Happy holidays from The Public Interest Network

A better world is always more possible when we work together. Here are 10 examples of the positive changes for the public and the planet that the organizations and staff of The Public Interest Network, along with our friends and allies, helped win.

Staff | TPIN

This year, the organizations and staff of The Public Interest Network worked together with our friends and allies to win a healthy list of positive changes for the public and the planet. Here are 10 examples:

  1. California and Colorado took action to cut plastic pollution. A new California law requires single-use items to be recyclable or compostable by 2032 and holds plastic packaging producers financially responsible for their waste. Colorado passed its own producer responsibility law, after banning single-use plastic bags and foam takeout containers in 2021. CALPIRG and CoPIRG were lead drivers of the campaigns for each law. Our online map shows more states that are taking action to stop plastic pollution.
  2. Renewables kept rising. California is on an even firmer path toward the state’s goal of 100% clean energy by 2045, thanks to a bill signed by Gov. Newsom and championed by Environment California. A new Environment Massachusetts-backed bill will also speed the transition to wind and solar, and allow up to 10 towns to require all-electric new buildings. Our “Renewables on the Rise” dashboard breaks down all the state-by-state progress. On the federal level, we advocated inclusion of greatly expanded clean energy incentives — including rebates for replacing gas stoves — in the Inflation Reduction Act.
  3. Our Right to Repair campaign broke down more barriers to fixing our “stuff.” Consumers who get frustrated by barriers to repair of their phones and other stuff gained some relief in 2022, thanks to PIRG’s Right to Repair campaign. Among the highlights: Apple launched a Self Service Repair program. The Federal Trade Commission acted to strike down barriers to repairs of everything from household appliances to motorcycles. Colorado passed a Wheelchair Right to Repair law and lawmakers in New York, Massachusetts and other states advanced Right to Repair bills.
  4. Electrification of vehicles accelerated. The Inflation Reduction Act includes a tax credit of up to $7,500 for new electric vehicle purchases, which will speed the clean energy transition and builds upon the state-level Clean Car standards we’ve helped win. The new federal infrastructure law is already directing $1 billion to electrify school bus fleets in all 50 states. We lobbied for the program, which builds on commitments we helped secure in Austin, Pittsburgh and other cities. 
  5. Oil and chemical companies must once again pay to clean up Superfund sites. Twenty-seven years ago, Congress failed to reauthorize the “polluter pays” taxes that fund cleanups of the nation’s worst hazardous waste sites. Not surprisingly, cleanups lagged. In August, President Biden and Congress rectified that error, infusing new resources into the federal Superfund program, thanks in part to PIRG advocacy and action. We also won state actions against toxic PFAS in California, Colorado and Maryland this year and urged Columbia Sportswear to phase out these “forever chemicals” from its product lines.
  6. Green Century° secured 20 environmental policy changes with major global companies. An environmentally responsible investment firm owned by PIRG, Green Century operates one of the nation’s longest-running shareholder advocacy programs. In the 2021-2022 shareholder season, Green Century won multiple record-breaking shareholder votes and more majority votes on environmental proposals than any other firm. Among the victories: 65% of Home Depot shareholders voted to instruct the company to follow in Lowe’s footsteps and investigate whether it can end sourcing from forests that have never been logged. 
  7. Once again, a federal appeals court ruled against ExxonMobil over its Clean Air Act violations. In one of the largest (involving 3,651 violations over eight years) and longest-running (13 years, and counting) citizen enforcement cases ever filed under the Clean Air Act, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against ExxonMobil for the third time, upholding a record $14.25 million penalty. National Environmental Law Center, our in-house litigation arm, argued the case on behalf of Environment Texas and other plaintiffs. 
  8. Our research documented significant toxic pollution of rivers, lakes and streams. “Wasting Our Waterways,” a report written by Frontier Group, our in-house research and policy analysis arm, found that facilities released more than 190 million pounds of toxic substances into our waters in 2020. More than 280 news articles covered the report.
  9. The Fund citizen outreach canvass came back strong. We spent the pandemic downtime working to improve our canvassing model. After mostly not canvassing during the first two years of COVID, the Fund opened 12 summer offices in 2022. Since we were effectively starting over, we consider that a good relaunch — due to our model changes, strong state-focused campaigns, better-than-expected canvasser recruitment, smarter employment of technology, and, last but not least, a talented national canvass leadership team. 
  10. Student PIRGs expanded our reach throughout 20 states. In addition to our flagship campus chapters in Massachusetts, New Jersey, California and Oregon, students joined PIRG Campus Action Clubs in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and other states. Both chapter and club students took part in, among other efforts, the Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project. Preliminary results indicate that 27% of the youth vote (eligible voters between 18 and 29) turned out in 2022. If that number holds, it will mark the second highest turnout in a midterm in three decades.  

On behalf of all of the groups and the people who work together in The Public Interest Network, thank you for your activism and support.

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°Green Century Capital Management, Inc. (Green Century) is the investment advisor to the Green Century Funds (the Funds).

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Douglas H. Phelps

President and Executive Director, The Public Interest Network

Doug is President and Executive Director of The Public Interest Network. As director of MASSPIRG starting in 1979, he conceived and helped organize the Fund for the Public Interest, U.S. PIRG, National Environmental Law Center, Green Century Capital Management, Green Corps and Environment America, among other groups. Doug ran the public interest careers program at the Harvard Law School from 1976-1986. He is a graduate of Colorado State University and the Harvard Law School.