Stop the Puget Sound Gateway Boondoggle

More and more of us are moving off the roads. Yet, across the country there are countless proposed highway projects, like the Puget Sound Gateway, that are not just expensive — they’re outright boondoggles. We need your help to stop it. 

It's time to shift Washington’s transportation priorities

These days, more and more of us are moving off the roads. Across the country, and here in Washington, people are driving less on average than we have in years past. Driving peaked in America in 2007. Since then, the Millennial Generation has led the way, with more people walking, biking and taking transit. In fact, in 2014 more people rode public transportation than had in 57 years! Meanwhile, new technologies and other options, such as bike sharing, are making it easier for people to rely less on cars.

Yet, despite these well-documented changes in transportation trends, our decision makers continue to prioritize new roads and wasteful highway expansions. Meanwhile, other needs — from expanding public transportation to critical bridge repairs — go unmet. At a time when one in nine bridges in America are considered “structurally deficient,” these confused priorities put millions of Americans in danger every single day. 

The Puget Sound Gateway Boondoggle

In Washington, the state government is proposing to spend between 2.8 and 3 billion dollars on a wasteful highway expansion that connects State Routes 509 and 167 and Interstate 5, collectively known as the Puget Sound Gateway project. The plan includes adding up to 2 additional lanes of travel in each direction along both state routes, and additional 1-2 lanes of tolling along all three routes.

This unnecessary and wasteful expansion is based on designs first conceived of more than 60 years ago. This, at a time when the state has declared driving is likely to stagnate for decades. What’s more, according to the state’s own data, toll revenue would only account for a small part of the total cost of completed construction. 

While supporters claim the project is necessary to better connect the state’s ports with its highways, there are far more effective ways to invest our transportation dollars. 

Ultimately, there are more pressing and sustainable transportation issues that limited state funds should be spent on instead – such as the 372 structurally deficient bridges in the state. Moreover, investments in the bus system, light rail in Seattle, and high-speed rail between Spokane and Seattle could create a higher quality of living for everyone. 

Moving Washington forward 

We need your help. Tell the governor to invest in sustainable alternatives and already existing infrastructure rather than waste up to 3 billion dollars in needless highway expansion. We deserve to have a safe, reliable transportation system that offers real options for however people might want to get around. Stopping this highway boondoggles is an important first step for getting us there.

Issue updates

L'Oréal: Pledge to Be Toxic-Free

Today, WashPIRG, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP)), and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families delivered more than 150,000 petition signatures calling on the multinational cosmetic giant L’Oréal USA to eliminate cancer causing chemicals and to disclose its secret “fragrance” chemicals. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

Statement on House Financial Services Committee Passage of HR 10, the Wrong Choice Act

Today, the House Financial Services Committee approved HR 10, the so-called Financial Choice Act, on a straight party-line vote. We call it the Wrong Choice Act. The bill eviscerates the successful CFPB, which has returned $11.8 Billion to over 29 million consumers in less than six years. The bill repeals much of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act enacted to protect us after the 2008 financial collapse. Our statement is below.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Banks Cook Books To Promote Wrong Choice Act, Attack CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

Today the House Financial Services Committee takes up the so-called Financial Choice Act, which we call the Wrong Choice Act, to repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 and leave the CFPB an unrecognizable husk incapable of protecting consumers. Some 52 state bank associations urged support of the bill, based on a "cook-the-history-books" analysis of bank consolidation, which has not increased since 2010, even though they make the claim based on preposterous math.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

Financial Choice Act: A Cruel Choice for the CFPB & Consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

UPDATED 4/25 with link to our letter to Congress. This week, on Wednesday 4/26, the House FInancial Services Committee holds a hearing on Chairman Jeb Hensarling's Financial Choice Act 2.0. It's a brutal un-do of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that forgets, or ignores, the historical fact that reckless bank practices abetted by loose regulators wrecked our economy in 2008. A key goal of the proposal is to weaken the successful CFPB into an unrecognizable husk incapable of protecting consumers.

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Result | Antibiotics

Victory! KFC Goes Antibiotic-Free

On April 7, 2017,  KFC U.S. announced that by the end of 2018, all chicken purchased by the company will be raised without antibiotics important to human medicine. A coalition of consumer and public health groups, including WashPIRG (Public Interest Research Group), had urged the company to act on the issue. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

PIRG, Consumer Advocates Join Fight to Protect CFPB in Court

Today, U.S. PIRG, Americans for Financial Reform, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Center for Responsible Lending, Self-Help Credit Union and Maeve Elise Brown, who chairs the CFPB Consumer Advisory Board, filed a motion with the DC Circuit, US Court of Appeals for leave to intervene in PHH vs. CFPB, a lawsuit challenging the CFPB's single-director structure. Today, Senator Sherrod Brown (OH) and Rep. Maxine Waters (CA), ranking members of the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees, also filed a similar motion. Earlier this week, 17 state Attorneys General filed a similar motion on behalf of their citizens. 

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News Release | WashPIRG | Democracy

Testimony to Senate State Government Comm on SB 5108, a bill to increase transparency of PAC donors in WA

Testimony in support of SB 5108, which would discourage the practice of moving money between different political action committees, or PACs, in order to mislead or confuse voters about who is truly funding certain political campaigns or political advertisements.

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News Release | WashPIRG | Financial Reform

Consumer Bureau Under Attack

Since 2011, the Consumer Bureau has served as a wildly successful and accountable watchdog over unfair & greedy practices by companies offering financial products like mortgages, student loans, and credit cards. It has implemented fair rules of the road that have evened the playing field for responsible consumers and businesses alike. It is protecting students, seniors, service members and the rest of us too.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Financial Reform

CFPB Taps Former Pentagon Legal Official to Head Office of Servicemember Affairs

We join National Consumer Law Center, Americans for Financial Reform and other leading groups in a release commending the appointment of senior Pentagon official Colonel Paul Kantwill (U.S. Army, Retired) to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Office of Servicemember Affairs. The CFPB plays an important role in protecting servicemembers, veterans and their families from financial predators.

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Statement on Procter & Gamble’s New Preservative Tracker in Personal Care Products

Personal care product giant Procter & Gamble (P&G) recently unveiled a new preservative tracker, which lets consumers know which preservatives are included in various categories of P&G’s products, such as baby wipes, skin care, and hair care products. Consumers can search the tracker by ingredient or by product type.

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Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Budget, Financial Reform, Tax

Following the Money

Washington State received a “B” when it comes to government spending transparency, according to “Following the Money 2014: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the fifth annual report of its kind by the Washington State Public Interest Research Group Foundation. 

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Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Food

A Year of Progress

As of 2013, 90% of the corn and 93% of the soy grown in the U.S. are GMO varieties, and by the mid-2000s, 87% of the domestic canola crop was genetically modified. Despite USDA and FDA regulations leaving consumers in the dark, many companies have been responding independantly to the overwhelming consumer support for GMO labeling.

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Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Consumer Protection

Debt Collectors, Debt Complaints

This is the fifth in a series of reports that review complaints to the CFPB nationally and on a state-by-state level. In this report we explore consumer complaints about debt collection, with the aim of uncovering patterns in the problems consumers are experiencing with debt collectors and documenting the role of the CFPB in helping consumers successfully resolve their complaints.

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Report | WashPIRG Foundation | Transportation

A New Course

Universities and colleges across the country are taking steps to encourage their communities, students, faculty and staff to decrease their reliance on personal vehicles. These efforts are working well – saving money for universities, improving the quality of life in college towns, and giving today’s students experience in living life without depending on a personal car. 

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Report | Washington Foundation & WashPIRG Students | Higher Ed

Fixing the Broken Textbook Market

The cost of college textbooks has skyrocketed in recent years. To students and families already struggling to afford high tuition and fees, an additional $1,200 per year on books and supplies can be the breaking point. WashPIRG Foundation - in conjunction with WashPIRG Students and PIRG Students - takes a look at how the price of textbooks are detering students from purchasing assigned materials despite concern for their grades, among other findings. 

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Wall Street Ramps Up Attacks on Wall Street Reform | Ed Mierzwinski

On Friday, the House overwhelmingly approved a Wall Street-driven proposal to weaken oversight of private equity firms, taking a chunk out of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. But wait, there's so much more: On Tuesday the House Financial Services Committee takes up the so-called "Financial Choice Act," which eviscerates most of Dodd-Frank's key reforms, from stripping powers of the Financial Stability Oversight Council to repealing the Volcker Rule, which reins in risky betting practices that use depositors' money. As for the CFPB (which just this week issued its biggest fine to date, $100 million against Wells Fargo Bank for opening hundreds of thousands of fake and secret consumer accounts to meet sales goals), the proposal would defund and defang it and delay or stop its efforts to rein in unfair practices of payday lenders, debt collectors and banks. Many of the Financial Choice Act's provisions also pose threats as budget bill "riders."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Good news! CFPB Adding Consumer Ratings of Company Responses to Complaint Database | Ed Mierzwinski

The CFPB is making a good public consumer complaint database better. In 2015, the CFPB added optional consumer narratives, or stories, to its public consumer complaint database, giving other consumers, researchers and even other firms a new way to help study complaint patterns. Now, it will give consumers a chance to “rate the company’s handling of his or her complaint on a one-to-five scale and provide a narrative description in support of the rating.”

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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 | Consumer Protection

Delayed CFPB/Other Wall Street Reform Rollbacks Happening Today On House Floor | Ed Mierzwinski

Last month the House canceled floor consideration of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. FSGG is back on the floor today and tomorrow. We urge support of amendments to protect the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) but, since they won't pass, we urge a no vote on the bill. Here's an updated excerpt from my previous blog.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

Court Rejects PIRG-Opposed Swipe Fee Settlement With Visa/Mastercard | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit threw out a preliminary $7.25 billion settlement between Visa and Mastercard and any merchant accepting credit cards (including U.S. PIRG), ruling that despite that seemingly massive payment for past practices that the settlement gave inadequate relief to merchants going forward, as it essentially immunized the networks for any future illegal conduct while providing mostly illusory benefits. Since we accept credit cards from our members, we, joined by Consumer Reports, had formally objected to the settlement as consumer advocates who also happen to be merchant class members (most merchant associations also objected).

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Defend the CFPB

Tell your senators to oppose the “Financial CHOICE Act,” which would gut Wall Street reforms and destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as we know it.

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