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.
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:
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:
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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:
Governor Cooper’s executive order details the state’s plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions and create economic opportunities for underserved communities.
A number of Conservation Voter Movement partners are leading efforts on ballot initiatives. Two statewide initiatives that state LCVs are prioritizing include: