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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

New car seats made without toxic flame-retardant chemicals

Car seats are supposed to keep our youngest children safe. But though they may protect infants and toddlers during accidents, car seats have a history of containing toxic flame-retardant chemicals.

That’s finally changing.

Today, a coalition of groups including U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Ecology Center’s “Healthy Stuff” program released test results on car seats in a new report, Hidden Hazards:Flame Retardants and PFAS in Children’s Car Seats. The authors collaborated with researchers from Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Popular toys contain toxics and other hazards

This holiday season, watch out for dangerous and toxic toys. U.S. PIRG’s 33rd annual Trouble in Toyland report found toxic amounts of boron, which can cause nausea, vomiting and other health issues, in slime products as well as fining that Amazon failed to appropriately label choking hazards.

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News Release | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Ditching diesel isn’t just good for public health and the environment -- it’s affordable

Press Conference Today with an Electric Bus! Come get some great pictures and a ride on a fantastic electric bus. 2910 E. 5th St. Austin, TX. 78702

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Report | TexPIRG | Transportation

Paying for Electric Buses

Most of America’s school and transit buses run on diesel, a highly-polluting fuel, but there is a better option. All-electric buses are here, and they’re cleaner, healthier and save money for transit agencies, school districts and bus contractors to run in the long-term. Diesel is internationally recognized as a dangerous carcinogen, and diesel exhaust contributes to several respiratory illnesses, including asthma. Children are particularly susceptible to the negative health effects of diesel exhaust because their lungs are still developing.

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News Release | TexPIRG Ed Fund | Antibiotics

Chain Reaction report urges burger restaurants to beef up policies to eliminate routine use of antibiotics

AUSTIN-- Two growing burger chains, Shake Shack and BurgerFi, stand out from the herd when it comes to serving beef raised without the routine use of antibiotics in the burger industry. They were the only restaurants to earn an “A” on the fourth annual Chain Reaction scorecard released today by six major consumer and environmental organizations. The vast majority of hamburger chains — 22 of the top 25, including giants such as McDonald’s and Whataburger — got an “F” grade because they lack established policies restricting antibiotic use in their beef supply chains.

“We should all be worried that so many restaurants are failing when it comes to antibiotic stewardship. We need more burger chains to follow the lead of BurgerFi and Shake Shake and commit to protecting our life-saving medicines. Antibiotics are too important to lose and these companies can use their purchasing power to protect our health,” said Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Ed Fund Director.

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Media Hit | Transportation

VW settlement plan falls short of Houston’s pollution share

As Texas plans to spend the $209 million awarded by the Volkswagen "Dieselgate" scandal, TexPIRG Director Bay Scoggin is quoted as being "concerned" about the plan released late last week. While the money heading towards Electric Vehicle Infrastructure is great, there is a troubling lack of details about how the money is to be spent. Bay had this to say in the Houston Chronicle article:

“The lack of clear guidelines for the competitive process … leads to problematic uncertainty on whether communities or gas corporations will benefit,”

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

U.S. PIRG statement on $289 million verdict against RoundUp

Today, a jury ruled against the chemical company Monsanto, awarding $289 million in damages to Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who said he got terminal cancer from Monsanto’s best-selling weedkiller Roundup.

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News Release | TexPIRG | Transportation

Texas' Volkswagen Mitigation Plan "Concerning"

AUSTIN -- In a plan released yesterday, the Governor’s Office and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) proposed spending the $209 million dollars the state of Texas received from the Volkswagen, “Dieselgate,” scandal on “fuel-neutral” buses, trucks, and other vehicles, while opting in to the full 15% made available for electric vehicle infrastructure.  

The plan states that money will be determined on a “first come, first serve” basis.

As a secondary measure, TCEQ cites cost-effectiveness as a key determinant in what it calls the “competitive process,” to receive funding for a project. A corresponding table shows that trucks, which are predominantly supplied by natural gas options, are by far the most cost-effective-- roughly 10 times more so than school buses.

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News Release | TexPIRG | Public Health

Arkema executives arraigned for toxic cloud in Harvey

HOUSTON -- Harris County prosecutors were in court today for the arraignment of two chemical company executives for endangering and injuring emergency workers, including police officers, during the flooding brought on by Hurricane Harvey. Arkema, a major French chemical manufacturer with a large U.S. presence, is accused of recklessly releasing a toxic cloud over Houston last August, prosecutors announced.

 

This morning, Arkema North America’s CEO Richard Rowe and plant manager Leslie Comardelle, appeared in the courtroom in Houston.

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Picking Up the Tab

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Picking Up the Tab

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Democracy

Following the Money 2015

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund

Open for Business

Government transparency is a vital part of an inclusive and well-functioning democracy, especially when it comes to how our tax dollars are spent. At all levels – federal, state, and local –governments spending and revenue collection should serve the public benefit. Therefore, it is our right to have the necessary access to information that allows us to be knowledgeable citizens, voters, and participants in our government. This includes information about how our state is spending its’ money.

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Report | TexPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

The Innovative Transportation Index

This report reviews the availability of 11 technology-enabled transportation services – including online ridesourcing, carsharing, ridesharing, taxi hailing, static and real-time transit information, multi-modal apps, and virtual transit ticketing – in 70 U.S. cities. It finds that residents of 19 cities, with a combined population of nearly 28 million people, have access to eight or more of these services, with other cities catching up rapidly.

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News Release | TexPIRG

Three months after nearly 5.4 million infant sleepers were recalled for causing 36 infant deaths, a new survey by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education (U.S. PIRG) and Kids in Danger (KID) revealed that many child care facilities continue to use these dangerous inclined sleepers. The survey began after PIRG Consumer Watchdog Adam Garber discovered that his own son’s daycare in Philadelphia was using the recalled products.

“Every day, millions of parents drop their kids off, assuming their daycares have the information they need to keep their kids safe,” said Garber. “This failed recall is a wakeup call that our current system leaves too many infants at risk from these dangerous sleepers.”

U.S. PIRG and KID blamed the situation on confusing messages about the recall. Initially, a consumer warning for the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play on April 4th linked deaths to infant rollovers, leading some parents and facilities to conclude that proper use would keep babies safe. But a more complete analysis revealed some deaths occurred when the child was buckled in, leading the company and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to fully recall the 4.7 million Rock ‘n Play sleepers soon after on April 14. On April 26, nearly 700,000 units of the Kids II Rocking Sleeper were recalled.

Media Hit

Like many American cities, Houston is encircled by rings of highways—nine major radial freeways, three ring freeways, and a 180-mile fourth outer ring on the way.

But Houston isn’t just encircled by roads, it’s symbolically, and literally, being choked by cars. It’s consistently ranked as a top city for traffic congestion, ninth-worst for ozone pollution according to the American Lung Association, and a tragic nexus for deaths from car crashes. The annual death toll, according to the Houston Chronicle, is equivalent to “three fully-loaded 737s crashing each year at Houston’s airports, killing all aboard.”

According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the solution is more roads, specifically, a multiyear, multibillion dollar project to widen and expand the city’s highway infrastructure in an attempt to ease persistent bottlenecks that clog downtown traffic.

 

This isn’t a small upgrade: in the name of accelerating commutes, the North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) will widen and rebuild nearly 25 miles of highways in the city’s downtown, expanding some to be as wide as the length of two football fields. In addition to years of construction, the “Texas-sized” expansion would displace four houses of worship, two schools, 168 homes, 1,067 multifamily units, and 331 businesses that account for just under 25,000 employees, impacting mostly people of color in low-income neighborhoods.

It would add more impermeable concrete and asphalt infrastructure, plus future maintenance costs, to a city that is still recovering from some of the worst floods in recent memory. Resilience is a serious concern post-Harvey, and as flood maps are updated as flood risks evolve, the addition of concrete to the landscape could make the next storm’s impact worse. Houstonians still recall how highways became channels of water that cut off neighborhoods from aid during the worst of the flooding.

To critics, the I-45 project, named after the main highway that will be impacted, is an urban renewal reboot, a modern version of the freeway expansion projects that wrecked neighborhoods and divided cities in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Why would more urban highways and lanes of traffic—especially at a time when many cities are actively removing or capping their highways—be a foregone conclusion in any effort to mitigate Houston’s serious congestion problem?

News Release | U.S. PIRG

Everyone should assume that their social security number has been exposed between this breach and breaches of other major companies’ databases, such as Equifax’s. With that in mind, U.S. PIRG recommends all Americans should use their right by law to freeze their credit reports for free

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Our response to Equifax paying a $650 million penalty for exposing the social security numbers of 148 million Americans to identity theft.

Blog Post

Dear Chair Patman,

We write you today to urge METRO to transition its buses to a clean, all-electric fleet.

We applaud the work METRO employees do every day, safely carrying thousands of people, including many who cannot or do not wish to drive, to work, school and more. METRO buses and light rail are playing a critical role in reducing traffic and air pollution. Furthermore, we appreciate the efforts METRO has taken to convert buses to hybrid technology, limit idling, and initiate an electric bus pilot program. 

However, most METRO buses are still powered by diesel—a dirty fossil fuel that gives off toxic emissions—endangering the health of the people who ride them and contributing to global warming. 

The good news is we have the technology to start building cleaner, healthier cities and neighborhoods. Dramatic declines in battery costs and improvements in performance, including expanded driving range, have made electric buses a viable alternative to diesel-powered and other fossil fuel buses. 

Replacing all of METRO’s diesel-powered transit buses with electric buses could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 43 million pounds each year. 

Electric buses can also be more affordable than fossil fuel buses in the long run, since they have 30 percent fewer parts, no exhaust systems, their braking systems last longer, and they don’t require oil changes or fossil fuels. Over the lifetime of the bus, an electric transit bus can avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in operating costs over an equivalent diesel or natural gas bus, from lower fuel and maintenance costs. 

We urge you to no longer purchase any more diesel buses. Putting new diesel buses on the road today will pollute our city for at least twelve more years. Instead, as buses are ready to be retired, please replace them with clean electric ones.

The Houston region is receiving $32 million from the Volkswagen Settlement funds, but that money is yet to be dispersed. This is a great opportunity for METRO to start transitioning to clean electric buses. 

 

We look forward to working with you to one day give all Houstonians the opportunity for a “whisper-quiet, green ride.”

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