Memo: States Continue to Show Impressive Progress on Climate

Nick Abraham, nabraham@lcv.org, 206-833-7021

To: Interested Parties

From: Bill Holland, Senior Director, State Policy, Advocacy and Network Campaigns

Over the last year, much of the nation’s attention has focused on Congress and the tremendous opportunity we have to pass comprehensive national climate legislation for the first time. While federal action remains necessary to reach U.S. climate goals and ensure communities have the resources to invest in equitable clean energy and climate solutions, state legislatures and Governors have quietly passed new climate and clean energy efforts across the country. Together these new laws and executive orders help set a national model and are a key driver to reduce climate pollution, invest in clean energy jobs, and ensure the clean energy transition centers racial and economic justice. 

Below you’ll find a list of some of the top bills passed in 2022, strong actions taken by Governors, a few bad bills stopped in their tracks, and two ballot initiatives to watch going into November. As part of the League of Conservation Voters’ Clean Energy for All campaign, LCV state leagues, Chispa programs, and partners were key to each of these efforts. They helped organize public support, worked with state elected champions, and made the case to ensure climate was at the top of their state’s agenda.

Major Legislation passed

Maryland – Strongest carbon pollution reduction goal in the country

By an overwhelming majority, the Maryland Legislature passed The Climate Solutions Now Act committing the state to net-zero climate emissions by 2045 and requiring a 60% carbon reduction goal by 2031—the strongest near-term goal in the country. Maryland LCV and Chispa MD led an extensive grassroots campaign including mobilizing more than 12,000 Marylanders to contact their legislators, holding over 100 meetings with legislators and allies and running a door canvass in three critical legislative districts. You can read the full coalition statement about this bill passing here.

What’s in the bill:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets that are among the strongest in the country.
  • Carefully articulated provisions to allocate resources for low- to-moderate income communities and prevent further harm to communities most vulnerable to climate-related impacts.
  • A new program to help more school districts transition their school bus fleets to electric buses, with the goal of protecting the more than 650,000 Maryland children who ride to school on polluting diesel buses.

Connecticut – “Banner year for climate” 

Connecticut passed SB10 at the end of April, making it the 14th state, along with DC and Puerto Rico, to pass legislation committing to 100% clean energy. They also passed SB4, making Connecticut the 6th state committed to California’s Advanced Trucks Rule. The Stamford Advocate called it a “banner year for climate activists”. Connecticut LCV helped lead an extensive campaign to make climate action a top priority for Senate and House leadership in this year’s short legislative session including making the bills the top priority of their widely attended environmental summit. 

Major components of the bills include:

  • Committing Connecticut to 100% clean energy by 2040—among the most ambitious commitments in the country
  • Signing Connecticut onto California’s Advanced Trucks Rule
  • Committing Connecticut to all-electric school buses by 2035—with provisions to drive investment and adoption in low-income communities and communities of color

Colorado – Nation’s strongest oil and gas rules

In March the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission unanimously approved a sweeping set of new financial requirements for oil and gas companies that operate within the state which they called the strongest in the nation. The rules focus on reducing the risks left by orphaned oil wells which completes the last major rule change mandated by a landmark drilling reform law passed by the state legislature in 2019. The changes will significantly increase the amounts of the bonds that oil and gas producers must provide to the state to cover potential cleanup costs, and new fees will raise millions of dollars to fund the plugging of wells abandoned all over the state.

Colorado also passed necessary and much needed Air Toxics Rules (HB22-1244) which strengthen tools to fight against toxic air pollution including through expanded air quality monitoring for the state’s most vulnerable communities and  a requirement that the state establish health-based standards for select pollutants. Conservation Colorado also worked with partners to pass legislation to fund a “just transition” for coal communities.

New Mexico – taking on methane and cleaner cars

This year New Mexico took two big leaps forward that will tackle climate change and reduce local pollution. First, the state’s Environmental Improvement Board implemented new ozone precursor rules, which will help prevent leaks of methane emissions from oil and gas production facilities. In early May, New Mexico joined ranks with the now 16 other states that have adopted clean car standards to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road. 

Maine – a cleaner more equitable grid plan

Maine passed significant legislation requiring integrated grid planning within Maine’s Climate Action Plan. The law provides a strong foundation for a truly comprehensive clean power sector and will be among the first in the nation to require assessment of environmental, equity and environmental justice impacts of the grid plans.

New Jersey – stronger appliance standards

The New Jersey legislature passed A5160 which updated appliance efficiency standards. The NJ LCV helped pass the bill and ensure it saved customers money without forcing them to buy new products. It garnered bipartisan support, and was signed into law in January of this year.

New environment investments in state budgets

New York – First state w/ all electric school buses thanks to billions in new environmental funding

In April, the New York State legislature passed their state budget that included funding to make all new school bus purchases be zero-emission starting in 2027 and requires all school buses statewide be 100% zero-emission by 2035. The budget also dedicated $500 million in the Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act for electric school buses and charging infrastructure ensures that school districts serving disadvantaged communities will be at the front of the line to put electric buses on the road. 

Washington – Greenest transportation package in state history

The Washington state legislature approved a new $17 billion transportation package that will put billions into new public transit, electric vehicle infrastructure, and alternative transportation. Governor Inslee called the package the “cleanest, greenest” in the state’s history.

Michigan – Clean water for all

Michigan passed a major budget bill that will dedicate $4.7 billion to clean up and protect the state’s water, fund state and local parks, repair roads and bridges, as well as removing lead pipes from drinking water.

California – budget surplus should fund climate action

California is facing one of its largest budget surpluses in state history. In March, California Environmental Voters (CEV) launched their Climate Courage Budget campaign calling for Governor Newsom and lawmakers to make an additional $75 billion over 5 year commitment to  transformative climate and equity investments. In his May budget revision, Gov. Newsom announced a $9.5 billion increase to his climate budget. That increase is an important step but doesn’t go far enough. Earlier this month, California Environmental Voters launched an extensive paid media campaign including ads in the Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles Times and Politico, as well as a mobile billboard driving around the state capitol during the final week of budget negotiations. CEV produced this video laying out what’s at stake for California communities and the climate.  Stay tuned as CEV and allies continue to push for record climate investments before the June 15th budget deadline. 

Anti-Environmental Action Stopped in Its Tracks

Virginia – Andrew Wheeler will not bring Trump’s environmental record to state level

Immediately after taking office, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin made one of the most anti-environmental nominations in state history. He asked the Senate to approve Andrew Wheeler, a former coal industry lobbyist and head of the EPA under President Trump, to be the state’s Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources, the highest environmental position in the state. Led by Virginia League of Conservation Voters, a coalition of organizations  rallied the Senate to stop this extreme anti-environmental choice. After overwhelming state opposition, the Senate voted to remove Wheeler from consideration

VALCV and allies also successfully defended the Virginia Clean Economy Act—Virginia’s plan for 100% clean energy, as well as the state’s continued participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative which has secured millions of dollars in funds for energy efficiency investments in low-income communities.

Florida – Vetoing one of the worst solar bills in the country

Florida fossil fuel utilities, led by Florida Power and Light launched a direct attack on solar in the sunshine state when the legislature convened in January. HB 741 passed  the Florida legislature and would have ended the practice of “net-metering”–  a requirement that  utilities pay customers who produce excess power with rooftop solar. That energy is added to the utility’s grid and can be redistributed to non-solar customers. It strengthens the affordability of solar for Florida utility customers. After a major pressure campaign led by Florida Conservation Voters, Governor DeSantis vetoed the bill, ensuring those living in the Sunshine state can still install new solar on their roofs. 

Illinois – Blocking industry takeover of Clean Jobs bill

Fossil fuel interests in Illinois sought to pass SB1104, a bill to undercut the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act. The bill, which passed the state senate, would undermine CEJA by  creating a “reliability task force” composed of mostly fossil fuel industry representatives tasked with making recommendations on the reliability of renewable energy. SB 1104 would have duplicated reporting requirements and clean energy reliability protocols. It was successfully stopped in the House thanks to a coalition led by the Illinois Environmental Council.

Governors taking action

In Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina Governors Whitmer, Evers, and Cooper released comprehensive climate plans that each laid out a roadmap to reach science based pollution reduction targets for their states including provisions to ensure low income communities and communities of color benefit in the clean energy transition.

Governor Whitmer’s Healthy Climate Plan outlines a path to carbon neutrality by 2050, with additional provisions including: 

  • Retiring all coal plants and transitioning to 60% clean energy by 2030
  • Committing at least 40% of state funding for climate-related and water infrastructure initiatives to benefit Michigan’s disadvantaged communities (in line with federal Justice40 guidelines)
  • Building enough charging infrastructure to support 2 million electric vehicles by 2030
  • Protecting 30% of MI’s land and water by 2030 

Michigan LCV is now running an ad on streaming cable and digital channels highlighting the plan, along with a second ad for online and social media audiences. 

Governor Evers’ Clean Energy Plan constitutes the strongest roadmap to climate justice and clean energy in Wisconsin history. People from across Wisconsin – with Wisconsin Conservation Voters at the forefront – volunteered hundreds of hours, showed support at events, and successfully lobbied elected leaders to make the plan a reality. 

The plan would:

  • Invest in clean energy workforce development and jobs training programs prioritizing the communities most impacted by climate change. The plan estimates it would create over 40,000 new jobs by 2030. 
  • Lays out a roadmap to reach 100% clean energy by 2050
  • Prioritizes low income and communities of color, especially the states Tribal Nations in the planning process, as well as the investments from the state

Governor Cooper’s executive order details the state’s plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic opportunities for underserved communities.

The plan:

  • Updates North Carolina’s economy-wide carbon reduction emissions goals to align with climate science
  • Increases the statewide goal to a 50% reduction from 2005 levels by 2030 and achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible, no later than 2050.
  • Calls for an increase in registered zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) to at least 1,250,000 by 2030 and for 50% of sales of new vehicles in North Carolina to be zero-emission by 2030.
  • Directs cabinet agencies to consider environmental justice when taking actions related to climate change, resilience, and clean energy and to identify an environmental justice lead to serve as the point person for agency environmental justice efforts.

Ballot initiatives to watch this November

A number of Conservation Voter Movement partners are leading efforts on ballot initiatives. Two statewide initiatives that state LCVs are prioritizing include: 

  • NY – New York LCV is building voter support for the $4.2 billion New York Environmental Bond Act that will be on the November ballot. In April, NYLCV and allies helped secure additions to the bond act that seek to invest $500 million in offshore wind supply chains and port infrastructure, $500 million for clean water infrastructure and $500 million allocated for schools to purchase electric vehicles.
  • CA – California Environmental Voters (EnviroVoters) is leading a coalition of labor organizations, environmental groups, firefighters, public health advocates, environmental justice organizations, and businesses supporting the Clean Cars and Clean Air Act (CCCA) initiative for the ballot in November. The Act would invest nearly $100 billion in new revenue over the next 20 years to fight and prevent catastrophic wildfires, expand EV and ZEV charging/fueling infrastructure and support consumers and organizations to purchase clean vehicles. Half of all funding for the vehicle and infrastructure investments would benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities. The Act would raise revenue through asking the wealthiest Californians (those making over $2 million) to pay their fair share.

Related Articles