Earth Day is usually devoted to warning people about dangers to the environment and the crisis of climate change. And while there is much that needs to be done to combat the threats to our planet, this year we also have some cause to celebrate. In the past year, a growing numbers of Americans supported initiatives to protect the earth and major government officials are responding with sweeping reforms.
Here are five empowering pieces of environmental news from the past year that show we are heading in the right direction.
1. Activists received enough signatures so that people can vote to ban fracking.
On Election Day 2016, people in several places will have the opportunity to vote to ban hydraulic fracturing thanks to activists who organized petitions that exceeded the minimum number of signatures required for ballot placement. Michigan citizens will have the opportunity to ban fracking statewide. There are also local ballot initiatives in Monterey County, California, and Butte County, California.
2. The EPA will crack down on oil and gas pollution.
After proposing regulations last summer to restrict methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, the EPA will soon begin the regulation process to limit methane releases from gas and oil wells. While the oil industry complained about the methane emissions reporting from the EPA, the government is moving ahead with the regulations. Cutting methane emissions has been an important goal of the Obama administration.
3. Americans strongly support having corporations pay for polluting.
While a carbon tax has been previously coined as a controversial solution to fighting climate change, it seems that most Americans don't find it controversial at all. In fact, a March 2016 poll found that two out of three Americans support a carbon tax. The poll also found that nearly two-thirds of Americans are worried about climate change.
4. World leaders agree to climate change plan in Paris.
Global leaders gathered in Paris in 2015 to discuss ways to mitigate the effects of climate change. The result was 170 countries (a record) agreeing to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gases. While the targets in the written agreement are non-binding, the news is a step in the right direction.
5. State officials went after the fossil fuel industry.
It began with New York a few months ago, and now attorney generals from at least 15 states are going after the fossil fuel industry. They are launching investigations against big oil companies, asserting that the companies knew about the effects of climate change and misled the public for years. If the attorney generals find the right evidence, this could dramatically change the U.S. energy industry and produce big a win for protecting the earth.
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