The topic of climate change remains contentious in many states, and legislative trends for 2012 through 2014 demonstrate that states are taking a range of approaches with climate policy. Similar to previous years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act have been a prominent legislative issue in a number of statehouses during this time. While a number of states have passed legislation and resolutions opposing EPA’s actions to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, other states are looking to reduce emissions with programs of their own.
In 2012, 14 states enacted 23 bills and resolutions relating to climate change adaptation, climate action groups, cap and trade, carbon capture and sequestration, and EPA’s regulations. In 2013, 17 states and Washington, D.C., enacted 28 bills and resolutions on climate change related topics. Although legislatures in a number of states are still in session, 18 states have already enacted 26 bills in 2014 related to climate change.
Climate Action Plans
State climate action plans are comprehensive strategies for reducing a state’s greenhouse gas emissions. State plans typically specify emission reduction goals and set energy use targets. They can also include adaptation or mitigation strategies, energy efficiency standards, tax incentives to promote renewable energy use, cap and trade programs, monitoring and reporting requirements, and other approaches to mitigate or reduce greenhouse gases. In addition to adopting a comprehensive climate action plan, states can also establish commissions or authorize studies to better understand potential threats and policy responses to climate change in the state.
Since 2012, several states have adopted legislation that called for new climate plans or made amendments to existing plans. Colorado (HB 1293, 2013) and Nebraska (LB 583, 2013) passed laws that would require regular reporting of climate change impacts to the state. Hawaii (SB 2745, 2012) enacted several changes to the state’s existing climate action plan, which was adopted in 1998. The bill establishes climate change adaptation guidelines that will focus resources on major areas of concern. Maine (HB 651, 2013) required drafting of new climate action and energy plans. Washington (SB 5802, 2013) created a working group to recommend a state program and policies to reduce emissions and achieve emission targets. A nonbinding Vermont resolution (HR 6, 2012) called for integrating climate and energy solutions into a comprehensive statewide plan.
EPA Regulations and Resolutions
Since a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases can be regulated under the Clean Air Act, the EPA has moved to curb carbon pollution from a number of sources. The agency has proposed or adopted rules aimed at mobile sources, such as cars and trucks, and stationary sources, such as coal-fired power plants. The agency has also established standards for air pollution from oil and natural gas facilities, requirements for storing or sequestering carbon dioxide emissions underground, a greenhouse gas reporting system and a mercury and air toxics program.
Several states have adopted nonbinding resolutions targeting this heightened federal regulatory activity. Alabama (SJR 91, 2012) and Michigan (HR 19, 2012; SR 10, 2012; and SCR 6, 2012) have adopted resolutions calling for Congress to prohibit EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. Resolutions in Georgia (HR 1158, 2014 and HR 1159, 2014) Oklahoma (SCR 39, 2014) and Wyoming (SJR 1, 2014) urge the EPA to give states maximum flexibility to implement carbon dioxide performance standards. Iowa (HR 52, 2012) calls for curtailment and assessment of EPA’s air quality regulations. Alabama (SJR 1, 2014), Florida (SB 1174, 2014), Indiana (HR 11, 2014), South Dakota (HCR 1022, 2014), and West Virginia (HR 13, 2014) specifically call for EPA to maintain states’ ability under the Clean Air Act to set less stringent performance standards or longer compliance schedules for power plants in certain circumstances. Other state resolutions aimed at EPA air quality regulations include Missouri (HCR 49, 2012), which calls for Congress to disapprove of EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Program; and Arizona (SCR 1012, 2013), which opposes EPA’s implementation plan to reduce regional haze.
For more information on legislative action regarding EPA’s proposed regulations on power plant emissions, please view our report, “States Reactions to Proposed EPA Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards.”
Cap and Trade
The nation’s first mandatory carbon cap-and-trade program was the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which brought together a group of 10 states to participate in a regional program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The initiative, which requires large greenhouse gas emitters to purchase emissions allowances for each ton of CO2 that they emit, has been operating since 2008. RGGI currently includes nine states since New Jersey withdrew in 2011 under direction of the governor. California began its own cap-and-trade program in 2013, which applies to all major industrial sources and electric utilities and will expand to include fuel distributors in 2015.
Although there have been no major bills enacted this topic recently, a number of bills being considered this year. New Jersey’s ACR 140 would bring the state back into RGGI and a New York bill (SB 6168) seeks to reduce the competitive advantage that out of state electricity producers not located in a RGGI states may receive since they don’t have to purchase carbon allowances or track emissions.
Carbon Capture and Sequestration
U.S. EPA greenhouse gas regulations are driving some states to seek technologies that can affordably reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants. A number of states, such as Wyoming, have created regulatory standards for capture and sequestration in order to provide a clear legal framework under which industry can safely operate. Other states have looked to incentives and tax breaks. While just a few bills passed since 2013, it is likely that interest in this issue will be grow as states consider ways to meet new Clean Air Act requirements.
As extreme weather events—such as Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012—increase, states are looking to protect citizens, homes, critical infrastructure and natural resources from destruction and damage. Connecticut (SB 1013, 2013) requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the University of Connecticut to establish a Connecticut Center for Coasts. The center will perform research and analysis on the impacts of rising sea levels and help develop statewide, planning and management alternatives to sea level rise. Hawaii (SB 2745, 2012) amended the state planning act to include climate change adaptation priority guidelines for the state, including adaptation research and strategies, interagency collaboration and public education. Hawaii also adopted nonbinding resolutions (HR 77, 2014 and HR 34, 2014) supporting the “Aloha+ Challenge,” which establishes goals in energy, food production, sustainability, waste, natural resources and employment as measures to increase climate change resilience.
For more information on legislative action regarding natural disasters and critical infrastructure protection, please view our 2013 report, “Protecting the Nation’s Energy Infrastructure: States Address Energy Security.
In addition to the legislation included in this update, a number of states have also adopted resolutions supporting relationships with Taiwan and Taiwan’s participation in international events, including participation as an observer in the United Nations framework convention on climate change. In 2012, three states adopted resolutions on this topic and in 2014, eight states adopted resolutions relating to Taiwan.
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Climate Change Legislation: Enacted 2014
Source: NCSL, 2013; NCSL, 2014.
Climate Change Legislation: Enacted 2013
Source: NCSL, 2013; NCSL, 2014.
Climate Change Legislation: Enacted 2012
Source: NCSL, 2012; NCSL, 2013; NCSL, 2014.