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Blog Post | COVID-19

Number of people living on the streets could triple in the months ahead | Jacob van Cleef

Eviction moratoriums, unemployment benefits, student loan repayment reprieves are ending, homeless shelters aren't a good option and there's no more relief in sight.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Texas has most ‘Highway Boondoggles’ of any state in the nation: report

Texas has been singled out as the state with the highest number of egregious highway boondoggle projects in a new report by TexPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group. Despite boasting one of the most extensive highway systems of any state in the country and huge budget shortfalls caused by COVID-19, Texas is planning to spend nearly $3 billion to expand Loop 1604 in San Antonio and build the Southeast Connector in Fort Worth.
These two new boondoggle projects join a list of two other already active boondoggles for a total of eight in the last decade--three more than any other state.
“Texas really needs to get its act together,” said Bay Scoggin, director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group. “TxDoT is already billions of dollars in debt, with billions more on the way, and they still insist on throwing good money after bad, investing more in proven failures. These projects lead to more pollution, more gridlock and more budget shortfalls."

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Blog Post | Consumer Tips, COVID-19

COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments are peddled in new scams | Teresa Murray

Con-artists are preying on people's fear of infection or desperation for money

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | COVID-19

White House task force urges action to curb COVID spread in Texas

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) rages across Texas, federal officials urged Texas lawmakers Tuesday to take immediate action to curb the spread of the virus, according to a recent report

Hospitalizations in Texas have jumped 24 percent in the last two weeks. Those numbers will likely rise and overtax the state’s hospitals after too many Texans and other Americans ignored the warnings of health experts and traveled and gathered for Thanksgiving. 

Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Director, issued the following statement in response:

“COVID-19 is raging out of control in Texas. We have already lost far too many lives to the virus. Given how widespread the virus is now, the best way to break the chains of transmission and get cases down quickly is by instituting a temporary stay-at-home order across the state, painful as that may sound."

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Blog Post | Consumer Tips, COVID-19, Public Health

20 Questions to Ask Your Nursing Home during COVID | Teresa Murray

Whether you have a loved one currently in a nursing home or rehabilitation facility, or whether you’re shopping for one, you should arm yourself with a list of questions to gauge how safe the environment is. Here’s a guide to those questions, and the answers you should expect.

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Media Hit | Transportation

Report lists I-45 rebuild project among nation’s biggest highway boondoggles

A massive remake of Interstate 45 from downtown Houston north to the Sam Houston Tollway that would be among the largest road projects in the region’s history also is one of the nation’s biggest highway boondoggles, according to an updated list released Tuesday.

The North Houston Highway Improvement Project — the umbrella term for the entire $7 billion-plus plan to remake Interstate 45 — is listed in the latest installment of unnecessary projects compiled by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group and Frontier Group. Nine projects across the country made the 2019 list, the fifth annual report from the two groups that have argued for greater transit investment.

“We believe that to fix congestion problems we need to take cars off the road,” said Bay Scoggin, director of the TexPIRG Education Fund, a subset of the national group. “We could do far better investing $7 billion in public transit.”

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

“North Houston Highway Improvement Project” makes national list of highway boondoggles

Despite boasting one of the most extensive highway systems of any city in the country, Houston is planning to spend $7 billion on the “North Houston Highway Improvement Project.” According to a new report from TexPIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group, the project would expand I-45 through the middle of Houston, displacing homes and dividing communities.

“The fundamental law of road congestion is that if you build it, they will come,” said Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Education Fund director. “More highways means more cars, so policymakers are living in a ‘Field of Dreams’ if they think this project will reduce congestion.”

“To improve Houston’s transportation system, we have to reduce our reliance on cars and highways,” Scoggin continued.  “This project does the opposite, doubling down on a car-centric system that will lead to more traffic, pollution and sprawl.”

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News Release | The Public Interest Network | Public Health

Hurricane season coverage: Data, resources and interview opportunities

The 2019 hurricane season officially gets underway tomorrow (June 1) with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicting between 4 and 8 hurricanes this year. On the heels of the devastating Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael in 2018, The Public Interest Network (which includes U.S. PIRGEnvironment America, and state groups in often-impacted states such as Florida, Georgia, North CarolinaTexas and Virginia) is sharing information to help contextualize the major environmental, health and consumer concerns posed by the hurricanes that will inevitably come this season.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Texas receives "D" grade for Volkswagen settlement spending plan

When it comes to clean transportation, Texas got a “D” for underutilizing funds from Volkswagen’s nearly $3 billion settlement with federal authorities, according to a new report card from U.S. PIRG Education Fund and Environment America Research & Policy Center.

After Volkswagen was caught three years ago violating emissions standards in 590,000 cars marketed as “clean diesel,” the German automaker agreed to create an “Environmental Mitigation Trust” to be distributed across all 50 states (along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Texas got its grade because the funds were made available for dirty fuels like compressed fracked gas, with no extra decision criteria for zero emissions vehicles.

“The Volkswagen settlement gave Texas the opportunity to make huge strides in the essential transition to a cleaner and healthier electric transportation system,” Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Director said. “It’s deeply disappointing that there’s a lot of good is coming out of how some states are spending this money -- but we are not going nearly far enough.”

Texas placed near the bottom of states overall. The report gave only 15 states a C or better for money-spending policies that increase access to electric vehicle charging and bolster electric school and transit bus fleets. Fourteen states, along with Puerto Rico, received a failing score.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Report: Roadmap for a stronger, more sustainable American infrastructure

Three years after candidates from both parties made infrastructure a key presidential campaign issue, it’s finally the long-awaited “infrastructure week.” Democratic congressional leaders and the White House announced two weeks ago that they would commit $2 trillion to the cause. But a new report from U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Environment America Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group cautions that before allocating that money, our elected officials need to determine which investments will alleviate the most dire problems America faces as a result of crumbling or outdated infrastructure -- climate change, pollution and threats to public safety.

“Deciding how much to spend before deciding what to spend it on puts the cart before the horse,” said Andre Delattre, senior vice president for program at The Public Interest Network, which includes the three groups that wrote the report. “If Congress and the Trump administration avoid the temptation to spend indiscriminately and instead develop a bold new infrastructure vision, we have the opportunity to give our children and grandchildren a stronger, healthier and more sustainable future.”

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Moving Off the Road

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

A New Direction

The time has come for America to hit the “reset” button on transportation policy—replacing the policy infrastructure of the Driving Boom years with a more efficient, flexible and nimble system that is better able to meet the transportation needs of the 21st century.

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Tax

Following the Money 2013

Every year, state governments spend tens of billions of dollars through contracts with private entities for goods and services, subsidies to encourage economic development, grants, and other forms of spending. Accountability and public scrutiny are necessary to ensure that state funds are well spent.

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Transparency In City Spending

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending checks corruption, bolsters public confidence, improves responsiveness, and promotes greater effectiveness and fiscal responsibility.

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Report | TexPIRG | Budget, Financial Reform, Tax

What America Could Do with $150 Billion Lost to Offshore Tax Havens

Many corporations and wealthy individuals use offshore tax havens—countries with minimal or no taxes—to avoid paying $150 billion in U.S. taxes each year. By shielding their income from U.S. taxes, corporations and wealthy individuals shift the tax burden to ordinary Americans, who must pick up the tab in the form of cuts to public services, more debt, or higher taxes. The $150 billion lost annually to offshore tax havens is a lot of money, especially at a time of difficult budget choices. To put this sum in perspective, we present 16 potential ways that income could be used.

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Blog Post | Food

Shrinking the Dead Zone, Reducing Fertilizer Use | Bill Wenzel

Last week, scientists predicted that this year’s hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico will be the 3rd largest since monitoring began 32 years ago. The “dead zone” will cover about 8,185 square miles — an area roughly the size of New Jersey.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

#KickTheCan: BPA still found in many grocery stores’ canned foods | Dev Gowda

We’re all told to watch out for BPA in drinking bottles and baby products. But how about BPA in the cans that contain our food? A recent study by Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reveals that the toxic chemical BPA is readily found in canned foods. BPAs are often used in the liners of canned food to keep the aluminum from interacting with the food.

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Blog Post | Public Health

Calling for Big Action on Antibiotics in the Big Apple | Steve Blackledge

Last week, we were in New York City, where the United Nations General Assembly spent an entire day discussing antibiotic resistance, “the biggest threat to modern medicine.” Experts estimate that more than 700,000 people worldwide die from antibiotic-resistant infections each year, including 23,000 in the United States—a number that could grow to 10 million globally by 2050.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Consumers Count: Five years of the CFPB standing up for consumers | Kathryn Lee

This week, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau turns five years old! As part of our efforts to tell more people about the CFPB, we're cross-posting this video blog and comments written by Zixta Q. Martinez of the CFPB (check out the infographic at the end, too!).

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Blog Post | Transportation

Good Things Come to Those On Bikes | Sean Doyle

Pull the bike out of the closet, pump up those tires, and dust off the helmet because it's Bike to Work Week!

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund

As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) turns 10 years old, a new report from TexPIRG Ed Fund recaps how the agency has helped consumers over the past decade and the steps under way to refocus the CFPB on its mission after three years of retrograde decisions under the Trump Administration. The report also provides recommendations for CFPB action moving forward, especially on credit reporting.

The CFPB opened its doors on July 21, 2011, one year after President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Typically referred to as “Dodd-Frank” or “Wall Street Reform,” this law created the CFPB in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crash caused, in large part, by the financial industry’s malfeasance. The CFPB became the United States’ first federal agency dedicated to protecting consumers from financial shenanigans.

News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund

The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County (METRO) staff announced last week a proposal to transition their transit fleet to zero-emission vehicles. This announcement came as part of METRO’s new electric bus initiative, which will add 10 new zero-emission electric buses and 10 electric cutaway buses to their fleet starting in spring of next year.

Blog Post

How the pandemic has worsened the medical debt crisis

News Release | US PIRG

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. said Wednesday it’s voluntarily recalling all lots of five types of Neutrogena and Aveeno aerosol sunscreen after internal testing showed “low levels of benzene” -- which can cause cancer -- in some samples. J&J also said consumers should stop using the sunscreen.

Report | US PIRG Education Fund

The Chain Reaction VI report and scorecard ranks America’s top restaurant chains on their policies relating to antibiotic use in their beef supply chains. 

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TexPIRG Education Fund is part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to social change.