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In the first half of 2023, leaders across the country delivered on the “big green wave in the states”. Following last November’s election, state legislatures took advantage of President Biden’s affordable clean energy plan to enact ambitious, even landmark state clean energy laws. States have passed new legislation and rules that will grow clean energy manufacturing jobs and reduce energy costs for consumers.
In 2022, Congress passed the most significant climate and clean energy action in American history, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the Biden-Harris administration has gone to work right away implementing their affordable clean energy plan. These are historic levels of investments in the fight against the climate crisis. Now, Governors, legislators, and mayors across the country will decide how to implement this clean energy plan and ensure these funds are used effectively to benefit communities of color and those most impacted by fossil fuel pollution.
Below is a memo outlining where states have made the most progress towards these goals so far in 2023. Much of this builds off previous years’ progress. Thanks to state action, in 2022 40% of the country lived in a place committed to 100% clean energy. Now we have two new states dedicated to 100% clean electricity, three new states with clean car commitments, and one more working to reduce pollution from buildings. As part of the League of Conservation Voters’ Clean Energy for All campaign, LCV state leagues, Chispa programs, and partners were key to passing each of these efforts (with the exception of Rhode Island where we don’t have a state affiliate). 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.
California continues to lead the nation with bold legislation on emissions. The California Air Resources Board passed the Advanced Clean Fleets rule, a first-of-its-kind rule requiring a full transition to zero-emission medium and heavy duty vehicles by 2045. The new standards for medium and heavy duty vehicles come as part of the 2021 zero-emissions vehicle package aimed at decarbonizing California’s transportation sector.
Maryland, once the world’s leading manufacturer of steel, is looking to lead the economy with a different resource: offshore wind. Governor Wes Moore signed into effect the POWER Act, which looks to more-than-quadruple the state’s offshore wind capacity, from its current 2 gigawatts to 8.5 gigawatts, enough energy to power 3 million homes, by 2031.
Additionally, Maryland has joined several other states in adopting California’s vehicle emission standards. The governor issued an executive order to phase out the production of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035 and has put in place requirements for bus and truck manufacturers to have a certain annual percentage of vehicles produced be zero-emissions, starting in model year 2027.
MDLCV and partners will push policymakers in early 2024 to enact Gov. Moore’s 100% by 2035 vision and become the latest state enacting this ambitious climate policy.
In February, Minnesota lawmakers passed a bill requiring the state to have 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040. With this bill, Minnesota joined California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico in passing legislation requiring a transition to 100% clean energy.
In pursuit of this goal, Minnesota also passed a “historic” climate budget bill last month . The $2 billion budget bill establishes the toughest PFAS regulations in the country, addresses environmental justice concerns, and includes bold initiatives to decarbonize the state. The bill also establishes a financial authority to provide financing to green energy projects, and sets aside money for protecting and restoring natural resources and ecosystems.
Governor Phil Murphy announced that New Jersey accelerated their clean energy timeline, changing the goal for the state to reach 100% clean energy from 2050 to 2035. Murphy signed this goal into effect as part of his “Next New Jersey” initiative which also introduces a target for installing zero-emission heating and cooling systems in 400,000 homes and 20,000 commercial properties, as well as prepping 10% of low-income housing for future electrification by 2030.
The plan also allocates $70 million for lowering upfront costs for the transition to zero-emission medium and heavy-duty electric vehicles, and announces the initiation of the process to adopt California’s Advanced Clean Cars II standards, requiring all new cars and light-duty truck sales to be zero-emission by 2035.
Finally, New Jersey also adopted nation-leading environmental justice regulations that establish greater community engagement and require that environmental justice considerations are taken into account during the permitting process for polluting facilities.
New York became the first state to pass a law to transition to all electric infrastructure and off fossil fuels for newly constructed buildings. Expanding on New York City’s 2021 building decarbonization policy for new construction, the state law transitions to electric stoves, furnaces, and heating in all new construction under seven stories by 2026, and from buildings seven stories and taller by 2029. NYLCV campaigned extensively via a robust paid ads program and three lobby days to pass this historic bill that sets a precedent for the nation.
In another first, the federal government tentatively approved New York City’s plan to become the first major American metro to implement a congestion pricing plan, which is intended to reduce traffic and pollution in Manhattan’s busiest areas by charging drivers a fee to enter, and invest the funds in the nation’s largest mass transit system. The nation’s largest city follows places like Stockholm and London where pricing has been shown to reduce the number of cars on the road leading to less pollution and cleaner air for residents.
Rhode Island adopted California’s Advanced Clean Cars II and Advanced Clean Trucks standards. The standards require 100% of new passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs to be zero-emissions by 2035, with an additional milestone of 35% of these new vehicles being zero-emissions by 2026. Adopting these regulations is an important step for the state toward meeting its goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as set in the 2021 Act on Climate.
Conservation Minnesota was awarded the John Hunting Winning for the Environment Award for its fight to enact a historic 100% clean energy bill.
Colorado is now the second state in the country to eliminate certain gas subsidies and expand some of the best tax incentives in the country for electric vehicles, bikes, and non-fossil fuel home heating. The legislature also expanded fare-free public transit during the summer ozone season as well as the state’s climate pollution reduction targets.
Next year, look for the state legislature to look at tackling major legislation on key issues like ozone pollution, drought, and reforming land use to address the connections between climate and affordable housing.
Connecticut passed Senate Bill 1147 focused on Environmental Justice. The law will require greater emphasis to be placed on cumulative health and environmental impacts on low income communities and communities of color that are suffering from polluting facilities, and ensures engagement by these communities in permitting decisions. The law is modeled in part on New Jersey’s landmark environmental justice law passed in 2021.
Governor Wes Moore appointed climate champion Delegate Kumar Barve to the Public Service Commission. Barve, who has served as a member of the House of Delegates since January 1991, has a history of being an environmental champion, even receiving the League of Conservation Voters Legislator of the Year award in 2017.
Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller signed the Executive Order for the Equitable and Just Implementation of Justice40, which calls for allocating 40% of investments to historically disadvantaged communities. The executive order makes Albuquerque the first city in the country to advance an initiative under the Justice40 vision and is already shaping federal programs. This will help ensure communities that have been historically overlooked and under-funded can benefit from federal investments in things like clean energy and water, as well as affordable housing.
Vermont passed the Affordable Heating Act, overriding Governor Phil Scott’s veto of the bill. The bill’s passage is an important step in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state and ensuring they reach their clean energy and emissions goals. Vermont Conservation Voters ran an extensive campaign including digital ads in targeted districts and demographics, phone banking and newspaper ads (print and digital) in key papers statewide. The enactment of the bill launches a two-year process to design an affordable and reliable heating program, and will be brought to the floor again in 2025 to vote on program implementation.
The Affordable Heat Act will reduce Vermont’s dependence on expensive fossil fuels (potentially saving Vermonters an average of $7,500 per household through 2030) and provide mechanisms to ensure the state makes an equitable transition to clean energy.
Alongside Governor Jay Inslee, the state legislature began allocating funding from the state’s new cap and invest program passed in 2021. Lawmakers worked to ensure funds went to projects in communities experiencing the worst pollution and those who have been historically left behind. The law is expected to generate $500million to $1billion, paid for with credits from the state’s largest polluters.
Under recommendation from the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change, Governor Tony Evers signed an executive order creating a commission to advise on the creation of Wisconsin’s new Green Innovation Fund. The Green Innovation Fund is an entity that will invest both public and private funds in projects to reduce pollution, lower energy costs, expand access to clean, affordable energy, and provide environmental and clean energy solutions to businesses. Similar entities, often called “green banks”, have already been established in Colorado, Illinois, and Nevada.
The Green Innovation Fund is eligible for funding under the IRA’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund which has allocated $27 million in competitive funding for states and nonprofits collaborating with community financing institutions like green banks.
Maine Conservation Voters and partners are pushing to become the latest state adopting a significant offshore wind commitment. LD 1895 calls for 3GW of offshore wind by 2040 and additional legislation to construct an offshore wind port and strengthen Maine’s offshore wind leadership. In addition, during her State of the Budget address in February, Gov. Janet Mills announced plans accelerating Maine’s commitment to reaching 100% Clean Energy by a decade – by 2040, rather than the 2050 target set in 2019. The announcement demonstrates the momentum federal clean energy tax credits in the Biden Clean Energy Plan provide states and power companies.
Michigan Senate Democrats released their Clean Energy Future Plan in April, which supports Governor Whitmer’s goal to transition the state to 100% clean energy. The proposed bill package would clean up Michigan’s electric grid by 2035, and phase out coal-fired power plants by 2030. Michigan House Democrats have also released a similar, but stronger package. Michigan LCV has been working in close partnership with the Governor, her team and legislative leaders on the strategy around this package. MLCV is currently executing a $2 million effort throughout summer and fall aimed at wrapping support around the Democratic caucuses.
Montana’s legislature passed a destructive bill (HB 971) which bars regulatory agencies like the Montana Department of Environmental Quality from considering climate impacts and emissions in reviews of large projects like coal mines and power plants. Despite opposition from environmental groups and Montanans (95% of public comments on the bill expressed opposition), Governor Greg Gianforte, who has previously said he does not believe in human caused climate change, signed the bill which hinders the state’s ability to respond to climate change. Lawsuits and court challenges are expected to challenge this law in the coming months.
Unlike states such as Colorado and Minnesota that took advantage of incentives in the Biden Clean Energy Plan to enact new climate policies, New Mexico largely stalled on climate this year, with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham veto-ing consumer clean energy tax credits similar to those passed in those states. Last month, Gov. Lujan Grisham joined the U.S. Climate Alliance’s Executive Committee leaving advocates hope that the Governor will enact ambitious net-zero climate goals and reestablish her administration’s clean energy leadership.
Following a months-long public comment period showing broad support for Virginia’s continued participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the state’s Air Pollution Control Board voted 4-3 in early June to proceed with Governor Glen Youngkin’s plans to pull the state from the program. Our Virginia affiliate believes this is “blatant end-run around the legislature” and a “handout to big polluters at the expense of Virginia communities.” There will almost certainly be legal challenges and a response from the legislature after going around their authority. The program has brought nearly $590 million of revenue to the Commonwealth to help localities protect their communities from flooding and to lower energy costs for low-income families – all while cutting harmful power plant pollution.