EES PAN: Portal to State and Local Legislation and Initiatives


back to EES homepage and menu


Key Sources on State Legislation and State and Regional Initiatives


Historically, given the international focus on the Kyoto Protocol and the failure of the United States to ratify it, along with President Bush's recalcitrance in the face of the 'science,' the level of activism and the development of legislation and pursuit of initiatives at state and local levels were often obscured. Here we provide access to information about legislatiion and initiatives at state, regional and local levels. 


The Powers of States and Localities

Yet, within the US federal system, States are often the laboratories of policy development and the crucible in which innovatory practices are forged. Significant powers are available to state and local governments to legislate and enforce regulations on a wide range of environmental and energy issues. A 2006 discussion paper by Markus Knigge and Camilla Bausch of the Ecologic Institute on Climate Change Policies at the US Subnational Level-Evidence and Implications offers a good overview of the constraints and opportunities faced by state and local governments, as well as a survey of some of the major policies adopted and implemented. State and local activity has been significant from the early 1990s, but recent years have seen more cooordination as well as the expansion and intensification of efforts.

Many of the initiatives have focused on promoting energy efficiency and lowering carbon emissions. However, because of the constitutional distinction between federal and state, there are tensions in the relative powers of states and the federal government in setting standards.

The long saga of California's attempts to set stricter emission standards for vehicles than those set by the EPA illustrates these tensions. It included the important case before the U.S. Supreme Court - Massachusetts v. EPA Supreme Court Case No. 05-1120 - in April 2007. By a 5-4 decision, it recognized CO2 emissions as 'pollutants' within the terms of the Clean Air Act, and thereby subject to EPA control; it also recognised that Massachusetts had standing in this case, because of the dangers rising sea levels pose to its inhabitants. However, in December 2007, the EPA refused to grant a waiver to California. It is now hoped that the passage and enactment of proposed bills in both the U.S. Senate - Senate Bill - S.2555 introduced in January 2008 and the House will resolve this specific issue. Such contestation over 'powers' will, it is likely, continue.

If we treat states as 'nations' and place them in rankings of GDP and carbon emissions alongside other other 'nations,' the significance of initiatives, or the lack of initiatives, taken at US state level becomes apparent.

The Significance of States' Economies

For example, if we compare the data produced by the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis on what it calls the states' Gross State Product (renamed Gross Domestic Product in 2006) with that produced by the World Bank, IMF or the CIA World FactBook on GDP for nations, it is evident that the scale of an individual state's economy is very pertinent to examine.

Two wikipedia articles one here and the other here attempt to do precisely this. Although this is quite a problematic juxtaposition and comparison, as acknowledged in wikipedia itself, it is indicative of the relative economic power of these states in the international context.

California, taken alone, would be one of the world's largest ten economies; states such as Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois and Pennsylvania might also be in the top twenty economies.

The Signficance of States' Carbon Emissions

Examining an individual state's carbon emissions in a similar international context again reveals the importance of the state as an actor. Texas, California and Pennsylvania are all very high emitters. Texas again would rank in the top ten in the world.

Some of the more recent calculations can be derived from state information published by the Energy Information Administration. The Environment Protection Agency also provides state level information on C02 emissions from fossil fuels and State Greenhouse Gas Inventories.


 State legislation: sources

The National Governors Association is the bipartisan organization of the nation's governors. It has a division devoted to environment, energy and transportation which produced a report on Clean and Secure State Energy Actions  Best Practices Guide on Environment, Energy and Natural Resources that incorporates many details of state initiatives.

The National Conference of State Legislatures is a "bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the nation's 50 states, its commonwealths and territories. NCSL provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues. NCSL is an effective and respected advocate for the interests of state governments before Congress and federal agencies."

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change is an invaluable source for reliable data and very readable reports on these state and regional questions. On their website you can find

state leglislation. Other useful sources include The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators organized in 1996 to provide environmentally progressive legislators with an opportunity to coordinate their activities and to share ideas both on affirmative and negative environmental issues; it is bipartisan but is ' invitation only' to those elected Members of state legislatures "who have demonstrated an interest in and commitment to environmentally progressive legislation."

Regional and State Initiatives

  •  The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative founded in 2005 is the first mandatory U.S. cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide emissions. The program will begin by capping emissions at current levels in 2009, and then reducing emissions 10% by 2019. Twelve northeastern and mid-Atlantic states are now members.
  • The Western Climate Initiative will set an overall regional goal for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and design a market-based system – such as a cap-and-trade program. Members include governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.

Regional Examples

Clean and Diversified Energy Initiative set up by the Western Governors’ Association includes governors from California, New Mexico, Wyoming, Utah and North Dakota. 

New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers: Climate Change Action Plan and the Southwest Climate Change Initiative set up by the governors of New Mexico and Arizona.

The Great Plains Institute  which covers several states in the upper Mid-West and the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships which promote energy efficiency in homes, buildings and industry in the Northeast.

State Examples

Clean Energy States Alliance is an association of eighteen states with established clean energy funds or programs that have banded together to promote clean energy technologies. T

State Legislation from Around the Country is very illuminating as are the sources that form part of the review of states' policy and performance on global warming.

California Climate Change Portal is the basic resource. On greenhouse gas performance standards for vehicles, California has set higher standards and at least twelve states are now adopting California's standards (Assembly Bill No. 1493) for cars and light trucks, but there have been several legal challenges.

Recently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have set standards demanding that utilities generate a specific amount of energy (in some cases, as high as 33 percent) from renewable sources by 2020. And 11 states have set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. (cite source)

Local initiatives

    United States Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more, of which there are 1,139 in the US today. Each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor. On February 16, 2005 the day the Kyoto Protocol became law - but not for the USA, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels launched the The US Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement . The agreement commits these cities to meet or beat the US emissions reduction target in the Kyoto Protocol, as well as urging their state governments, and the federal government, to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets for the United States in the Kyoto Protocol. It also called for enactment of legislation to establish a national emissions trading system.


      The Mayors' Climate Protection Center to administer and track the agreement, among its other activities. The Center's Best Practices Guides provide interesting examples of the range of policies and practices being developed at a local level.

        By the beginning of  February 2012 there were more than 1005 signatories to the Agreement.

            2007 Survey of the 400 mayors who had signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement showed that a wide range of initiatives on energy efficiency, use of renewable energies, and higher building standards were being undertaken across the country.

                Produced by Elaine Capizzi