New laws are coming onto the books in states across the country that will boost renewable energy adoption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve energy efficiency.
It's part of a push from local governments and citizens around the country to enact strong legislation to combat climate change even as national initiatives face roadblocks from a divided Congress.
The League of Conservation Voters, one of America's oldest environmental advocacy organizations, put together a list of top climate bills that were passed in 2022 and some big actions taken by state governors. The group also noted where bad bills brought by industries hostile to the environmental movement were stopped in their tracks.
The majority of legislative wins focused on clean energy mandates with targets before 2050, the electrification of school bus fleets to prevent pollution and reduce CO2 emissions from large vehicle fleets, and the passage of emissions standards that mirror California's super tough laws aimed at increasing fuel efficiency and reducing tailpipe emissions.
Check out the full list of environmental legislative wins below:
Major Legislation passed
Maryland – Strongest carbon pollution reduction goal in the country
The Maryland Legislature passed The Climate Solutions Now Act with an overwhelming majority, 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, the LCV noted.
The bill contains things like greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets; mandates for spending in low- and moderate-income communities to ensure the people most at-risk from a changing climate get the help they need; and a program to electrify the state's public school buses.
Connecticut – “Banner year for climate”
Connecticut passed legislation committing to develop 100% clean energy by 2040. Lawmakers in the state also passed SB4, making Connecticut the 6th state committed to California’s Advanced Trucks Rule. Connecticut also passed legislation to have a fully electric school bus fleet by 2035.
Colorado – Nation’s strongest oil and gas rules
In March, Colorado regulators set up new financial requirements for oil and gas companies that would force them to finance plugging abandoned wells that litter the state. Colorado's lawmakers also pushed for new rules to monitor air quality and ensure pollution reduction.
New Mexico – taking on methane and cleaner cars
Residents in New Mexico will have their first taste of environmental legislation that curbs methane emissions from oil and gas emissions. And
the state also implemented rules that mirror steps California's Air Resources Board to improve fuel efficiency in vehicles.
Maine – a cleaner more equitable grid plan
Maine passed significant legislation to update its power grid in alignment with the state's Climate Action Plan. That means the state will be one of the first in the nation to require assessment of environmental, equity and environmental justice impacts of the grid plans.
New Jersey – stronger appliance standards
New Jersey lawmakers updated appliance efficiency standards to make sure that Jersey residents were getting their money's worth without breaking the bank on power usage from their washers, dryers, air conditioners, refrigerators, dishwashers and microwaves.
Climate budget boosts for sustainable living
New York – Electric bus budget boost
The new budget from New York has money in it to electrify all of the state's new school buses by 2027 and requires all state buses to be zero-emission by 2035. The state also earmarked half-a-billion dollars for charging infrastructure so that the communities who need it can be in the front of the line to get new buses on the road.
Washington – Greenest transportation package in state history
Washington state is also greening its public transit fleet with a $17 billion transportation package that will put billions into new public transit, electric vehicle infrastructure, and alternative transportation.
Michigan – Clean water for all
Famous for the Flint water crisis that saw public outcry over the levels of lead and other pollutants in that city's public water, Michigan is cleaning up its water act. The state 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 – climate gets a $9.5 billion budget boost
California has already gotten a $9.5 billion budget boost for climate initiatives from Gov. Gavin Newsom, but activists in the state want him to farther. Already a leader in climate policymaking, advocates are pushing for California to commit to spend $11 billion per year over the next five years on climate mitigation and adaptation solutions.
Blocking bad: Activists step up to stop poor policy
Virginia – Andrew Wheeler appointment has an about face
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin made one of the most anti-environmental nominations and had it stopped in its tracks, according to the LCV. The conservative firebrand tried to appoint 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 Virginia. After overwhelming state opposition, the Senate voted to remove Wheeler from consideration.
Florida – Saving solar power from utility capture
One of the big benefits of solar installations for homeowners -- especially in sunny states like Florida -- is the ability to get paid for producing excess power. Advocates and activists successfully blocked a bill that utilities supported which would have ended the practice.
Illinois – Fossil fuel companies fail in bid to oversee renewable installation
In one of the more egregious attempts to make an end-run around renewable energy installation and production, fossil fuel lobbyists in Illinois attempted to pass a bill that would create a "reliability task force" to oversee renewable energy production plans. That task force, to be staffed by fossil fuel industry reps, would have had the power to block or approve projects based on their reliability (something that all renewable projects have to prove already). The attempt to block renewable development was stopped in its tracks thanks to advocacy efforts.
Governors taking action
Governors in Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina are also taking leadership roles in the climate fight.
In Michigan, Governor Whitmer has drafted a climate plan that includes the retirement of all coal plants and a transition to clean energy by 2030; committing 40% of state funding to benefit the state's low-income communities; building EV charging infrastructure to support 2 million cars by 2030; and preserving existing natural resources across the state.
Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, the plan from Governor Evers is to create workforce development and job training programs to create 40,000 clean energy jobs by 2030; put the state on a path to clean energy by 2050; and ensure that Tribal Nations in the state are involved in the planning and development process.
Finally, in North Carolina, a new environmental push would see the state reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The governor's plan calls for a 50% reduction in emissions by 2030 and net-zero as soon as possible after that, but no later than 2050. The state also intends to boost zero-emission vehicles to 1.25 million by 2030 -- and for half of a new car sales to be zero-emission by 2030.
These wins show that even if progress stalls at the federal level, states are still charging ahead -- thanks to the work of environmental activists and advocates like you.