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2013 Year in Review

As 2013 comes to a close, we look back on a productive and consequential year of research and policy work in the public interest. This year, we issued groundbreaking new reports and brought our findings to new audiences.

Season’s greetings from all of us at Frontier Group!

As 2013 comes to a close, we look back on a productive and consequential year of research and policy work in the public interest. This year, we issued groundbreaking new reports and brought our findings to new audiences. Whether you are receiving this note as a funder, reviewer, colleague, journalist, or a friend, please accept our thanks for your continued partnership and support.

Scoping out the future of transportation … After our research on the decline in driving among young Americans sparked a national conversation in 2012, we deepened our inquiry this year into evolving transportation trends. Our May report, A New Direction, examined the policy implications of the end of America’s six-decade-long “Driving Boom” and attracted attention from The New York Times and other outlets.… October’s A New Way to Go explored the ways in which carsharing, real-time transit apps and other technology-enabled tools are giving more Americans the freedom to drive less.… Road Overkill, produced with our partners at WISPIRG Foundation, showed why decision-makers must pay attention to changing trends, identifying $1 billion in Wisconsin highway projects that are failing to meet initial projections for traffic.… Frontier Group’s Tony Dutzik shared the message of those reports with officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation and other audiences in the United States and abroad.

Tallying the impacts of fracking … Our October report, Fracking by the Numbers, provided the first national estimate of the environmental impacts of high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Our finding that U.S. fracking activities now produce about 280 billion gallons of toxic wastewater each year – or enough to drown all of Washington, D.C. in 22 feet of water – received coverage in the UK’s The Guardian newspaper.… In July, Who Pays the Costs of Fracking? showed that state and federal laws are failing to hold oil and gas companies fully accountable for cleaning up fracking sites.… Finally, The Spreading Shadow of the Shale Gas Boom, an update of a 2011 Frontier Group analysis, found that in the Marcellus and Utica shale regions, permitted well sites exist within one mile of more than 400 day care facilities, schools and hospitals, putting vulnerable populations at risk.

Tracking the success of Wall Street reform … This year, we released a series of reports on complaints to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regarding bank accounts and servicesprivate student loans and credit reporting. These reports named the most complained-about firms in each sector, highlighted the biggest problems facing consumers, and demonstrated how the CFPB is helping thousands of consumers get redress. The reports, produced with U.S. PIRG Education Fund, were covered in the Wall Street Journal and dozens of other media outlets.

Improving government transparency and accountability … 2013 marked a watershed year in the effort to make state government spending information transparent to the public. Our fourth Following the Money  report found that every state now makes at least checkbook-level information about public spending available online – a big improvement over the 32 states that did so in 2010. This fall, Frontier Group’s Ben Davis briefed state auditors, comptrollers and treasurers to help them take the next steps in online spending transparency.… In January, we expanded our transparency work to the municipal level, producing our first scorecard of local government spending websites.

Moving toward a clean energy future … In September, we released America’s Dirtiest Power Plants, which found that the 50 dirtiest U.S. power plants produce more than 2 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide pollution – underscoring the importance of the Environmental Protection Agency’s announcement of the first-ever carbon pollution standards for new power plants. The report received coverage in more than 150 news outlets, including in the form of an interactive map on the website of veteran journalist Bill Moyers.… Our July report, Lighting the Way, cheered the progress of the nation’s leading solar states and tied their success to the adoption of solar-friendly policies.… With one of those key solar policies – net metering – coming under attack by utilities this fall, we helped produce Will Solar Power Have a Home in California?, which illustrated the importance of net metering to California’s residential solar market.… Other Frontier Group reports in 2013 quantified the environmental benefits of U.S. wind energy and tracked the progress of clean energy efforts in Ohio and Maryland.

Other highlights … The New York Times cited a Demos/U.S. PIRG Education Fund analysis, produced with Frontier Group’s assistance, in its editorial urging the Supreme Court to uphold aggregate contribution limits for federal electoral campaigns.… In February, our report on the billions of dollars that state governments lose annually to offshore tax havens elicited an op-ed and a column from Pulitzer Prize-winning tax reporter David Cay Johnston calling further attention to the problem…. In April, our report, In the Path of the Storm, found that between 2007 and 2012, federally declared weather-related disasters affected counties housing nearly four out of five Americans.… Other reports laid out a path for reducing solid waste in Connecticut, protecting Texas’s rivers and lakes from excessive water withdrawals, and creating a strong economy for sustainable agriculture in Pennsylvania.

Looking forward to 2014 … In the new year, Frontier Group will continue our work on changing transportation trends, including how college campuses are expanding opportunities for car-free and car-light living. We will issue new reports on consumer complaints to the CFPB, and will also produce the fifth edition of our annual scorecard on state spending transparency websites. Look for new work as well on solar energy, the environmental benefits of electric vehicles, and a host of other issues.

And hearty congratulations and thanks are due to Travis Madsen, Frontier Group policy analyst since 2002, who has moved over to our partner group, Environment America, to campaign nationwide against global warming. We look forward to working with Travis in his new capacity, and we’re grateful for all he did while at Frontier Group to advance the causes we all care about. 

Best wishes to you in the year ahead. Enjoy the holiday season!

Sincerely,

Susan Rakov, Director

Tony Dutzik, Senior Policy Analyst

Elizabeth Ridlington, Ben Davis and Jordan Schneider, Policy Analysts

Tom Van Heeke, Judee Burr and Miles Unterreiner, Policy Associates