hunger has changed since the onset of the "Great Recession," or economic downturn from 2007 to 2009.

The report measures the number of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches under the National School Lunch Program between the 2006-2007 school year and the 2010-2011 school year. We found that the economic downturn made the risk of childhood hunger significantly worse.

Arizona Organizer Kimberley Pope spoke at a media event in Phoenix releasing the report. Read more on Fair Share's blog.

Celebrating The First 50 Years Of The LWCF, Fighting For The Next 50

This summer, as the country's premier conservation program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will travel around the country to visit and celebrate some of America's most amazing places that have benefited from its funds. Despite President Obama's proposal to fully and permanently fund the landmark program, the LWCF is set to expire next year without action from Congress.

Environment America has been working in states across the country to build the grassroots support necessary to save the LWCF and extend protection for the places that define America. Sec. Jewell will stop this month North Carolina, Indiana, New Mexico and Arizona, to demonstrate the positive economic impact of the LWCF, which has a return of four dollars to local communities for every dollar that's invested in it.

"Fifty years later, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has made huge economic contributions to local communities in every state, helping to establish local parks, protect clean water sources and create jobs through outdoor recreation," said Sec. Jewell. "As we look to the next 50 years, we need to ensure that we continue this great legacy by fully and permanently funding this innovative program." 

U.S. PIRG Releases White Paper On Stopping The Overuse Of Antibiotics On Factory Farms

U.S. PIRG and the state PIRGs were joined by the Fund for the Public Interest's canvass offices Tuesday to release a white paper called "Ending the Abuse of Antibiotics in Livestock Production: The Case for Reform," by U.S. PIRG's Sujatha Jahagirdar. 

In California, CALPIRG released the white paper at events in Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. They announced to the media that more than 4,000 health care professionals have signed on to our campaign to stop the overuse of antibiotics on factory farms in order to protect public health and the effectiveness of antibiotics. 

In Wisconsin, WISPIRG was joined by Dr. Carol Spiegel, a microbiology professor at UW-Madison and Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, a pediatrician, who support our campaign. The white paper, and our advocacy, have been covered by news outlets across the state, including the Wisconsin Eye and the local CBS News channel.

Inaugural Change Corps Class Begins Training In Boston

The inaugural class of Change Corps started its orientation and 3-week classroom training on Sunday in Boston. Twenty organizers arrived on Sunday to learn and hone the skills of social change. As Executive Director Ryan Doyle put it: "In these next three weeks, be ready to work hard and to learn a lot, but also have fun." 

Change Corps President David Rossini kicked off the training on Monday in Boston, and Public Interest Network Political Director Wendy Wendlandt led the first session of day two on the importance of visibility. After the 3-week training, these organizers will be ready to hit the ground running on their campaigns. 

Environment California Rallies Support For Charge Ahead Campaign With Only One Month To Go

With one month to go to get the Charge Ahead Initiative passed in the California Legislature, Environment California staff are organizing up a storm to show public support for more electric vehicles and to sign on the support of elected officials across the state.

Last week, Clean Energy Advocate Michelle Kinman went to Riverside, to meet with the district staff for Assemblymember Jose Medina to seek his support on SB 1275. Riverside is the headquarters for not one, but two companies that are manufacturing electric buses.

This week, Michelle and Clean Energy Intern Olivia Voorhis (student at Pomona College) will be holding similar meetings with the offices of L.A.-area Assemblymembers Isadore Hall, Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.

Michelle also took the Charge Ahead campaign on the road, speaking about the campaign at the 7th annual Electric Vehicle Roadmap Conference in Portland, Ore., generating excitement about the campaign among auto manufacturers, utilities, government leader and academia.

The Charge Ahead bill will offer rebates so that more Californians can buy electric cars, create electric car sharing programs, and install charging stations in apartment buildings around the state. This initiative will ensure low-income communities benefit from the transition to zero tailpipe emissions. It will help clean up the air we breathe and slash asthma rates. It will also ensure California continues to lead the nation in the fight against global warming.

With Bank Mergers On The Rise, TexPIRG Gains Spotlight As Strong Advocate For Consumers

As the population grows in Houston, Texas, big banks are flooding the area and acquiring smaller companies and branches -- creating a potentially bad situation for consumers, according to TexPIRG, whose work on the issue was recently highlighted in an article in the Houston Chronicle, a major local newspaper.

Since the beginning of 2011, 15 mergers or acquisitions have been announced in Houston, and there are no signs the activity is slowing. TexPIRG Program Director Sara Smith was quoted in the article on the potential effects of the issue for consumers.

"Generally, mergers are bad for consumers," Smith said. "Bigger companies have less incentive to provide competitive products and services. They also have more market power, which allows them to raise prices."

The article also highlighted TexPIRG's work to find consumers better deals with small community credit unions, and efforts to get policymakers to scrutinize mergers to ensure they're in the consumer's best interest.

Environment America Ranks Top 10 Solar States In New Report, Finds Strong Common Policies

Solar power tripled in the U.S. between 2011 and 2013, and 10 states are responsible for 87% of that growth, according to a new report, "Lighting the Way: The Top Ten States that Helped Drive America's Solar Energy Boom in 2013," written by Frontier Group's Jordan Schneider and Environment America's Rob Sargent, which was released this Tuesday by Environment America in states across the country. 

The report found that 10 states -- Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico and North Carolina -- share strong policies that are enabling increasing numbers of homeowners, businesses, communities and utilities to "go solar."  Among these state policies were minimum renewable energy standards that states had to meet and net metering policies. Solar development also gained momentum from federal incentive programs.

As we work to mobilize public support for the EPA's Clean Power Plan to shift away from reliance on coal-fired power plants, implementing policies to grow renewable energy resources is more important than ever -- and more possible.

"Solar energy is emerging as a go-to energy option," said Rob Sargent, energy program director with Environment America. "Thanks to the commitment of state and federal leaders, this pollution-free energy option is poised to play a major role in helping us meet our energy needs while achieving our emission reduction goals; including the targets in EPA's recently proposed Clean Power Plan."

Environmental Action Celebrates Massachusetts Becoming Ninth State To Ban Shark Finning

Last week Environmental Action launched a petition calling on restaurant owners in the United States to stop serving shark fins, and so far, they've collected 32,000 signatures, and their petition has been shared 445 times and liked 454 times on Facebook.

And thanks in part to Environmental Action's advocacy, Gov. Deval Patrick signed into law a bill that bans the sale and possession of shark fins in Massachusetts. The Commonwealth is the ninth to pass such a law, after Hawaii became the first state in 2010. 

According to our petition, shark populations have declined by 90% in the last decade. Most sharks are killed for their fins, and hundreds of restaurants in the U.S. serve shark fin soup. And while U.S. demand is lower than other countries, higher prices here drive up demand for shark fins and encourage shark hunting.

Click here to sign Environmental Action's petition.

MASSPIRG's Janet Domenitz Reflects On Bottle Bill Work In The Boston Globe

MASSPIRG and the Bottle Bill are getting a lot of press this week. Earlier this week, MASSPIRG's Janet Domenitz appeared on local radio station WBZ to debate a Massachusetts Restaurant Association representative on this November's ballot measure to update the Bottle Bill. And this Thursday, the Boston Globe extensively profiled Domenitz and MASSPIRG, along with Sierra Club Legislative Action Committee Chair, Phil Sego. 

Domenitz reflected on MASSPIRG's work to get the original Bottle Bill passed thirty years ago, which was her start to activism.

"It was very clear and in-your-face: The public wants this, Coca-Cola doesn't, and we've got to overshout them," Domenitz said. "We had so much fun. There was no computer. It was all about being out in the field."

Now as citizens prepare to vote on the measure to update the bill this fall, we're fighting a similar fight, but this time, we're also working to convince people why we need an update to the out-of-date legislation that has proven to be the single most effective recycling program in the state.