shining light bulb

If the federal government won't do it, then many states will. PT rounds up the states making news with environmental policy decisions.



State Solutions for the Environment




Greenhouse gases

The EPA announced in mid June that it would make a final decision on the State of California's petition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. The state measure would take effect for the 2009 car model year and requires a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2016. Approved by a state environmental board in 2004, the bill cannot, by federal law, take effect until California receives a federal waiver. California filed a request for the waiver in December of 2005, but the EPA stalled until the Supreme Court ruled that the agency has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. If California gets its waiver, 11 other states are primed to pass California's new emissions standards.

South Carolina


Green building

The South Carolina House of Representatives—and now its Senate—have overruled Gov. Mark Sanford's veto of a proposal to hold higher standards for energy efficiency in federally-funded buildings. The bill will force renovation projects on at least 50 percent of a building or construction larger than 10,000 square feet, to meet the efficiency standards of the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Silver. Proponents say that the new measure will help establish energy independence, and save taxpayers money in the process. Gov. Stanford stated in his veto message, "We believe that we should certainly encourage the types of construction contemplated in this legislation but ultimately leave the decision to the institution or governmental entity in question."




Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's "energy independence strategy" is well on its way towards granting the state the authority to fund alternative energy production, and to encourage the use of biofuels. Given the green light from the Pennsylvania House in late June, the new measures passed with bipartisan support. However, a stipulation on how the measure would be funded has yet to be secured, and some Republican opponents are decrying the possibility of higher taxes and state borrowing. At the same time, the Pennsylvania House has also voted to pass the Clean Fuels and Energy Independence Act, which requires ethanol and soy to be offered for purchase by the state.



Energy bill

Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed the Florida legislature's House Bill 7123 in late June, a $62 million energy bill which would push for mandates on utility regulators for higher efficiency standards, and invest funds for the research and development of alternative energy sources. To Crist, the new bill is not green enough. In his veto message, Christ wrote, "…it is apparent that a unified approach to state energy policy would not result from the implementation. We can do better." Funding for the bill was approved, however, allowing for a  $25 million program to promote biofuels through the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, a $20 million alternative energy facility at the University of Florida, and a $12 million grant towards a Department of Environmental Protection program for renewable energy.



Land conservation

In order to fund a new land trust, Idaho state lawmakers are aiming to sell 30 pieces of  "surplus properties" totaling around $50 million, according Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter. If the endowment is a success, Idaho hopes to protect several ranches and wild lands, some of which are historic ranches the state acquired in the 1940s as it expanded elk and mule deer habitats. The Department of Fish and Game is currently planning workshops to identify areas the public would like to protect. The Department claimed the land was not likely to be purchased by wealthy individuals, but by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. "Surplus properties" include parts of the Panhandle National Forest, as well as several ranches in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Some conservationists are skeptical that the land will not go to private landowners or developers.




State lawmakers in Oregon passed several energy bills providing incentives and tax breaks to farmers growing canola and flax crops used for motor fuels, hoping to strengthen its lucrative biofuels industry. According to Cleantech Network, nearly $800 million of venture capital was invested in biofuels in the U.S. between 2002 and 2007.

Senator Brad Avakian (D-Portland), said, "We are poised to compete nationally to produce these alternative fuels." Under the new bill, petroleum distributors will be required to sell gasoline that contains at least 10 percent biofuel once in-state production of ethanol reaches 40 million gallons. Oregon is hardly alone in its push for biofuels; 22 other states have passed similar legislation granting incentives for renewable fuels on the producer or retailer end.



Efficient light bulbs

Three hundred stores across Maine, in a collaborative effort with the Maine Public Utilities Commission and the state Environmental Protection Agency, have launched recycling programs for compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), in order to encourage their use. CFLs are believed to cut electricity bills and help slow global warming, however, they do contain small amounts of the neurotoxin mercury, which poses health concerns. The recycling program began at a Hardware Store in Granville, and allows customers to return their CFLs to be shipped to a recycling center in Massachusetts. The new recycling initiative is the first of its kind in the country.

West Virginia


Coal Gasification

West Virginia's Appalachian Power proposed a $2.23 billion integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) coal plant in June, which, if approved by state regulators, could be completed by 2012. The company seeks approval from the Virginia State Corporation Commission, and is expected to hear its decision by the end of the summer. IGCC plants produce synthetic gas, or syngas, from high-sulfur coal, heavy petroleum residues and biomass. Proponents claim that IGCC emits less particulates, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury, however, this has yet to be demonstrated from the two commercial IGCC plants in Florida and Indiana.