Yana Kucher

I’m able to see firsthand the change that we’re making every week, every month, every year

Yana Kucher
Toxics Program Chair for PIRG

We have done a lot of really good work to ban and phase out some of the most harmful chemicals that are in use in our society. These are chemicals that have been linked to cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities, and there are still thousands of them in use. We’ve done some really great work phasing out the worst examples.

One recent victory that we have is with reinstating two polluters pay taxes that forces the polluters themselves to pay for the cleanup of toxic sites that could be harming the public.

PIRG was part of passing the original Superfund bill, which instated this cleanup and these taxes in 1980. But then in 1995, the polluter pays taxes expired, and so the costs of cleanup shifted back to the taxpayers. And in result, the cleanup really trickled to a halt.

We’ve been advocating for years to reinstate those taxes and get those cleanups going again. And last year we were successful with reinstating two of the three polluter pays taxes as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.

This is going to be a really big deal for protecting public health given that one in five Americans lives within three miles of one of these toxic sites. So we’re very excited about that progress.

The thing that’s great about working here is I know that the outcome of everything I do is working toward some positive change. With some of the work you can feel that really directly — speaking one-on-one with a decision maker or with the media and educating people about an issue — and some is much more behind-the-scenes. But I know it’s all working toward something positive.

One of the things that makes me feel lucky to work here is that I found that over the years, even at times where our political situation seems pretty dire and a lot of my friends are feeling very hopeless, I feel a lot less pessimistic. Because I’m able to see firsthand the change that we’re making every week, every month, every year.

Next Post