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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Tax

Taxpayers Win: EPA Bars Safeway from Using Settlement as a Tax Write-Off

Good news for taxpayers: The settlement agreement announced by the EPA bars Safeway from using its Clean Air Act violation settlement as a tax write-off. We applaud the EPA for holding Safeway fully accountable for its actions, and not letting them stick taxpayers with the tab for their wrongdoing.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

U.S. PIRG Urges Further Action on Campus Debit Cards

U.S. PIRG is urging federal policy makers to clean up the campus debit card marketplace, after an ABC News investigation found that a multimillion-dollar deal between TCF Bank and the University of Minnesota - which offered students checking accounts linked to their campus ID cards - hits students with hidden fees as high as $37 per transaction.

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Bounced Checks Could Land You On A Banking Blacklist

"NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Bounced checks and forgotten overdraft fees can happen to anybody. But now, some banks are using those money mistakes against customers. [...] Consumer advocates said that some of the people being shut out have records that were dinged accidentally." (Video and print story available)

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New Study Reveals Driving on the Decline in 46 States

Americans have cut their per-person driving miles in 46 states plus Washington, D.C., since the middle of the last decade. The states with the biggest reductions in driving miles generally were not the states hit hardest by the economic downturn. The majority—almost three-quarters—of the states where per-person driving miles declined more quickly than the national average actually saw smaller increases in unemployment compared to the rest of the nation.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Moving Off the Road

Forty-six states plus the District of Columbia witnessed a reduction in the average number of driving miles per person since the end of the national Driving Boom. The evidence suggests that the nation’s per-capita decline in driving cannot be dismissed as a temporary side effect of the recession. 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Don’t Double Student Loan Interest Rates

Today, college student leaders from Kent State University, Florida International University, together with Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education, and Ethan Senack from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, called on federal lawmakers to keep student loan interest rates from doubling. On Wednesday, the House Education and Workforce committee will debate the costs and benefits of the federal student loan program, including student loan interest rates.

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Why consumer agency must go, and why it should be saved

"If the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau disappeared tomorrow, would anyone notice? What is expected to be a contentious Senate Banking Committee confirmation hearing [today] for Rich Cordray, who has been temporarily leading the bureau, offers an opportunity to examine the need for a federal agency designed to protect consumers in their financial dealings." Bob Sullivan of NBC's Red Tape Chronicles interviews U.S. PIRG's Ed Mierzwinski and George Mason's Todd Zywicki.

 

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

During National Consumer Protection Week, Consumer Advocates Warn About Harms of Forced Arbitration

In celebration of National Consumer Protection Week, U.S. PIRG joins other consumer groups in calling for elimination of forced mandatory arbitration clauses. "More than ever, consumers are forced to surrender their rights every time they obtain a product or service, including credit cards, checking accounts, cell phone service and even jobs. To truly honor and recognize the importance of consumer protection laws, it is time for Congress and federal agencies to eliminate forced arbitration."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Public Health

REINS Bill Would Dismantle America’s Public Health and Consumer Protections

“The REINS Act (H.R. 367) would block enforcement of existing health and safety laws by creating new bureaucratic hurdles and impossibly short timelines for approval of critical rules. This bill poses a grave threat to the health and safety of the American people.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Budget, Tax

BP Trial Decision May Hinge on Tax Deductibility

The high-stakes negotiations between BP and the Justice Department may depend on how determined the Department is to protect taxpayers from subsidizing a settlement. In the past, agencies have allowed companies to write off legal settlements over wrongdoing as a tax deduction. Doing so forces taxpayers to ultimately foot the bill for these deductions. Every dollar these companies avoid paying gets made up through cuts to public programs, higher national debt, or increases to other taxes.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health

Toxic Pollution And Health

Using the latest available TRI data, we examined releases of chemicals known or suspected to cause serious health problems and identified states and localities that are bearing the brunt of this pollution. Specifically, we looked at releases of substances recognized by the state of California to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive problems; we also looked at releases of substances suspected by scientists to damage the neurological or respiratory systems.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Democracy

Honest Enforcement

Some argue that last year’s scandals, which lead to the conviction of two congressmen and several top aides, are evidence that ethics enforcement in Congress works. The actual facts leading up to the convictions, however, are more an indictment of the current process than a testament to its success.

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Report | MASSPIRG | Higher Ed

Exposing the Textbook Industry

MASSPIRG conducted a survey of 287 professors from a variety of disciplines at Massachusetts colleges and universities over the fall semester of 2006 to get their views on textbook industry practices that drive up prices.

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Report | U.S. PIRG | Higher Ed

Cutting Interest Rates, Lowering Student Debt 2007

Some in Congress have proposed lowering student loan interest rates to reduce the debt burden facing students and families.  This report addresses one specific proposal to cut interest rates on undergraduate subsidized Stafford student loans in half, from 6.8% to 3.4%, over a period of five years.

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Report | NJPIRG | Budget, Transportation

Caution on New Jersey Turnpike and Parkway Deal

A deal to “monetize” the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway should not be signed if it violates the public interest. No deal should be approved that fails to uphold any of six basic principles: public control, fair value, no deal longer than 30 years, state-of-the-art safety and maintenance standards, complete transparency and accountability, and no budget gimmicks.

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Blog Post | Food

FDA Sets Voluntary Limits of Antibiotic in Animal Feed, But What Does This Really Mean? | Nasima Hossain

The Food and Drug Administration announced last Wednesday that it had finalized a plan asking drug companies to voluntarily limit the use of certain antibiotics in animal feed.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

House launches latest "hypocritical" campaign to kill CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

Today the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services will vote on a budget package that eliminates the budgetary independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) -- an effort to make it the only bank regulator subject to the political chicanery of the Appropriations process -- while simultaneously slashing its budget by 60%. Even the industry trade paper American Banker says: "Is GOP Push to Subject CFPB to Appropriations Hypocritical?"

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

U.S., States Sue Apple, Publishers Over E-Book Price Conspiracy | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, the U.S. Attorney General and the Attorney Generals of Connecticut and Texas announced settlements with several publishers -- Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins --over an alleged conspiracy with Apple and other publishers to attack Amazon's pricing model, secretly set e-book prices and thereby harm consumers. However, Apple and the publishers Macmillan and Penguin Group USA have refused to settle and are being sued by the agencies.

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Blog Post | Financial Reform

CFPB to announce mortgage servicing rules and other consumer news of the week | Ed Mierzwinski

(Update: phottos added.) Today, U.S. PIRG will be an invited guest as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposes new mortgage servicing rules to prevent, among other things, a recurrence of the robo-signing scandal. Among the other important news items of the week, in case you missed it, Ohio has made it harder for aggrieved consumers to obtain redress when ripped off.

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Blog Post | Democracy

Disempowered Bankers Start Super PAC, Reveal Plans for World Domination

While I am highly skeptical of the sentiment that "Congress is not afraid of bankers", given that banking lobbyists outnumber banking reform advocates 25-1 and that the Chairman of the Senate Financial Services Subcommittee seems to believe that "the banks own the place," the most ridiculous thing about members of the American Bankers Association's announcement of the industry's new Super PAC may be their willingness to reveal its strategy for skirting the non-coordination rules. This speaks volumes about how the industry thinks about its involvement in politics.

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Priority Action

The overuse of antibiotics on factory farms is threatening the effectiveness of lifesaving antibiotics. Call on the Food and Drug Administration to put an end to the worst practices.

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