Last week, President Trump signed an executive order which will roll back the Obama era Clean Power Plan, an effort which limits power plant carbon emissions and pushes states to cut back on their overall emissions. This may feel scary, but here’s the good news: state politics are powerful and they are key.
In a recent Washington Post article, Jim Brainard, a Republican mayor in Indiana, pushed the idea that state legislation is all we need to make change. Brainard said of the President’s recent executive order that “Cities aren’t going to stop. They were working on things that save money and provide a better environment long before the federal government got involved with the Clean Power Plan, and they’ll continue to do so” (Mufson & Denis, “As Trump halts federal action…” Washington Post, March 28, 2017).
It’s true, too. While some states haven’t moved forward on increasing the percentage of clean energy in the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) or even mandating an RPS at all, others have pushed to the forefront as clear climate leaders. There are currently 29 states held to RPS mandates for clean energy, and there are 8 states and a US territory with RPS goals in the works (Durkay, Jocelyn. “State [RPS] and goals.” National Conference of State Legislatures, December 28, 2016). Iowa came first, establishing their RPS requirement in 1983. Hawaii was late to the game, establishing their RPS in 2001, however they have an aggressive goal: the state will have an RPS of 100% by the year 2045. Vermont is moving in a similar direction with a goal of an RPS at 75% by the year 2032. New York is next to follow, with a mandate of 50% by the year 2030. The Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Initiative seeks for Maryland to be the next state to require an RPS mandating 50% clean energy.
States aren’t the only factor either. Utility companies are also starting to work toward a clean energy goal. Many have set their own mandates which mirror the concept of an RPS; they set percentages and they work toward them with a particular year in mind. According to Mufson and Denis in this Washington Post article, “…utilities also say that shelving the Clean Power Plan will have little effect on their long-term actions, which aren’t aimed at four-year presidential cycles but involve looking decades ahead” (“As Trump halts federal action…” March 28, 2017). Utility companies and states can work together to achieve cleaner energy and keep us on track to reach the Paris Climate Agreement goal of 26%-28% reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.
While abolishing the Clean Power Plan has the potential to send a negative message about our environmental intentions, is does not have to mean that our country is altering its climate protection trajectory. If states rapidly deploy renewable energy then the US could stay on track to meet our Paris agreement goals.
We do not need President Trump’s signature to get where we want to be. We can do this state by state with Maryland at the forefront. That’s our goal, and we will get there with or without the President.