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Post-election climate policy options | Legal Planet

Blowout Week 251 | Energy Matters

This submit is co-authored by Dan Farber and Eric Biber.

Democrats took management of the US Home of Representatives within the election final week, took full management of six state governments (Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, New York, Maine, and Illinois), took governorships in seven states (together with Michigan, Wisconsin, and Kansas), and made vital positive aspects in state legislatures in states like Minnesota and New Hampshire. What sort of climate agenda may these newly empowered states, governors, and legislators pursue? Any reply should bear in mind the restrictions on legislators who’ve solely partial energy (Democrats on the federal degree or in New Hampshire), to not point out the truth that state governments face a still-hostile federal government?  These limits of energy are highlighted by the instance of the lack of a state carbon tax poll initiative in Washington State, emphasizing the problem of enacting carbon pricing schemes (one thing Eric has talked about elsewhere).

We consider that any type of agenda have to be (a) politically practical to enact within the speedy future; (b) have tangible advantages for the climate; and (c) present a stepping stone for constructing extra help for extra formidable climate policy down the street (once more, as Eric has mentioned earlier than).  (Here’s a current information article during which environmental teams speak about an analogous agenda (paywalled).  Right here is a wonderful web site that has an inventory of concepts that states and localities within the US can implement.)  What sorts of insurance policies may these contain?

Under, we offer a information to insurance policies that seem incremental, have broad political help (together with the potential to draw help throughout the political aisle in states with divided authorities, or with Republican help within the Senate on the federal degree); are legally believable for states to undertake; and may have impacts now on the climate.  Ideally, they might additionally help substantial investments in climate-friendly infrastructure and companies (which builds future political help for extra aggressive insurance policies), construct help for climate actions amongst voters, and scale back the prices of future extra aggressive climate insurance policies (for example, by supporting innovation and price discount in key applied sciences).

Which may sound troublesome to realize, however in truth there are a variety of insurance policies, lots of that are simply obtainable to states proper now.  Listed here are some concepts, organized by matter space.  A few of these insurance policies require laws (and thus are a more durable raise); others may be handled by means of regulatory motion and thus could be carried out by a supportive governor even within the face of a hostile legislature (akin to in Wisconsin the place the incoming Democratic governor will face a Republican and conservative legislature).

Electrical energy

Help the development of interstate electrical energy transmission methods.  A key barrier to growing using renewable power in the USA is the capability to transmit electrical energy from the elements of the nation with numerous renewable power potential (such because the windy Nice Plains) to the elements of the nation that want the power (such because the Northeast).  Development of extra long-distance interstate electrical energy transmission strains is essential to this effort, however can get held up by state legal guidelines that prohibit approving these tasks, or resistance in state regulatory businesses.  State governments can use each laws and modifications in strategy at regulatory businesses to facilitate these tasks.  And investments in transmission strains for renewable power will create extra funding in renewable tasks and improve potential future help for renewable power down the street.

Scale back regulatory obstacles to distributed renewable investments by companies and householders.  Distributed renewable power (primarily rooftop photo voltaic) is usually a nice funding for companies and householders, and assist improve a state’s renewable power manufacturing.  It additionally creates a big fashionable base amongst householders and enterprise leaders for extra help for renewable power.  Nevertheless, state legal guidelines might deal with these small-scale renewable tasks just like giant utility-scale energy crops, burdening them with regulatory necessities that aren’t possible for a person home-owner, or worse but, successfully prohibit third-parties from financing and proudly owning roof-top photo voltaic on houses and companies (a enterprise mannequin that’s now fairly necessary).  As well as, some states have decreased the financial incentives for distributed photo voltaic improvement by altering internet metering insurance policies that present compensation for the extra power distributed photo voltaic producers put onto the grid.  These are policy modifications which may typically require laws, however different occasions might be completed by way of modifications in guidelines and selections by state regulatory businesses.

Undertake or strengthen renewable power portfolio requirements for regulated utilities.  These regulatory requirements have been common throughout the nation, together with in some conservative states.  Nevada simply elevated its commonplace to 50% by 2030.  They instantly encourage funding in renewable power and may scale back carbon emissions and construct future help for extra insurance policies.

Scale back regulatory obstacles to the event of further large-scale renewable power tasks, notably by unbiased energy producers.  In some states, there are vital regulatory restrictions on new utility-scale renewable power tasks – as an example, zoning laws that prohibit wind farms; in different states, prohibitions or restrictions on non-utility owned energy crops that export their energy out of state.  Modifications right here once more might be by means of state laws or regulatory motion.  And once more, extra funding in renewable power tasks ought to improve help for these insurance policies sooner or later.

Require utilities to deploy new power storage applied sciences.  California has been a pacesetter alongside these strains, however plenty of different states might comply with alongside.  Power storage is a key element of decarbonizing electrical grids, as it will probably assist resolve the issue of intermittent manufacturing from wind and photo voltaic.  Encouraging additional funding in power storage can each have climate advantages now, but in addition facilitate innovation and price reductions for future deployment, and construct investments in a brand new know-how area that may have political payoffs down the street.  Many states might do that by means of regulatory motion.


Undertake the California automotive emissions requirements, particularly zero-emission car necessities.  One of the necessary elements driving the event and rollout of electrical car fashions by automakers are regulatory necessities, together with California’s mandate that a sure proportion of automobiles bought be zero-emission automobiles.  Beneath federal regulation, different states can take part with California’s requirements if they want, and by growing the US market share coated by the necessities, states could make nice progress on decarbonizing the US car fleet.  Relying on the state, this step is perhaps potential with unilateral government motion, or it’d require laws. The Trump Administration is poised to problem California’s authority, however the extra states undertake California requirements, the extra strain the Administration and the business will face to compromise.

Present help for the buildout of electrical car charging stations.  A key limitation on the elevated deployment of electrical automobiles in a state is the existence of a charging station community to help these automobiles.  States can encourage the event of these networks by way of tax breaks, permitting or requiring utilities to construct out these networks, or by altering constructing codes to require giant new developments to offer charging stations.  Once more, relying on the state a few of these steps may require laws (akin to tax breaks) whereas others (resembling authorizing utility development of those networks) may be potential by means of regulatory motion.  Once more, constructing investments within the electrical car charging community is just going to assist construct extra help for electrical car packages sooner or later.

Present tax breaks for the acquisition of electrical automobiles.  This may be costly for a state, and thus might have much less of a capability to scale up than regulatory necessities.  However California has used this program for some time, and another states have dabbled with it as nicely.  Most certainly would require laws.

Different actions.

Regulate emissions of methane from oil and fuel improvement.  Many states have already been doing this, together with California.  This can be a easy regulatory step that may have a big and speedy climate impression, given how dangerous methane is as a greenhouse fuel pollutant.  In lots of instances, this may be carried out by way of regulatory motion with out laws.

Impose carbon emission laws on main industrial sources.  States may encourage elevated effectivity and adoption of other power sources in a variety of commercial sectors by establishing laws for carbon emissions from these sectors.  These necessities needn’t be strict initially to probably make a big distinction.

Constructing codes.  States might replace their constructing codes to require that new development is extra environment friendly in its power utilization, and has fewer greenhouse fuel emissions from development and operation.  Usually this may be carried out by means of regulatory motion.

Litigation. A number of states have new Democratic Lawyer Generals. These AGs can be a part of climate litigation introduced elsewhere. They could additionally be capable of convey actions beneath state regulation to implement present restrictions on fossil gasoline crops.

State proprietary actions.  State and native governments personal many buildings and enormous car fleets. They will paved the way on renewables and power effectivity, serving to to construct out the markets (and sometimes saving the state cash within the course of, all the time fashionable with voters.)

These are incremental actions, however they might help construct momentum on the state degree, and finally on the federal degree. And the cumulative results of state-by-state incremental actions are to not be scoffed at.

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