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The Climate 202

Democrats in Minnesota move to require 100% clean electricity by 2040

The Climate 202

Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202! Today at 9:30 a.m., Juliet Eilperin, the deputy editor of The Washington Post’s climate department, will be speaking on a panel hosted by Resources for the Future. You can tune in virtually here. But first:

Democrats in Minnesota are poised to pass a clean electricity bill. Red states are moving in the opposite direction.

Democrats in Minnesota are pledging to use their majorities in the state legislature to combat the climate crisis, including by requiring 100 percent clean electricity in the state by 2040.

It’s the latest example of how states are taking sharply divergent paths on climate policy this year, with red states like Ohio and Wyoming moving to deepen their dependence on fossil fuels.

The details: For the first time since 2014, Democrats in Minnesota have control of both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s office. The trifecta means they can advance longtime priorities — including proposals on climate change, abortion rights and gun control — without needing Republican votes. 

Minnesota House Majority Leader Jamie Long (D), a supporter of a bill requiring utilities in Minnesota to reach 100 percent clean electricity by 2040, said in an interview that he’s optimistic the measure will advance soon.

“This is definitely the year this will pass,” Long said. “We heard loud and clear that climate was something Minnesota voters wanted us to take action on.”

The state House’s climate committee will hold a hearing on the bill Wednesday. The state Senate is expected to move the bill “quickly” as well, Long said, although the exact timeline remains unclear.

For years, prominent Democrats in Minnesota have fought for 100 percent clean electricity, only to see their plans stymied by political head winds. Now that could finally change.

  • Gov. Tim Walz campaigned for his first and second terms on the issue. A bill mandating 100 percent clean electricity passed the state House in recent sessions, but it died in the Republican-controlled state Senate.
  • Meanwhile, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) tried to include a clean electricity provision in the recently passed climate law, dubbed the Inflation Reduction Act. But the plan was dropped because of opposition from Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a conservative Democrat. (Smith also championed a clean electricity standard that failed to garner GOP support while serving as Minnesota’s lieutenant governor from 2015 to 2018.)

“Though we were unable to get that legislation passed at the national level, states are going to continue to lead the way, and that’s exciting,” Smith told The Climate 202.

The clean electricity bill will “be good for lower energy costs, it will be good for our economy, and it will be good for reducing emissions,” she said.

Walz spokeswoman Claire Lancaster said in an email that the governor is “supportive” of the bill, noting that he touted it in his inaugural address.

Red states move in a different direction

By contrast, Republican lawmakers in Ohio recently worked with dark money groups to champion legislation that redefined natural gas, a fossil fuel, as a source of “green energy,” as The Climate 202 reported Tuesday.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed the legislation this month, capping a successful campaign by the Empowerment Alliance, a dark money group with ties to the gas industry, and the American Legislative Exchange Council, another anonymously funded group.

Meanwhile, in Wyoming, Republican lawmakers introduced a bill last week that called for phasing out the sale of new electric vehicles by 2035, The Washington Post’s Brian Pietsch reports.

State Sen. Jim Anderson, who introduced the bill, told Brian that the measure was meant to counteract California’s move in August to proceed with banning the sale of new cars running only on gasoline by 2035.

“I don’t have a problem with electric vehicles at all,” Anderson said. “I have a problem with somebody saying, ‘Don’t buy any more petroleum vehicles.'”

Bill Holland, vice president of state policy and advocacy at the League of Conservation Voters, said states that embrace clean energy could ultimately benefit the most from President Biden’s climate agenda, including the clean-energy jobs and investments spurred by the Inflation Reduction Act.

“Fast legislative action on 100% clean energy could position Minnesota to quickly reap the lower costs and good jobs from the Biden Administration’s climate plan,” Holland said in an email. “That contrasts with states like Ohio, where legislators once again did the bidding of fossil fuel companies to gut Ohio’s ability to invest in clean energy jobs.”

On the Hill

Reps. Gosar and Santos gain seats on environmental committees

Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) will again be seated on the House Natural Resources Committee, which plays a key role in environmental policy, The Post’s Leigh Ann Caldwell and Amy B Wang report. 

Gosar previously sat on the Natural Resources panel, but the House voted in 2021 to expel him from all committees after he tweeted an altered anime video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and swinging two swords at President Biden.

Natural Resources Committee Chair Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) confirmed Gosar’s appointment along with seven other new members: Reps. Mike Collins of Georgia, John Duarte of California, Harriet Hageman of Wyoming, Wesley Hunt of Texas, Jen Kiggans of Virginia and Anna Paulina Luna of Florida and Del. James Moylan of Guam.

Meanwhile, Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) will be seated on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, according to a steering committee member and GOP aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, The Post’s Azi Paybarah and Leigh Ann Caldwell report.

Santos, who flipped a seat on Long Island, has fabricated much of his biography and is the subject of a recently filed complaint with the Federal Election Commission. The science panel, chaired by Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-Okla.), has jurisdiction over research and development at federal agencies including the Energy Department, Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Rep. Pingree calls for federal probe of propane group

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) is calling on the Energy Department and the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into whether a propane industry group violated federal law.

The move comes after the New York Times reported last week that the Propane Education and Research Council, a federally sanctioned trade association, has spent millions of dollars on an advertising campaign to promote fossil fuel use and discourage the use of heat pumps and other clean-energy technologies.

In a Tuesday letter sent to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and FTC Chair Lina Khan, Pingree said the campaign may have run afoul of a 1996 law that requires the funds PERC spends on marketing to be used solely on research, education, training and safety. 

“This disingenuous campaign has dire consequences for states like mine,” Pingree wrote. “Mainers face long, rough winters where cost-effective heating is essential.”

The Energy Department and the FTC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

International climate

At Davos, Europe unveils green plan to counter Inflation Reduction Act

European policymakers on Tuesday unveiled plans to counteract what they see as protectionist policies in the Inflation Reduction Act that could siphon clean-energy investment away from the continent, Maha El Dahan and Jan Strupczewski report for Reuters. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Tuesday that the European Union will introduce a Net-Zero Industry Act that will help the bloc compete with America’s climate law by 2030.

“To keep European industry attractive, there is a need to be competitive with the offers and incentives that are currently available outside the E.U.,” she said at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

The move comes after French President Emmanuel Macron warned during his visit to Washington in December that the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act would “fragment the West” unless America and its allies “resynchronize” their economic policies, The Post’s Olivier Knox reports. His remarks prompted President Biden to say that he makes no apologies for either law, but that some unspecified “tweaks” might be made to fix perceived “glitches” in the Inflation Reduction Act.

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told Davos attendees on Wednesday that “some in Big Oil peddled the big lie,” referring to revelations last week that Exxon Mobil scientists accurately predicted future global warming in reports dating back to the late 1970s while the company publicly questioned climate change.

In the atmosphere

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