U.S. Public Interest Research Group

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U.S. Public Interest Research Group

Formally founded in 1983 by consumer advocate Ralph Nader , the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) is an outgrowth of Nader's Center for the Study of Responsive Law. PIRG aims to heighten consumer awareness and focuses on such environmental issues as clean air, toxic waste cleanup, protection of the atmosphere , pesticide control, and solid waste reduction . While PIRG did not convene as a national organization until 1983, its roots date back to 1970, when Nader began to establish state PIRGs throughout the United States. The national umbrella organization was founded to lobby for the state units.

PIRG has been vital in bringing about several important environmental regulations. In 1986, the organization led an aggressive campaign that resulted in the strengthening of the federal Superfund program, a $9-billion venture that identifies and provides for the cleanup of sites contaminated by hazardous waste . That same year, PIRG was successful in influencing the United States legislature to pass the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The SDWA imposes limits and prohibitions on the amounts and types of chemicals allowable in drinking water supplies and provides for regular testing to assure that the limits imposed by the SDWA are being met. In 1987, PIRG proved instrumental in the strengthening of the Clean Water Act which requires cleanup of United States waterways. The CWA also imposes limits and prohibitions on chemicals which are discharged into the water system. Several state PIRGs have also met with success when suing major polluters. As the result of PIRG legal action, many polluters have been ordered to pay fines and clean up contaminated areas.

PIRG also educates the general public on various issues. Its current projects are outlined in a quarterly newsletter, Citizen Agenda, and some of its key concerns are detailed in such reports as Toxic Truth and Consequences: The Magnitude of and the Problems Resulting from America's Use of Toxic Chemicals ; Presumed Innocent: A Report on 69 Cancer-Causing Chemicals Allowed in Our Food ; and As the World Burns: Documenting America's Failure to Address the Ozone Crisis.

Ongoing PIRG projects address similar issues. Although successful with the Superfund program, the organization continues to work for the cleanup of toxic waste and actively supports the notion that "polluters pay"requiring those who cause contamination to fund the subsequent cleanup. PIRG also conducts research into energy efficiency in an effort to curb carbon monoxide emissions. Through its lobbying efforts, the group also supports legislation requiring a ban on carcinogenic pesticides in food, preventing groundwater contamination, halting garbage incineration , and initiating bottle-recycling programs in all 50 states. The organization is also involved in a Clean Water Campaign, seeking to further strengthen state and federal water regulations.

PIRG achieves these goals through a balance of professional and volunteer action. PIRG volunteers are utilized in fundraising efforts, letter-writing campaigns, and election drives. Members were once asked to send aluminum cans to Congress to show support of PIRG's bottle-recycling campaign.

[Kristin Palm ]



U.S. Public Interest Research Group, 215 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C. USA 20003, E-mail: [email protected], <http://pirg.org>

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U.S. Public Interest Research Group