Historic State-Level Clean Energy Wins

Jul 25, 2019

The Conservation Voter Movement (CVM), which includes the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) and our 30 state partners, launched the Clean Energy for All campaign to move the U.S. to 100 percent clean energy. In the 2018 midterm elections, over 600 successful local, state, and federal candidates made this commitment, including ten new governors.

Now, this commitment is becoming a clean energy reality in states across the country. 2019 has already seen the CVM win significant climate action and Clean Energy for All priorities in 11 states, seven of which passed major climate legislation with bipartisan support.  With the addition of Montana Governor Steve Bullock last week, the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of 25 bipartisan governors committed to the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, has gained eight new members this year alone. These victories across the country mean that one in five people now live in a place that has committed to 100 percent clean energy. Additionally, our Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign has secured huge wins that will not only support a transition to clean vehicles but provide significant health benefits to communities as well. Here are some highlights of the progress we’ve made this year:

Climate action in state legislatures

  • Colorado: Legislation that requires the state to reduce carbon emissions 90 percent from 2005 levels by 2050, including a critical interim goal of a 50 percent reduction by 2030, was signed into law in May 2019. Additionally, legislation that strengthens oil and gas regulations was signed into law in April 2019. The legislation gives local communities increased control over oil and gas drilling and strengthens methane pollution limits. Governor Jared Polis also used his first executive order to start the process for creating statewide zero-emission vehicle standards.
  • Connecticut: In June 2019, Governor Ned Lamont signed a historic bill into law to procure up to 2,000 MW of offshore wind energy and include protections for wildlife affected by the construction of new turbines. This commitment to clean energy and conservation makes the new law one of the strongest wind bills in the nation. In addition to wind, Lamont signed a law to fix solar net-metering for residential and commercial customers.
  • Illinois: Legislation for carbon-free electricity by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050 was introduced in Springfield. Along with ramping up Illinois’ clean energy commitments, the bill would require significant clean energy investments in low-income communities.
  • Maine: Governor Janet Mills announced plans for the state to use 80 percent clean energy by 2030 (and 100 percent by 2050) in February 2019, along with support for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050. In June 2019, Mills signed into law legislation that will require the state to hit these targets.
  • Maryland: The Clean Energy Jobs Act, which commits the state to 50 percent clean energy by 2030, passed the Maryland General Assembly with bipartisan support in April 2019. Governor Larry Hogan chose not to sign or veto the bill, so it became law in May 2019, making Maryland the 8th state in the country to require 50 percent clean energy by 2030.
  • New Mexico: The state legislature passed with bipartisan support the Energy Transition Act (ETA) in March 2019, making New Mexico the seventh state in the country to require at least 50 percent clean energy by 2030. The ETA also requires the state’s two remaining coal plants to be retired, the state to be carbon-free by 2045, and creates funding to reinvest in the region that has depended on and been most impacted by coal production while establishing a framework to ensure Four Corners communities have a seat at the table in that process. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, who centered her campaign around transitioning to clean energy, made the ETA a top priority, even appearing personally at the most contentious committee hearing. Lujan Grisham signed the bill into law in March 2019.
  • Nevada: Legislation to increase the state’s RPS to 50 percent clean energy by 2030 unanimously passed the state legislature in April 2019. Governor Steve Sisolak, who ran his campaign on transitioning to clean energy, signed this legislation on Earth Day, making Nevada the ninth state in the country to require at least 50 percent clean energy by 2030. A bill to increase solar access among low-income communities and communities of color passed the state legislature in May and was signed into law by the governor in June 2019.
  • New Jersey: In July 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law landmark legislation with overwhelming bipartisan support that will nearly decarbonize the state by 2050. This legislation will require the state to study, design, and implement greenhouse gas regulations to ensure the state meets the 80 percent greenhouse gas reduction from 2006 levels, with enforceable interim benchmarks.
  • New York: Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed his Green New Deal, which requires New York to be powered by 100 percent carbon free energy by 2040. In July 2019, Cuomo signed aggressive climate legislation that requires the state to have 70 percent renewable energy by 2030, carbon-free electricity by 2040, and economy-wide carbon-neutrality by 2050 while prioritizing equity during the transition. The same day, he announced 1,700 new megawatts of offshore wind as part of the largest offshore wind project in the nation.
  • South Carolina: The Energy Freedom Act, a comprehensive clean energy bill that eliminates caps on rooftop solar and allows more large-scale solar, unanimously passed the South Carolina state legislature and was signed into law by the governor in May 2019.
  • Washington: Governor Jay Inslee signed major clean energy legislation on May 7 that put in place groundbreaking measures to reduce carbon emissions, decrease pollution, and improve public health. Specifically, the legislation includes a commitment to transition Washington to 100 percent clean and renewable electricity by 2045, resulting in one in five U.S. residents now living in places that have committed to 100 percent clean power.

State progress outside of the state capitol

  • Idaho: In March 2019, the country’s largest investor owned utility, Idaho Power, announced plans to reach 100 percent clean energy by 2045. Avista, another Idaho utility announced its plans for 100 percent clean energy in April 2019, largely in reaction to the Washington state legislature passing 100 percent clean energy legislation. Avista operates in Washington state as well as Idaho.

Clean Buses for Healthy Niños

We know that we cannot reach Clean Energy for All without addressing carbon emissions from the transportation sector, the largest source of emissions in our country. We also know that school children and communities are directly exposed to dangerous diesel emissions. That’s why in 2017 LCV’s Chispa, in collaboration with national and state partners, launched the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign to fight pollution by switching to clean school buses that run on electricity. We called on governors and state and local elected officials to put the health of our kids and communities first.

For the last two years, the Clean Buses for Healthy Niños campaign, has worked tirelessly across eight states to bring these dollars to low-income and communities of color where students and families are most at risk of breathing dirty air and disproportionately carry the burden of pollution. This work has translated into significant policy wins in 2019:

  • Arizona: In April 2019, the Phoenix Union High School District Governing Board voted unanimously to invest in an electric bus pilot program and purchase the district’s first electric school bus.
  • Illinois: LCV’s state affiliate in Illinois secured $10 million in funding for electric school buses and an additional $10 million for electric vehicle infrastructure, after a first draft from the previous governor lacked any commitment to electric school buses and infrastructure.
  • Connecticut: Connecticut committed to greater investment in electric vehicles as part of its biennium budget. The state will convert 50 percent of its light fleet to electric, zero-emission vehicles by 2030 and 30 percent of its buses to electric, zero-emission vehicles by 2030.
  • Maryland: In May 2019, Governor Larry Hogan signed bipartisan legislation to create a grant structure for school districts to transition to electric school buses.
  • Michigan: Michigan has moved firmly to use its Volkswagen allotment to shift toward bus electrification by allocating $13 million or 20 percent of its total funds to class 4-8 school buses and allocating $4 million this year to purchase 18 electric school buses.
  • Nevada: In May 2019, Governor Steve Sisolak signed legislation that provides funding incentives for school districts to transition to electric school buses.
  • New Jersey: In June 2019, Governor Phil Murphy established a statewide electric vehicle program, ‘Partnership to Plug-In,’ which is critical to New Jersey’s goal of getting 330,000 zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025. As part of this announcement, the New Jersey Department of Environment announced it would use a portion of its Volkswagen settlement funds to electrify school buses in the state capital Trenton.
  • New York: In 2019 and through advocacy from New York LCV, Governor Andrew Cuomo included $52 million for electric school buses alone. Also this year, the New York City Department of Education announced a pilot of four electric school buses to hit the road this fall.

We’ve made tremendous strides in 2019 working with elected officials who are committed to support 100 percent clean energy and to build pollution-free communities. Now, we are asking you to make the same commitment. Join us today to add your voice and effort to the CVM so we can continue to carry this momentum forward.