Memos & Research

Memo: In the absence of federal leadership, the state of climate and clean energy progress at the state level is strong

Feb 4, 2020

TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Bill Holland, LCV Senior Director for State Advocacy & Policy 
RE: In the absence of federal leadership, the state of climate and clean energy progress at the state level is strong

When President Trump delivers the State of the Union tonight, it will be against a backdrop of a growing climate crisis that his administration has exacerbated. Since taking office, the Trump administration has set in motion the rollback of nearly 100 environmental safeguards. Make no mistake — no matter what the president says to Congress, the Trump administration is denying climate change, taking us backwards on clean air and clean water, and putting the health of our children and families at risk.

In stark contrast, the state of climate and clean energy progress at the state level is strong. President Trump’s policies are at odds with the majority of the people in this country who believe that the U.S. should transition to 100% clean energy quickly — so state and local leaders have taken things into their own hands. 

In 2018, LCV’s Clean Energy For All campaign demonstrated grassroots demand for clean energy, pushed for clean energy policies, and won commitments to 100% clean energy from over 600 successful state and local candidates, including 10 governors. Since then, 12 states have enacted major clean energy policies and as a result, 1 in 4 people now live in a place committed to 100% clean energy. As governors across the country deliver their 2020 State of the State addresses, progress on clean energy and climate continues to be a top priority.

Take a look at some of the toplines from State of the State addresses.


Climate and Clean Energy Highlights – 2020 State of the State Addresses


On January 9, in Governor Jared Polis’ State of the State address, he prioritized climate saying, “We are never going to solve [the climate crisis] if everyone looks at the person next to them and says, ‘you do something about the climate.’ If we want to preserve our way of life for future generations, then we all need to lead on clean air and climate.”

Highlights of Colorado’s recent climate progress:

  • Polis signed a historic package of 13 bills into law that will protect Colorado’s climate, public health and way of life. By 2050, the Climate Action Plan, which was included in the package, will reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide by 90%.
  • The state’s air quality commission recently unanimously passed stronger methane regulations to better address pollution from the oil and gas industry.
  • Polis used his first policy executive order in 2019 to start the process for creating statewide zero-emission vehicle standards.
  • Two of Colorado’s major utilities, Xcel and Tristate, have committed to moving their systems to more renewable energy.



On January 29, in Governor J.B. Pritzker’s State of the State address, he prioritized climate saying, “Urgent action is needed, but let me be clear, the old ways of negotiating energy legislation are over. It’s time to put consumers and climate first. I’m not going to sign a bill written by utility companies.”

Illinois Environmental Council and allies are pushing for enactment of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which would secure carbon free electricity by 2030 and 100% clean energy by 2050, with significant investments for community transition and low-income communities.

Under Governor Pritzker’s leadership, Illinois joined the U.S. Climate Alliance. He also signed a repeal of the Kyoto Protocol Act of 1998, an outdated law that prohibited carbon regulation in Illinois.  This repeal paves the way to adopt the California Clean Car Standards.



On January 21, in Governor Janet Mills’ State of the State address, she prioritized climate solutions saying, “all along the Northeast United States, the offshore wind industry is generating thousands of jobs in the development of thousands of giga-watts of renewable electricity. According to the International Energy Administration, offshore wind is set to become a one trillion-dollar industry by 2040. Maine will not be left behind.”

Additionally, Governor Mills announced that the state is moving away from oil as a primary source for heat, reducing reliance on gas for transportation and reiterated her commitment to achieving 80%  renewable energy by 2030.

Highlights of Maine’s recent climate progress:

  • Mills created the Maine Climate Council, which will develop an action plan for clean energy and emissions reduction goals by December 31st. 
  • Maine’s Legislature passed three critical bills that will move the state to 100% clean energy by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050, and boost investment in and access to solar power.
  • Mills joined the U.S. Climate Alliance, a group of 24 bipartisan governors, which aims to uphold our nation’s Paris Climate Agreement commitments.



On January 21, in Republican Governor Charlie Baker’s State of the Commonwealth address, he prioritized climate saying, “Yesterday’s solutions and yesterday’s plans are no longer sufficient. We must continue to take bold action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.”

Governor Baker also stated, “Thankfully, despite significant steps backward in Washington, we in Massachusetts continue to lead.” 

He announced a commitment to achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. He also highlighted the importance of the regional Transportation and Climate Initiative as a way to achieve these critical emissions reductions.



On January 14, in Governor Phil Murphy’s State of the State address, he prioritized climate saying, “We know climate change is real. Instead of denying reality, we’re acting on it. To win the next generation, we’re working to be the first state to incorporate climate change education across our K-12 state education standards.”

Additionally, Governor Murphy announced a strong Energy Master Plan that doubles down on his commitment to a 100% clean energy economy by 2050, and prioritizes the development of 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind energy by 2035. In addition, he announced plans to make New Jersey the first state to require climate change impacts to be a component of state approvals for major development like pipelines and schools. 

Highlights of New Jersey’s recent climate progress:

  • Murphy signed the Clean Renewable Energy bill requiring NJ to get 50% of its energy from clean sources by 2030.
  • Murphy signed ambitious electric vehicle legislation supporting electric vehicle usage and charging infrastructure and committing New Jersey Transit – the nation’s third largest Metro Transit Agency – to expanding electric bus purchases and charging infrastructure by electrify by nearly 2040.
  • Murphy signed legislation that updates the existing Global Warming Response Act to require the state to adopt regulations and interim benchmarks on economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions to nearly decarbonize by 2050
  • Murphy was the first governor to commit to LCV’s Clean Energy for All goal of 100% clean energy.



On January 8, in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address, he prioritized climate saying, “We must stop handling episodic emergencies and realize that the entire planet is in a state of emergency. As we speak here today, Australia is burning. Think globally – act locally.”

Additionally, Governor Cuomo announced a statewide commitment to electric school buses and a $3 billion bond act to fund natural restoration and resilience programs all across this state.

Highlights of New York’s recent climate progress:

  • State legislature passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protections Act — 100% clean power by 2040 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions 85% by 2050.
  • Cuomo allocated 40% of the state’s Volkswagen settlement for cleaning up diesel bus fleets statewide.
  • New York enacted congestion pricing to support transit and infrastructure improvements.
  • Plastic bag ban
  • Food waste reduction and recycling program 



On January 21, in Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s State of the State address, she prioritized climate saying, “We boosted common-sense oversight of polluters; and we put New Mexico on a direct path to being the nation’s clean energy leader, ensuring our land, air and water – our inheritance as residents of this incredible state – are passed on to future generations.”

Additionally, Governor Lujan Grisham highlighted last year’s enactment of New Mexico’s Renewable Portfolio Standard that commits the state to 50% clean energy by 2030, 80% by 2040 and 100% by 2045.

Highlights of New Mexico’s recent climate progress:

  • Signed the Energy Transition Act that commits the state to 100% clean energy by 2045.
  • Committed New Mexico to join the California clean car standards
  • Joined the U.S. Climate Alliance.
  • Created New Mexico Climate Change Task Force.
  • Filed a petition with the New Mexico Supreme Court that led to a unanimous ruling that the Energy Transition Act must apply to the San Juan Generating Station coal plant abandonment proceeding at the Public Regulation Commission.



On January 8, in Governor Ralph Northam’s State of the Commonwealth address, he prioritized climate saying, “I’ve seen how fragile our natural resources can be. I’ve seen over and over again how a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand. So we made this a priority from the beginning, and we have accomplished a lot, starting with combating climate change.”

Additionally, Governor Northam announced a goal of 3,000 megawatts of renewable energy, solar and wind during his term, up to 2,500 megawatts from offshore wind, 30% of electricity to come from renewable sources in the next decade, and 100% carbon free by 2050.

Highlights of Virginia’s recent climate progress:

  • Signed a first-of-its-kind commitment in Virginia increasing from 50 megawatts to 5000 megawatts the amount of renewable energy declared to be “in the public interest,” while driving a nearly $1 billion in Energy Efficiency programs through 2028.
  • Reaffirmed Virginia’s commitment to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and beginning a 30% drawdown of power plant pollution in Virginia. 
  • Northam’s proposed budget prioritizes investments in environmental justice and he committed to establishing a permanent Environmental Justice Council. His budget also seeks to establish Virginia’s first Office of Offshore Wind and makes investments to make Virginia the center of an offshore wind supply chain on the east coast.



On January 14, in Governor Jay Inslee’s State of the State address, he prioritized climate saying, “I was moved by a recent story and photograph of a small child who received Australia’s highest honor on behalf of his father who died battling these devastating fires. Something spoke to the grandfather in me about this boy who represents why we’re here today and what we need to do. We don’t want such a devastating personal loss to become more common as the ravages of climate change rise each year.”

Additionally, Governor Inslee proposed a clean fuel standard that calls upon the oil and gas industry to give Washington consumers cleaner fuels.

Highlights of Washington’s recent climate progress:

  • Inslee signed a series of climate bills that put in place groundbreaking measures to reduce carbon emissions, decrease pollution, and increase public health. Most notable is legislation establishing a 100% Renewable Energy Standard that includes strong 2030 clean energy targets and language that incorporates equity considerations in the planning and acquisition of new energy sources and ensures benefits for impacted communities.



On January 22, in Governor Tony Evers’ State of the State address, he prioritized climate as the first issue he discussed,  saying, “This past year we also brought science back to the state of Wisconsin. And we acknowledged that climate change exists, and it’s a threat we need to start taking seriously.”

Additionally, Governor Evers proposed an Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy, grants for renewable energy, and a goal of 100% carbon free by 2050.

Under Governor Evers’ leadership, Wisconsin joined the U.S. Climate Alliance and signed an executive order to establish a Climate Change Task Force to develop the plan for the state to have our electricity be 100% carbon neutral by 2050, in an equitable manner.