This two-part post was originally published as a single post on Legal Planet. Reprinted with permission. This first part covers state climate action from California to Michigan. Click to read Part II.
State climate policy is a big deal. State governments began cutting emissions at a time when the federal government was essentially doing nothing about climate change. Since then, more states have become involved, and state policies have become more aggressive.
It’s not for nothing that 2023 was called a banner year for state climate action. The state developments in just the second half of the year make up an impressive list. I’ve organized a list of those developments by state just to give you a sense of how much is going on and in how many different places.
The biggest news since July was the passage of two major corporate disclosure laws. Senate Bill 253 requires major public businesses operating in California to report all emissions relating to their businesses, including those of suppliers and customers. A partner bill, the Climate-Related Financial Risk Act (SB 261), requires disclosure of the financial threats businesses face as a result of climate change itself and the transition to a net-zero economy.
At the agency level, the California Air Resources Board reached a deal with major truck makers over the state’s phase-out of diesel trucks. The industry agreed not to challenge the standards. In return, the board agreed to revise upcoming smog requirements for trucks to align with new federal standards.
Also, the Building Standards Commission approved amendments to the state’s green building code in August. The changes target emissions from the production and transport of building materials like concrete, steel, insulation, and wood. The initial 2024 phase will apply only to new commercial buildings over 100,000 square feet. In 2026, the threshold will drop to 50,000 square feet.
In addition, the Energy Commission adopted a new “virtual power plant” rule, allowing consumer-owned batteries to be aggregated and treated as power plants when they deliver power to the wholesale electricity market.
Finally, Governor Gavin Newsom entered into five agreements in a series of meetings with Chinese officials. They create partnerships on the deployment of offshore wind and other renewables, climate change adaptation and mitigation, industrial decarbonization, and the creation of a future “green shipping corridor” between Los Angeles and Shanghai.
The state’s Air Quality Control Commission approved guidelines for the measurement and verification of oil and gas methane emissions, becoming the latest state to set stricter standards for tracking the potent greenhouse gas. The commission also issued new rules governing the state’s 18 most polluting facilities, including the world’s largest maker of mozzarella cheese. (Who knew cheese was such a pollution problem?) The state’s Chamber of Commerce said regulators are “asking industry to jump out of a plane with a needle, thread and cloth, with the hopes that a parachute can be stitched.”
On August 3, 2023, the governor signed seven pieces of climate legislation that strengthen the state’s climate targets, increase electric vehicle and renewable energy requirements, and update building codes. The Climate Change Solutions Act (HB 99) establishes new climate targets, requiring the state to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. State agencies must develop and implement a climate action plan to meet these targets every five years, the first of which is due by November 15, 2025. The Climate Solutions Act also requires state agencies to consider climate change in their decision-making, rulemaking, and procurement. The package also includes six other laws. The most notable of those sets targets for purchasing electric school buses and creates a state EV rebate program.
HB 2487 created a Justice40 Oversight Committee responsible for making recommendations on how the state can advance environmental justice and meet the federal Justice40 Initiative’s requirements. The governor also signed SB 2368, which requires climate resilient building codes.
The state’s Democratic governor launched a $200 million Build Kansas Fund to provide matching funds for entities applying to Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) programs that require non-federal matches. The fund aims to accelerate IIJA-funded projects in Kansas, including water, transportation, energy, cybersecurity, and broadband projects through fiscal year 2027.
Maine adopted legislation calling for the state to procure 3 GW of offshore wind power by 2040. The governor signed a revised version after vetoing an earlier bill version over concerns about labor provisions.
The governor signed a $56 billion state budget on August 9, 2023. Funding towards climate and energy programs includes: (a) a 27 percent increase in funding for the office overseeing the state’s environmental and energy agencies; (b) $30 million to support wind technology, clean-energy homes, and green workforce training programs; and (c) $200 million for public transportation improvements, accessibility, and planning.
This has been a busy time for climate action in Michigan. In July, the governor signed six bills to expand clean energy and energy efficiency programs and environmental protections in the state. The most noteworthy of these laws repealed a ban on state regulations being stricter than federal rules, allowing the state to move more aggressively on climate and the environment.
The state’s fiscal year 2024 budget included funding for clean energy, conservation, and environmental justice, such as $70 million to expand clean transportation options like transit and high-speed rail, $14 million to implement the MI Healthy Climate Plan, and $350 million for the Make it in Michigan Competitiveness Fund to leverage federal funding for new or expanded manufacturing in the clean energy sector.
In November, the state passed several clean energy bills aimed at making the state carbon neutral by 2050. The bills require utilities to get 100 percent of their energy from clean energy sources by 2040 (and 50 percent by 2030) and boost energy efficiency. The new laws also shift authority to the state over large-scale wind and solar projects.
Continue to Part II of this post.