EWG news roundup (11/18): California’s disappointing rooftop solar proposal, EWG’s 2022 holiday gift guide and more

Last week, California regulators proposed changing the state’s popular rooftop solar program largely to benefit monopoly utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric, making it more expensive for working- and middle-class families to adopt solar. 

The California Public Utilities Commission's long-awaited revised proposal for the future of the solar program drops, for now, a plan to impose a steep monthly tax on the vital clean energy source, as sought by the state’s three monopoly utilities. But the commission is not ruling out reviving the tax in the future.

“This is a temporary, strategic retreat from the indefensible solar tax the commission and utilities got caught trying to impose on rooftop solar owners. Even so, by slashing the payments rooftop solar can earn from selling clean, unused energy back to the grid, this proposal will significantly compromise California’s greatest clean energy success story,” said Environmental Working Group President and California resident Ken Cook.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed a lawsuit last week against chemical companies for endangering public health, and harming and destroying the state’s natural resources with the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

“Toxic PFAS contaminate California’s water, food, soil and air,” said Bill Allayaud, EWG California director of government affairs. “The chemicals are used in countless consumer products – from personal care to textiles to food packaging.” 

And with the holidays right around the corner, EWG provides some helpful ideas for your loved ones in our 2022 gift guide.

Here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.

Benzene in personal care products

Harper’s Bazaar: Beauty Products Keep Getting Recalled for Benzene. Just How Dangerous Is It?

Other aerosol products have been recalled in the past because of the presence of benzene, according to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. That list includes some Old Spice and Secret deodorant sprays and some Pantene and Herbal Essences hair products, as well as a few sunscreens. (A recent study in California also found that benzene commonly leaks from gas stoves.)

California solar net metering

“The latest proposal will still make it more expensive for working-class families to adopt rooftop solar,” Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said in a statement. Cook described “the monopoly utilities” and their supporters as having “all the power,” stressing the changes are “just a minor strategic retreat.”

The Sacramento Bee: California homeowners may receive less money for installing solar panels. Here’s why

Despite the removal of a monthly charge for their use of the grid, solar advocates such as President of the Environmental Working Group Ken Cook expects to see a significant drop in the money solar customers earn on their investment. Solar executives and advocates have said any reform to net metering would impede California’s aggressive goal to produce 100% clean energy by 2045. Yet soon after the PUC released its proposed decision, shares of leading rooftop solar company Sunrun Inc. and other solar companies surged.

Cleaning products

The Washington Post: Does the film around detergent pods really biodegrade? A debate is raging.

PVA, which is also used in the textile industry, has been widely regarded as safe. In addition to being included on the EPA’s Safer Chemical Ingredients list, the compound is approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in food packaging, dietary supplements and pharmaceutical products. The Environmental Working Group has also rated PVA as a low-hazard ingredient in personal care products.

Cosmetics for Black women

Bloomberg: Clean Beauty Is Booming, and Black Consumers Fear Being Left Behind

About 75 percent of the products marketed to Black women that the Environmental Working Group analyzed in their database contained endocrine-disrupting chemicals. About 60 percent of those marketed to the general public had similarly harmful ingredients.

EWG VERIFIED®: Cosmetics

Harper’s Bazaar: The 15 Best Setting Powders of All Time

This vegan and Environmental Working Group–approved mattifying powder applies white but seamlessly blends in with your skin tone.

Food chemicals

Consumer Reports: Why Is Red Dye 3 Banned in Cosmetics but Still Allowed in Food?

So many! According to a search on the Environmental Working Group’s food database, there are over 2,900 food products that contain it. It’s in a lot of artificially flavored and artificially colored candy, and some gum-drops, peppermints, and candy corn. 
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