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The Planet
State Field Report

By Paula Carrell

It’s an election year (had you noticed?) and most state economies are in serious trouble. Despite these distractions, however, Sierra Club state government-level lobbying efforts did bear fruit on several branches. To learn more about your local harvest or what’s happening in other states, go to the "my backyard" box at sierraclub.org and scroll down to the state you want. Perhaps you’ll find a seed to plant at home next year. You can also join your chapter’s state legislative action network and become party to next year’s harvest celebration.

 

New Jersey Snatches Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

For years, the New Jersey Chapter championed protection of the New Jersey Highlands, a 1,000-square-mile area that provides drinking water for more than half of state residents. This summer the chapter celebrated passage of the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act, which defines a Highlands preservation area of approximately 500,000 acres and limits development on the remaining land.

But in a blatant payback to developers for passage of the Highlands bill, within a week the New Jersey Legislature steamrolled what opponents call "EZ Pass for Polluters" legislation onto Governor James McGreevey’s desk and he signed it. This new law will fast-track approvals for virtually all permits needed by developers, polluters, and industry without appropriate review, severely weaken environmental protections, accelerate sprawl, and increase pollution in already-polluted areas. The Club is leading a public awareness campaign and bringing action through the courts to overturn the new law.

Climbing on the Renewable Energy Bandwagon

Net metering of electricity will soon become available to Kentuckians. Legislation enacted this year in Kentucky will require retail electric suppliers in the state to make it possible for customers who generate electricity using solar power to sell their excess generation to the utility for "credits" against electricity use.

Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich signed legislation that will increase renewable energy production and consumption in the state. The Maryland Clean Energy Bill requires utilities to increase the amount of renewable energy to 7.5 percent by 2014. Maryland is the 15th state to enact a renewable portfolio standard. Maryland also expanded its net metering law.

In Hawaii, Governor Linda Lingle signed a bill mandating that utility companies establish a renewable energy portfolio standard showing 8 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2005, 10 percent by 2010, 15 percent by 2015, and 20 percent by 2020. Renewable energy is defined as wind, solar, geothermal, and conversion of agricultural and other waste to energy. Although possibility of a waiver exists, any company that fails to meet these standards could be fined as much as $25,000 a day.

Rhode Island also passed a renewable portfolio standard of 16 percent by 2020.

Two More States Join the Clean Vehicle Corps

This spring Connecticut adopted Clean Vehicle emissions standards for all new minivans, light trucks, and passenger cars, beginning with the 2008 models. Connecticut is currently ranked as the nation’s third-worst state for air quality, and proponents say the bill could cut toxic air emissions by about 33 percent.
Under the Clean Air Act, states are required to adopt either federal or the much tougher California clean-air standards. On the heels of Connecticut’s adoption of the California standards, Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri announced the Ocean State’s intention to follow suit. Connecticut and Rhode Island join Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Maine, and New Jersey in adopting the California standards. According to Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, motor vehicles are responsible for at least 30 percent of the Northeast’s global warming emissions.

The Rhode Island Chapter is also celebrating enactment of a Parking Cash Out bill that will require employers of 50 or more to offer a monthly transit pass as an alternative to providing parking space.
We understand that Maryland state Senator Sharon Grosfeld intends to introduce the "Clean Cars Act" next session. Maybe it’s time to ask your state legislator: Why not here?

Thank you Governor Napolitano!

Wiser heads prevailed in Arizona this summer when Governor Janet Napolitano vetoed the utterly unnecessary "Animal and Ecological Terrorism" bill sent her by the state legislature. As Club Lobbyist Sandy Bahr kept repeating, "There are ample provisions under current Arizona State Law to prosecute those engaged in illegal conduct [like] damaging property, trespass, arson, and damaging agricultural or lab facilities." So-called "ecoterrorism" measures have been introduced in several states this year and last, and have mostly been recognized for what they are—attempts to foster public fear and then capitalize on that fear to hamper legitimate protest. Not one has been adopted.

Wisconsin Protects Groundwater

In April, Wisconsin Govermnor Jim Doyle approved legislation designed to help protect groundwater resources. The bill was motivated in part by the 2000 controversy over plans by the Perrier bottling company to tap and bottle groundwater in the state. The new law will redesign state requirements that call for agency approval of any "high capacity" wells that withdraw more than 100,000 gallons of water each day, such as those used for bottling operations. The new law establishes new permit fees of $500 for proposed high-capacity wells and $50 for small wells. The law also requires a groundwater advisory committee to make recommendations to the legislature by 2007.

 

 


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