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MEMO: Protecting Our Environment

MEMO: Protecting Our Environment

TO: Interested Parties
FROM: The DLCC
RE: Protecting Our Environment [PDF]
DATE: April 20, 2018
 
As we approach Earth Day this weekend and on the eighth anniversary of the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, we take a look at how state legislatures have worked to protect our environment for future generations.
 
For decades, state Republicans and their special interest cohorts have been laser-focused on unraveling environmental protections one state at a time. And since President Trump took office, Republicans have been more emboldened to upgrade their full-scale attack on our environment: cutting protections in favor of corporate profits, denying the threat of climate change, preventing advancements in clean energy, and endangering the future of our planet.
 
Conversely, state Democrats around the country have been at the forefront of advancing climate protections and innovative environmental policies. State governments led by Democrats – like in California, Nevada, Hawaii, Washington, and Oregon – have been leaders in the fight to protect our environment. These states have passed legislation to combat climate change, regulate polluters, develop clean energy, and protect natural resources for future generations.
 

But threats by Republicans and right-wing special interests against our shared environment are mounting:

  • In Virginia, Republicans recently passed a bill to limit the Governor’s authority to use a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon pollution and grow the clean energy sector. The bill passed both chambers with a party line vote, but was killed when Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam vetoed the legislation.
  • New Hampshire Republicans are pushing legislation and targeting the state’s clean energy industry, pulling back requirements for utility companies to obtain a quarter of their energy from renewable resources by 2025.
  • In Wisconsin, state Republicans passed legislation removing protections for over one million acres of wetlands, opening the state’s precious natural resources to developers.
  • In Wyoming, Republican legislators tried to pass legislation forbidding utilities from providing any electricity to the state that comes from large-scale wind or solar energy projects.
  • Kansas Republicans repealed the state’s renewable energy mandate and replaced it with a “voluntary goal” for electric companies.

Rigged Resolutions

When considering the process of drafting legislation, many may imagine elected officials working together to write policies that benefit those they were elected to represent. But that’s not always the case – sometimes special interest groups, like the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC), draft bill templates that Republican legislators then introduce as their own.

ALEC-drafted legislation is at the heart of many anti-environment bills proposed by Republicans in statehouses across the country:

  • ALEC’s model bill “State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives” has recently resurfaced in Republican controlled legislatures, after 30 states joined regional climate agreements to coordinate efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, develop clean energy sources, and bring consistency to state rules and regulations.
  • ALEC receives a large share of its funding from the Koch brothers.
    • Republicans in at least a dozen states including Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Tennessee, Montana, Rhode Island, and Virginia have introduced legislation based on that draft bill. The legislation also uses language that denies and discredits scientific evidence of documented climate change.
    • Republican legislators in Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington have proposed resolutions based on ALEC-drafted templates that urge governors to withdraw from regional climate initiatives.
    • In many cases, the bills’ text is copied verbatim from ALEC-drafted templates.
  • More than a dozen states have approved resolutions, with basic text provided by ALEC, calling plans by the federal Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gas emissions a “train wreck” that will harm the economy.
  • Republicans in Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona pushed legislation similar to an ALEC-drafted bill called the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” mandating public schools teach climate change denial.
  • In December 2017, U.S. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Elizabeth Warren co-published an op-ed in the Washington Post highlighting ALEC’s over 20-year anti-climate campaign, and how it has become more emboldened with a President who claims climate change is a hoax.
    • Sen. Warren pointed out that at a 2017 summit, ALEC pushed a draft resolution calling on EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to withdraw the agency’s 2009 finding that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare.

Fortunately, state Democrats across the country have introduced pro-environment policies as part of their “blue wall” against Trump and his extremist agenda.
  • More than 550 state legislators responded to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement by committing to take action in their states to protect the planet from climate change’s worst impacts. The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) has legislators from 45 states representing over 298 million Americans.
  • In response to Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, Democratic Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Jay Inslee of Washington, and Jerry Brown of California created a bipartisan coalition of states -- called the United States Climate Alliance -- committed to upholding the emissions-reduction targets of the Paris climate accord.
    • The United States Climate Alliance counts many states with Democratic-led legislative chambers as members, including: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
  • Following Democrats’ success in the New Jersey 2017 elections, state Democrats passed ambitious legislation to further renewable energy in the state. The bills, which require power companies in New Jersey to generate 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and subsidize existing nuclear power plants, mark one of the biggest new policy steps that any state has taken toward cutting greenhouse gases since President Trump was elected.
  • Despite threats from President Trump, California Democrats continue to lead the charge to protect the environment. State Democrats recently advanced a bill to reduce the state’s methane emissions.
  • Democrats in Hawaii passed legislation committing the state to a 100% renewable energy goal by 2045 – in other words, in 30 years, Hawaii will be running only on electricity made by renewable resources. And California may be next.
  • After the DLCC helped Democrats take control of the Nevada Legislature in 2016, Nevada Democrats passed nine bills the following session, furthering the state's commitment to renewable energy.
  • In 2016, Oregon Democrats succeeded in passing landmark legislation requiring the state’s two largest utilities to stop paying for out-of-state coal power by 2030, and generate 50 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2040.
  • In the past few months, Connecticut Democrats have been pushing legislation to advance clean energy in the state, making it more cost effective for homeowners to use solar energy and calling for 40 percent of the state’s energy to be generated from renewable sources by 2030.
  • After the DLCC helped Democrats flip the Washington Senate with a critical special election win last year, Washington Democrats enacted legislation to promote renewable energy and combat climate change.

By electing more Democrats to statehouses, we can achieve national progress by advancing pro-environment policies one state at a time.

In 2018, it will be more than just candidates on the ballot – it will be a choice about the future of our environment.
 
The DLCC has numerous candidates running for state legislatures across the country who are dedicated to protecting our environment.
 
To see candidates who are running to do just that and to learn more about critical 2018 races, go to races.dlcc.org.

 To schedule an interview with the DLCC, please contact Mara Sloan at mara@dlcc.org.

You can find a PDF version of this memo [here].

 
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