Protecting Public Assets

STOP BAD PRIVATIZATION DEALS—Pennsylvania's roadways and other public infrastructure must be operated for the long-term public interest.

Making sure the public gets a fair deal on privatization proposals

Across Pennsylvania, cash-strapped governments are struggling to plug gaping holes in their budgets. At the same time, Pennsylvania’s roads and bridges remain congested and in desperate need of repair.

Enter global private infrastructure companies and their backers in the world of investment banking. Touting the benefits of public-private partnerships, these companies are seeking to build new private highways or offering up-front cash for existing roads… all in exchange for the right to charge and collect tolls on motorists for decades to come.

Road, parking, and other privatization proposals offer a hard-to-resist “quick fix” for state budget and transportation challenges. But poorly conceived privatization deals can have hidden costs and big potential downsides for the public.

PROTECTING THE PUBLIC FROM BAD PRIVATIZATION DEALS

To protect the public interest, Pennsylvania and its local governments should avoid privatization of existing infrastructure and allow private deals of new construction only under the following conditions:

•The public should retain control over decisions about transportation planning and management.
• The public must receive full value so future toll revenues won’t be sold off at a discount.
• No deal should last longer than 30 years because of uncertainty over future conditions and because the risks of a bad deal grow exponentially over time.
• Contracts should require state-of-the-art maintenance and safety standards instead of statewide minimums.
• Complete transparency and public disclosure are needed to ensure proper public vetting of privatization proposals.
• There must be full accountability in which the legislature must approve the terms of a final deal, not just approve that a deal be negotiated.

Issue updates

News Release | PennPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

New report outlines how PA utility companies can creatively invest in electric school buses

Philadelphia, PA -- To protect our children’s health and environment, PennPIRG Education Fund and PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center have released a new report to identify new, cutting-edge ways that utility companies can assist school districts in paying for zero-emission buses, and how schools can reap the long-term benefits. 

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Report | PennPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Accelerating the Transition to Electric School Buses

THE VAST MAJORITY of school buses in the United States run on diesel, a fossil fuel that has been shown to cause numerous health problems, including asthma, bronchitis, and cancer. Diesel exhaust is also a greenhouse gas, which contributes to climate change. However, there is an alternative: zero-emission battery electric school buses.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Statement: CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger resigns

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger submitted her resignation Wednesday soon after the inauguration of new President Joe Biden. Resignation opens seat for President Biden’s new nominee Rohit Chopra.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Protection

Statement: USPIRG applauds Biden nominees Chopra to head CFPB and Gensler to chair SEC

President-elect Joe Biden announced Monday that he intends to nominate Rohit Chopra as Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) director and Gary Gensler as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

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Blog Post | Transportation

Nader's "Unsafe At Any Speed" 55th Anniversary! | Ed Mierzwinski

Today, on the 55th anniversary of Ralph Nader's landmark "Unsafe at Any Speed," about the built-in dangers of 1960s cars, as exemplified by the General Motors Corvair, his colleagues led by Joan Claybrook have published a new report: "Safer Vehicles and Highways: 4.2 million U.S. Lives Spared Since 1966." The report makes recommendations to President-elect Joe Biden about how to revitalize and strengthen the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which Claybrook ran during the Jimmy Carter administration.

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

Proposed rule would remove unsafe, inclined infant sleepers from market

Despite more than 50 infant deaths from inclined sleepers, including the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play and the Kids II Rocking Sleeper, many versions of this type of product remain for sale and in homes. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is proposing a new rule that would virtually end the sale of inclined sleepers. 

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

Investigation finds 1 in 9 used cars for sale at AutoNation have unrepaired safety recalls

AutoNation, America’s largest auto retailer, is selling used vehicles with unrepaired safety recalls including explosive Takata airbags, faulty GM ignition switches and defects with no fix available.

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News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Consumer Protection

New analysis uncovers unsafe blood pressure medication distributed in US

A new analysis of publicly available information from the FDA by U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund finds only 26 percent of a class of recalled blood pressure medications have been assessed for carcinogen contamiantion -- and the majority had some lots with higher levels than the FDA considers safe.

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News Release | PennPIRG Education Fund | Public Health, Consumer Protection

Federal rollback of clean cars standards will harm Pennsylvanians health, pocketbooks

PennPIRG Education Fund said a likely revocation of state's ability to set stronger clean car emission standards "could set our health back decades and empty the wallets of many Pennsylvanians."

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News Release | U.S. PIRG | Consumer Tips, Consumer Protection

Largest bank hack ever, of Capital One, exposes 100 million to identity theft

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

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Report | PennPIRG Education Fund | Transportation

Transportation and the New Generation

From World War II until just a few years ago, the number of miles driven annually on America’s roads steadily increased. Then, at the turn of the century, something changed: Americans began driving less. By 2011, the average American was driving 6 percent fewer miles per year than in 2004.

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Report | PennPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Following the Money 2012

The ability to see how government uses the public purse is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending promotes fiscal responsibility, checks corruption, and bolsters public confidence.

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Report | PennPIRG Education Fund | Consumer Protection

Trouble in Toyland

The 2011 Trouble in Toyland report is our 26th annual survey of toy safety. In this report, we provide safety guidelines for consumers when purchasing toys for young children and provide examples of toys currently on store shelves that may pose potential safety hazards.

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Report | PennPIRG Education Fund | Budget

Caution: Red Light Cameras Ahead

Before pursuing a camera system contract, local governments should heed the advice of the Federal Highway Administration and first investigate traffic engineering solutions for problem intersections or roadways. If officials decide that private enforcement systems are appropriate, they should avoid deals that constrain future decisions related to protecting safety. Privatized traffic law enforcement should be used solely as a tool for enhancing traffic safety, not as a cash cow for municipalities or private firms.

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Report | PennPIRG Education Fund | Budget, Transportation

Fixing It First

America’s infrastructure is showing its age. Our nation’s roads, highways and bridges have increasingly received failing scores on maintenance and upkeep. For the nation’s bridges, lack of maintenance can result in the sudden closure of a critical transportation link or, far worse, a collapse that results in lost lives and a significant loss in regional economic productivity.

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Blog Post | Public Health, Consumer Protection

#KickTheCan: BPA still found in many grocery stores’ canned foods | Dev Gowda

We’re all told to watch out for BPA in drinking bottles and baby products. But how about BPA in the cans that contain our food? A recent study by Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reveals that the toxic chemical BPA is readily found in canned foods. BPAs are often used in the liners of canned food to keep the aluminum from interacting with the food.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Is On The Job Protecting Consumers | Ed Mierzwinski

While powerful special interests, Senators, the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and the White House call for dismantling the CFPB, firing its excellent director, or worse, CFPB continues to be an agency that is on the job, conducting business as usual to protect consumers. Its latest "Monthly Complaint Snapshot" is an open window into the many reasons we need a strong CFPB.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

This week, CFPB Sues TCF Bank for overdraft schemes and loan servicer Navient for "failing" students | Ed Mierzwinski

Despite an escalation of threats to exterminate the Consumer FInancial Protection Bureau, CFPB continues to protect consumers well. This week it sued TCF Bank over deceptive overdraft marketing schemes and it sued Navient, the student loan servicer and Sallie Mae spinoff, for "failing" students at every step of the repayment process. The TCF complaint notes that its CEO brazenly named his boat "Overdraft."

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

CFPB Report Finds 1 In 4 Consumers Feel "Threatened" By Debt Collector Tactics | Ed Mierzwinski

We joined Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray and Washington, DC Attorney General Karl Racine for release of new CFPB data on debt collector abuses. Fully 1 in 4 consumers feel "threatened" by abusive, possibly illegal, debt collector tactics. The release also included an emphasis on problems with the "debt buyer" industry, comprised of firms that buy older, uncollected debt for as little as less than a penny on the dollar.

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Blog Post | Consumer Protection

This New Year, Celebrate the CFPB | Ed Mierzwinski

This month, we published our 8th report based on analyzing consumer complaints collected in the CFPB's Public Consumer Complaint Database. The release of "Big Banks, Big Overdraft Fees" provides a good year-end opportunity to summarize a few of the reasons to be thankful for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which took over in July 2011 as the first federal regulator with just one job: protecting consumers from unfair financial practices. The idea of the CFPB needs no defense, only more defenders.

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Report | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Following years of rollbacks, President Joe Biden began his term nearly a year ago amidst unprecedented environmental and public health challenges. Despite these obstacles, his administration has made significant strides toward restoring lost environmental protections and confronting daunting threats to our climate and public health, according to a new report by Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. 

News Release | U.S. PIRG Education Fund

Following years of rollbacks, President Joe Biden began his term nearly a year ago amidst unprecedented environmental and public health challenges. Despite these obstacles, his administration has made significant strides toward restoring lost environmental protections and confronting daunting threats to our climate and public health, according to a new report by Environment America Research & Policy Center and U.S. PIRG Education Fund. 

News Release | U.S. PIRG

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has released research showing that the financial sector overrelies on overdraft fees and non-sufficient funds (NSF) revenue, which reached an estimated $15.47 billion in 2019. Ironically, one of America’s 15 largest banks, Capital One, announced earlier in December that it will eliminate all overdraft and NSF fees.

News Release | U.S. PIRG

The Veterans and Consumers Fair Credit Act (VCFCA) was reintroduced in the House Committee on Financial Services on Monday. This bill would limit interest rates on loans and go a long way toward protecting consumers, including veterans, who are often victimized by predatory lenders.

Consumer Protection

Not First Class

Our report highlights how flier complaints have soared as airlines cancel flights, deny refunds, and ruin plans. Find out which airlines have the most complaints and what you can do.

 

Transportation

Advocates call on Pittsburgh's Port Authority for stronger electric bus commitment

Pittsburgh is on the verge of leaving dirty diesel buses in the dust — as long as it sticks to its commitment. In response to the Port Authority leaving the door open for gas-powered vehicles, advocacy groups urged a stronger commitment to clean electric buses.

 

Consumer Protection

The FCC is starting to fight back against robocalls

Research found that, despite the FCC's recent action, phone companies aren't doing enough to block spoofed calls and scam calls, despite a new law.

 

Consumer Protection

PIRG's consumer watchdogs get to work in wake of T-Mobile data breach

Cell phone carrier T-Mobile has announced that nearly 55 million Americans were affected by a hack of its records, which in some cases compromised Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers. In response, PIRG published a tip guide for how those affected can protect themselves against identity theft or "phishing" scams.

 
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