News Releases

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection, Financial Reform

Equifax penalty is a “sweetheart deal” that leaves consumers at risk

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

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.”

News Release | TexPIRG | Transportation

TexPIRG endorses “Clean School Bus Act” to protect the health of Texas’ children

AUSTIN -- Sens. Kamala Harris, Jeff Merkley, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Tina Smith, Diane Feinstein and Catherine Cortez Masto introduced a bill Thursday aimed at helping local school districts transition to all-electric transportation. The bill sets up a federal grant program, authorizing $1 billion over five years for grants of up to $2 million per school district, to replace diesel school buses with electric school buses, invest in charging infrastructure, and support workforce development.

Over 25 million American children, and roughly 3 million Texas children, as well as thousands of school bus drivers, breathe polluted air on traditional diesel yellow school buses every day. Diesel pollution stunts the growth of kids’ lungs and worsens asthma symptoms, and has also been linked to poorer academic performance.

Bay Scoggin, the Director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group (TexPIRG), issued the following statement:

“Our kids shouldn’t have to breathe dirty, dangerous air just to get to school. As the negative health impacts of long-term exposure to diesel exhaust become clearer, the need to move to zero-emission school buses becomes more urgent. We applaud and endorse this proposal, because it will help protect the health of America’s children.

“Texas can look at this as a model and expand the Texas Clean School Bus Program, which currently has only $6.1 million, despite requests for funding exceeding $11.5 million. TexPIRG applauds the Legislature’s decision to draw down the balance of the Texas Emissions Reduction Program (TERP), and we hope to see a sizable portion of those moneys directed to such a successful public health and clean air endeavor.”

“The possibility of these two programs working in conjunction is the commitment we need to clean up our air and address climate change. We have to electrify our transportation system as quickly as possible. And given that air pollution has disproportionate health effects on children, there is no better place to kickstart that transition than with school buses. The Clean School Bus Act will help school districts get the resources they need to ensure that every child has healthy air to breathe and a safe ride to school.”

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U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.

TexPIRG is an independent, non-partisan group that works for consumers and the public interest. Through research, public education and outreach, we serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety or well-being.

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.

News Release | TexPIRG | Consumer Protection

TexPIRG: Consumers Do Well in Texas Legislature

The legislative session adjourned on Monday, with consumers and the public interest claiming some big victories including the end of surprise medical bills, said the consumer group TexPIRG on Tuesday.

Surprise medical bills will no longer affect consumers in Texas with a non-federal insurance plan after bipartisan work on Senator Hancock’s SB1264. The bill expands on a Texas Department of Insurance program that sends eligible surprise medical bills to an arbitration process between the insurance company and the healthcare provider. Before, consumers had to be aware of their eligibility and submit a request, but with the update, consumers will no longer even receive the surprise medical bill in the first place, significantly increasing utilization.    

The rest of the good news:

  • A bill by Representative Oliverson will prevent hidden fees at freestanding emergency rooms, ending a prominent consumer abuse.

  • Telemarketers won’t be able to “spoof” their calls anymore, thanks to Representative Leman’s HB1992. Spoofing is the practice where robocallers make their calls appear as if they originate from the same area code as the individual they are calling.

  • The Lower Colorado River Authority will be more transparent after TexPIRG and others called for changes as part of legislation to reauthorize the agency.

  • SB9, a bill that would reduce voter participation by making it harder to register and vote, was not passed. The bill was authored by Republic Senator Hughes.

  • HB3040, authored by Representative Hunter, will study how we select our judges, including whether or not elections or appointments will lead to more qualified, representative judicial nominees.

  • None of the many bills designed to block construction of a high-speed bullet train from Houston to Dallas passed, continuing the possibility of reduced congestion on I45 and lower transportation-related air emissions.

  • Bills to increase transparency in government spending, such as Representative Canales’ HB81, which requires disclosure of public spending on entertainment events, sometimes referred to as the Enrique Iglesias bill, after public spending on a concert by that artist received significant public criticism for the expenditure amount being hidden from the taxpayer.

“We were pleased with how the legislative session turned out, especially with the amount of transparency and healthcare-related bills that passed,” said Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG’s Director. “Consumers benefit from more transparency, in government, businesses, and markets, and we saw a concerted effort to pursue that goal.”

“Ending surprise medical bills for a large portion of Texas consumers and enacting one of the strongest arbitration programs in the country will serve healthcare consumers well in the coming years,” continued Scoggin.

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