Climate Legislation Makes Progress in New England

Maine passed a historic climate bill this past session, but there’s much more work to be done to battle the climate crisis in New England.

We have to act fast to cut carbon emissions or the consequences will be dire and inescapable.

Climate change is here now, affecting New England residents every day. But putting strong climate laws on the books can help us avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis. Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

As the Trump administration continues to shirk its responsibilities on climate, New England states have recognized the need for local leadership to fill the federal void. This past legislative session, each state in the region saw a flurry of climate and clean energy bills introduced. And in Maine, newly elected Governor Janet Mills championed a historic climate law that will slash emissions in that state 80% by 2050.

While Maine forged ahead with climate legislation, major advancements on renewables, and solar energy policy, progress in other states proved more gradual.

The many bills that were not acted upon will set the stage for our work during next year’s legislative sessions. With your help, we will push legislators to step up and take action to enact strong state laws that promote clean energy, lower climate-damaging emissions, and grow local economies.

Climate Progress in Maine and New Hampshire

After eight years stagnating under Governor LePage, Maine finally made climate and energy progress under the state’s new governor, Janet Mills. At the start of her term, she reinstated the state’s net metering policy, which allows more Mainers to invest in solar energy for their homes. She also led the legislature in enacting a comprehensive solar law and a strong renewable energy bill. Both of these laws will boost the clean energy industry in Maine, bringing good jobs to the state.

Most critically, Governor Mills championed the passage of a seminal piece of climate legislation. Drawing from legislation developed by CLF and our allies earlier in the session, An Act to Promote Clean Energy Jobs and to Establish the Maine Climate Council requires the state to cut emissions and create a roadmap for how to do it in a way that benefits all Mainers.

While it didn’t pass a sweeping climate law, New Hampshire also made progress. The Granite State expanded community choice energy, which allows cities and towns to bulk purchase clean energy like solar and wind for families and businesses. It’s a tactic proven to save residents money while increasing the use of renewable energy. In 2020, we hope to see New Hampshire adopt further clean energy and climate laws.

Rhode Island, Vermont, and Massachusetts Can’t Continue to Rest on Their Laurels

Although she supported the idea of climate legislation during her re-election campaign, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has let the state fall behind its neighbors. For the past two years, CLF and others have pushed for the passage of a Rhode Island Global Warming Solutions Act to ensure that the state has a firm plan and a legal commitment to ratchet down its emissions while continuing to grow its clean energy industry. To date, the Rhode Island General Assembly has failed to act. Until it does so, the state will have no way to ensure that its policies and public and private investments are in line with avoiding the climate emergency in this vulnerable ocean state.

Vermont also has yet to enact mandatory, economy-wide emissions reductions. Despite the state’s emissions being on the rise, Vermont’s legislature took only small, incremental steps towards curbing carbon pollution. Lawmakers approved a bill that invests money in home energy efficiency—tightening up the homes of low- and middle-income Vermont families—and included $1.1 million in the State’s budget to make electric cars and trucks more affordable. These are both important measures, but such small steps are no longer enough to battle the looming climate crisis.

Massachusetts has been the regional leader on climate action—passing one of the nation’s first climate laws in 2008—but its path to compliance has been a bit elusive. (In fact, we had to sue the Commonwealth in 2016 to enforce its climate law.) This may be due in part to the lack of a clear direction in its ambitious goal of cutting emissions by 2050. This is why CLF, Massachusetts Representative Joan Meschino, and 57 other legislators are calling for the passage of The 2050 Roadmap Act (H.832). This bill updates the state’s 2008 Global Warming Solutions Act, and requires the state to establish a clear framework to achieve zero emissions by 2050.

Every State Needs to Put Climate Legislation on the Books

Climate change is here now, affecting New England residents every day. Severe storms regularly flood our streets, devastating heat waves and growing tick populations put our health at risk, and dwindling fish populations threaten our economy. Scientists agree: We must slash our emissions to zero by 2050 to avoid the worst effects of climate change. And our window for avoiding disaster is growing smaller.

The reality is, passing effective legislation can take time—which is in too short supply when it comes to addressing climate change. We can and must move forward strong climate laws that require states to cut emissions. And we can and must do so now.

Your voices made a difference this year in Maine and New Hampshire. Without each and every one of you pushing for change, these states wouldn’t have made the headway they did. And even in states that saw less progress, you’ve helped make sure lawmakers know that their constituents demand meaningful action from them. Together, we will continue our push at state houses across the region until we have achieved enforceable carbon limits in every New England state.

Join CLF in this climate fight by taking action on issues you care about and signing up to receive CLF emails so you’ll be the first to know when and how you can make a difference.

Before you go... CLF is working every day to create real, systemic change for New England’s environment. And we can’t solve these big problems without people like you. Will you be a part of this movement by considering a contribution today? If everyone reading our blog gave just $10, we’d have enough money to fund our legal teams for the next year.