As the new year begins, I wanted to share with you six ways that PIRG, together with our partners and supporters, helped Americans in 2022 live healthier, safer, happier lives and build a better future for our kids and grandkids:
1. We helped reduce plastic pollution in our communities and open spaces.
CALPIRG State Director Jenn Engstrom and CoPIRG Executive Director Danny Katz played key roles in getting lawmakers to pass bills holding plastic packaging producers financially responsible for cleaning up the waste their products create. At the federal level, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland issued an order to phase out single-use plastic products from national parks and other public lands by 2032. Prior to the announcement, PIRG supporters sent thousands of messages calling on the Biden administration to reduce plastics in national parks — and now we’re urging the administration to move faster on its timeline.
2. We made it easier for more Americans to fix their stuff.
On April 8, Google announced that it will allow new user repair access for its Pixel line of smartphones. The commitment came after Nathan Proctor and the rest of the PIRG Right to Repair team gave Google a “D+” on the repairability of its smartphones — and it marks a major reversal in Google’s policy, which has historically been hostile to Right to Repair. The PIRG-founded Green Century Capital Management° filed a shareholder resolution with Google calling for increased repair access last January. Also this year, we made headway in the ongoing fight to allow farmers to repair their tractors how and where they need to, without having to make the often lengthy trip to the manufacturer. After our research helped expose how John Deere restricts access to resources that farmers need to conduct repairs, the company announced that it would improve farmers’ access to these resources. But Deere has made similar commitments before, with no follow-through — so we’re not declaring victory until we win national legislation guaranteeing farmers (and all consumers) the Right to Repair.
3. We helped win historic action on cleaner transportation and a healthier climate.
The Inflation Reduction Act, signed into law by President Joe Biden on Aug. 17, includes a $369 billion investment to reduce global warming pollution by 40% by 2030. In the lead-up to its passage, our advocates made sure Congress heard the public’s call for clean energy and transportation investments (which mirror those PIRG has won at the state and local levels over the years). The law provides up to $7,500 in tax credits if you want to buy a new electric vehicle; extends tax credits for rooftop solar and energy-efficient homes and buildings; and includes $3 billion for electric U.S. Postal Service trucks. That’s not enough, but it’s a big step in the right direction.
4. We warned the public against toxic threats.
As evidence continues to mount that gas stoves are toxic to our health and our environment (the latest: gas stoves generate levels of indoor air pollution that would exceed health-based outdoor air standards), PIRG consumer advocates and our Environment Campaigns Director Matt Casale are working to make sure Americans have the information they need to help keep their families safe. In addition to launching a campaign calling on Best Buy to better inform its customers about the risks of gas stoves, we got the word out ourselves in the media and published resources to help consumers minimize their risk. We also launched a campaign calling on Columbia Sportswear to stop using toxic PFAS “forever chemicals” in its products. Such a move by a major sportswear manufacturer could spark an industry-wide shift away from the use of these harmful chemicals as an additive to consumer products.
5. We helped hold polluters accountable for cleaning up toxic waste.
Over the past two years, PIRG helped secure the reinstatement of two critical “polluter pays” taxes on companies that discharge toxic waste and are responsible for America’s designated “Superfund” sites. The new policies will hold polluters accountable for their pollution, and they’ll provide much-needed funding to finally clean up the dangerous toxic waste sites that currently pose a threat to 1 in 5 Americans. In the lead-up to the passage of this landmark federal legislation, our Senior Director of State Offices Emily Rusch and PIRG advocates across the country helped ensure that Congress would put the burden of toxic waste cleanup back where it belongs.
6. We defended consumers from predatory practices.
On July 8, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that airlines must eliminate a set of consumer-unfriendly fees, including their egregious extra charges to seat children 13 and younger with an accompanying adult. The DOT also released a “Bill of Rights” to help passengers with disabilities. These actions came a week after PIRG and other consumer advocacy groups sent a letter urging Congress to tell airlines to prioritize passengers in their policies. In the states, advocates worked to expose ways that companies are failing or overcharging their customers. Illinois PIRG State Director Abe Scarr, for example, has been a leading voice on behalf of consumers as the state grapples with the disastrous Peoples Gas pipe replacement program — which has consistently failed Illinois utility customers while Peoples Gas rakes in record profits. MASSPIRG’s Janet Domenitz and Deirdre Cummings helped consumers navigate rising heating costs and get access to key resources on saving money, weatherizing your home, and transitioning to more efficient sources of energy.
7. We helped protect Americans from surprise medical bills.
PIRG spread the word about new rights under the federal No Surprises Act, which we helped win at the end of 2020. Since taking effect at the beginning of 2022, the new law has already prevented more than 9 million surprise medical bills for emergency treatment, air ambulances, and out-of-network doctors giving care at in-network hospitals. Patricia Kelmar, our senior director of health care campaigns, will now be serving with the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on its Advisory Committee on Ground Ambulance and Patient Billing to make recommendations for extending surprise billing protections to ambulances.
We’re thankful for these opportunities to make a difference for Americans’ health, safety and well-being — and we’re thankful for allies like you who make this work possible.
U.S. PIRG is not a registered investment adviser. U.S. PIRG is not providing any investment advice to any recipient of this communication.
°Green Century Capital Management, Inc. (Green Century) is the investment advisor to the Green Century Funds (the Funds).
You should carefully consider the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses before investing. To obtain a Prospectus that contains this and other information about the Funds please visit www.greencentury.com, email [email protected], or call 1-800-934-7336. Please read the Prospectus carefully before investing.
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The Green Century Funds are distributed by UMB Distribution Services, LLC. 235 W Galena Street, Milwaukee, WI 53212. 12/22
Chairman, U.S. PIRG; President, 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.
Executive Vice President; President, PIRG
As president of PIRG, Faye is a leading voice for consumer protection and public health in the United States. She has been quoted in major news outlets, including CBS News and the Washington Post, about issues ranging from getting toxic chemicals out of children’s products to protecting Americans from predatory lending practices. Faye also serves as the executive vice president for The Public Interest Network, which PIRG founded. Faye began her public interest career as a student volunteer with MASSPIRG Students at Williams College. After graduating in 1992, she began working with the Student PIRGs in California as a campus organizer and organizing director, working on campaigns to help students register to vote and to promote recycling. She lives in Denver with her family.