What we came to D.C. to tell both parties in Congress

Athel Rogers | Used by permission
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), lead Senate sponsor of the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act, meets with Illinois PIRG and U.S. PIRG leaders.

The leaders of our nationwide network of state PIRGs just converged upon Washington, D.C. to build bipartisan support for priority federal public health and consumer reforms.

Over the course of one day, state PIRG leaders met with 75 Congressional offices, including both Republicans and Democrats, to advocate for:

  • The Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act, which bans the discharge of a type of microplastic called “nurdles,” the raw material for plastic production, from facilities and other sources that produce, use, package and transport them;
  • The Healthcare PRICE Transparency Act, a step toward bringing healthcare costs under control by codifying and strengthening 2019 hospital price transparency rules, extending them to imaging and surgical centers and labs, and boosting government monitoring and enforcement of these protections; and
  • Right To Repair reforms that compel manufacturers to expand access to the parts, tools, information and services we all need to fix our electronics when they break — whether it’s consumers hoping to extend the lives of their phones and tablets; people relying upon powered wheelchairs to get around; healthcare providers working to keep ventilators up and running; or farmers depending on functioning tractors to put food on their (and our) tables.

Given the political lay of the land, we’ve determined we can deliver more positive results for consumers and the public interest by prioritizing work in the states and corporate boardrooms. Meanwhile, as PIRG’s Washington legislative office and national campaign teams advance our federal agenda, they also ensure that our state-level successes resound in the halls of Congress, the White House and key agencies.

Our state and national teams work together to elevate solutions we’ve helped win in the states to the federal level by leveraging all the public support we’ve built. That’s how PIRG helped convince the Obama administration to adopt Clean Cars standards, landmark limits on tailpipe emissions from cars and light trucks that CALPIRG championed first and other state PIRGs spread to 12 more states over the preceding decade.

We know the time is right to make our case to Congress when our state-based campaigns are generating support from across the political spectrum. This time on Capitol Hill, state PIRG leaders’ top priority was to amplify mounting public concern over microplastics in our waters and our own bodies — and convert a growing wave of PIRG’s state-level victories banning and reducing single-use plastic into Congressional action.

In the Plastic Pellet Free Waters Act, we see an opportunity over the next few years to overcome partisan D.C. gridlock and make real improvements in the quality of our lives and the environment. That’s because no one likes the thought of ten trillion nurdles entering our oceans each year — or the thought of ingesting DDT, PCBs or mercury because we’ve eaten a fish or animal that’s consumed nurdles laden with these toxic chemicals. Banning plastic pellet discharges is a solution that Americans from all walks of life should be able to agree on. We’re encouraged that, right after meeting with our Pennsylvania team, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican, committed his support to the bill.

Similarly, our experience winning the nation’s first agricultural Right To Repair law in Colorado shows that undoing manufacturer monopolies on repair options for our electronics can unite “red values” rural farmers and “blue values” urban fixers. And the idea of price transparency in medical care should appeal to conservatives who believe in market competition and the ability of consumers to do comparison shopping to bring down health care prices, just as it ought to appeal to progressives on the lookout for ways to give struggling Americans a leg up.

We’ve got a lot more work to do from here, both in laying the bipartisan groundwork for change in the states and also in seeing that change through in Washington, D.C., whether in the form of federal laws or administrative actions. Please be sure to reach out with any questions or thoughts. I’d love to hear from you about our politically inclusive approach, any of these campaigns, or PIRG’s state and national operations.


Faye Park

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.