Beyond Paris: What’s Next For The States?


Stephanie Joyce

The smokestacks at the Comanche power plant in Pueblo, CO.

Stephanie Joyce

The smokestacks at the Comanche power plant in Pueblo, CO.

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement provoked a rash of fierce reaction from across the country.  Some states applauded the move, while many more criticized both the decision and Trump’s rationale for withdrawing.

In the absence of the Paris deal, a group of states, cities and companies are stepping in to fill the vacuum with their own proposal, in hopes that the United Nations will accept the submission which aims to meet U.S. greenhouse gas emissions targets set out in the Paris accord.

Here’s how Washington state’s governor Jay Inslee put it:  Trump’s announcement “leaves the full responsibility of climate action on states and cities throughout our nation.”

Inside Energy has collected reaction from throughout the country and next steps:  

Wyoming, from WPR’s Cooper McKim:

Reaction: Wyoming’s Congressional delegation supports President Trump’s decision to pull out of Paris. Sen. John Barrasso was one of the primary signatories on a letter to the president expressing disapproval of the deal.

A shovel digs coal at Cloud Peak Energy’s Antelope mine. June 2, 2016.

After yesterday’s announcement, Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi said in a statement, “The Paris agreement demanded too much from our country while letting others, such as China and India, off the hook for years. It was a bad deal for America.”

Governor Matt Mead is not as vehement. He says his priority is making coal viable long-term through research and innovation, with projects like the Integrated Test Center, a low carbon lab near Gillette. He is not convinced leaving the Paris agreement will do much to help the coal industry’s future.

“We cannot cede leadership on this issue to other countries. I think we need to re-engage and have this discussion on CO2 on a global fashion if we’re going to be able to sell coal for the next 100 plus years,” Mead said.

What’s Next: Wyoming has no voluntary or mandated standards or targets for a renewable portfolio. It is the nation’s top coal producer.

Louisiana, from WWNO’s Tegan Wendland

Reaction: New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu says he’s going forward with a local climate action plan. He issued a statement calling climate change a real and present danger to Louisiana. As ice caps melt and seas rise, much of coastal Louisiana is at risk of washing away. The state is already losing land faster than anywhere else in the country. Landrieu says, if left unchecked, New Orleans will “cease to exist.”

What’s Next: Landrieu vowed to continue working with other mayors and at the local level and to cut down on emissions in order to combat climate change. But he did not offer specifics. Louisiana does not have a renewable energy mandate. The state filed suit over the Clean Power Plan and never took steps to implement the plan’s emissions reductions.

Georgia, from WABE’s Molly Samuel

Reaction: Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was in Paris in 2015 for the climate conference that resulted in the global agreement. Now, he’s signed on to a letter with 60 other U.S. mayors, saying they’re sticking with the plan.

“Along with my colleagues from around the country and the world, I remain committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement,” Reed said in a statement released the day before Trump’s announcement. “The City of Atlanta will intensify our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, work to cool the planet by two degrees, ramp up clean energy solutions and seek every opportunity to assert our leadership on this urgent issue.”

What’s Next: Atlanta plans for city-owned buildings to use only renewable energy by 2025, and everyone in the city by 2035. It’s also working on improving energy and water efficiency.

Colorado, from Rocky Mountain PBS’ Leigh Paterson

Reaction: Gov. John Hickenlooper called it a serious mistake. “Abandoning this climate deal is like ripping off your parachute when you should be pulling the ripcord,” Hickenlooper said in a statement.

Republican Rep. Mike Coffman, who has expressed doubt over the role humans play in climate change, appeared to agree to the deal, in some form.

“I hope that we can be a part of a renegotiated climate treaty, ratified by the United States Senate, to continue our nation’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Coffman said in a written statement posted to his Twitter account.

In a statement, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock called climate change a ‘serious threat’ and said the city will “not back down” from addressing climate change.

Dan Boyce / Inside Energy

A drilling rig near Erie, Colorado.

What’s Next: Colorado is a top fossil fuel producing state but it also has a strong environmental advocacy community. In 2015, Gov. Hickenlooper proposed a Climate Action Plan, but a bill that would have added deadlines and measurable goals to that plan failed in the Senate in 2016.  In April, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission voted to require utility giant, Xcel Energy, to include the cost of carbon in its future power generation calculations.

Alaska, from Alaska Energy Desk’s Rachel Waldholz and KTOO’s Jacob Resneck:

Reaction: President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the accord drew muted reactions from Alaska officials.

Oil pipeline in Alaska.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski told reporters she’s “agnostic” on the Paris accord itself. But, she said, she hopes the U.S. won’t “fall back” in its efforts to address climate change, adding that Alaskans are already seeing impacts.

Gov. Bill Walker released a statement highlighting the effects of climate change across the state. But he stopped short of criticizing President Trump’s decision.

Walker said shrinking sea ice and coastal erosion are causing “social and economic upheaval,” adding that the communities of Shishmaref, Kivalina and Newtok are “literally washing into the ocean.” And he noted that erosion and thawing permafrost will affect military installations across the state.

What’s Next: Alaska was exempted from the Clean Power Plan but the Walker administration has indicated it hopes to advance some kind of state climate policy this year. Democrats in the State House introduced a bill this spring to create a statewide climate change commission. But the bill never made it to a vote on the floor and faced opposition from Republicans in the state Senate.

Pennsylvania, from Jon Hurdle, StateImpact PA:

Reaction: In Philadelphia, Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney issued a statement saying that the city would continue its efforts to cut carbon emissions to match the requirements of the international pact.

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement goes against the interests of Philadelphians,” Kenney said.

What’s Next: “My administration is now committed to upholding at the local level the very same commitment made by the United States in the Paris climate agreement — to reduce carbon emissions between 26 and 28 percent by 2025.  This will ensure that we’re well on our way to meeting Philadelphia’s current long-term goal of reducing the city’s emissions 80 percent by 2050,” Kenney said.

State officials said the administration of Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, would press on with its efforts to cut escapes of methane – a potent greenhouse gas – from natural gas wells and pipelines.

North Dakota, from Prairie Public’s Amy Sisk

Reaction: Mixed. All three members of North Dakota’s congressional delegation support efforts to to keep the coal industry viable. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, said Trump’s decision gives up an opportunity to ensure a viable future for North Dakota’s fossil fuel resourcesRepublican Sen. John Hoeven said the accord put an unfair burden on the United States to reduce carbon emissions. If the nation’s leaders negotiate a new deal, he said it must consider innovative approaches to energy. Rep. Kevin Cramer, also a Republican, called the existing agreement “terrible” for the country and praised the president for putting America’s interest first, though he had advocated for staying in the agreement while negotiating new terms.  

Amy Sisk / Inside Energy

Steven Somsen of Courtenay lives near a new wind farm and has several turbines on his land.

What’s Next: North Dakota has not authorized any recent statewide policies to reduce carbon emissions, though it’s surpassed a voluntary 10 percent renewable objective set in 2007. Nevertheless, wind energy is increasingly common in the state, which has historically relied on coal for power. There’s also some appetite to bring the state’s various energy interests together to craft a plan for the future, which would likely entail a reduction in emissions.

Here is a round-up of reactions from other states:
  • New York: It is no surprise that Gov. Andrew Cuomo called Trump’s decision ‘reckless’ and ‘devastating.’ The state has emerged as a leader on combatting climate change, taking actions on its own in steps outlined here.
  • California: It was also not surprising that Gov. Jerry Brown called the action ‘devastating.’ In response, he, along with Gov. Inslee of Washington announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance. California too has taken a lead on state-driven climate change action. Lots of info here.
  • Texas, from Dallas Morning News: Trump has two Texans in his Cabinet: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Both encouraged the president to keep the U.S. in the deal. Texas Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz last month signed a letter with 20 of their colleagues that urged Trump to make a clean break from the Paris accord. Their central concern was that the deal could complicate efforts to rescind the Clean Power Plan, another Obama-era initiative. 
  • Oklahoma, from NewsOKOklahoma lawmakers praised Trump’s decision. “I warned international representatives from around the globe that without Senate ratification our commitment to Paris would only last as long as Obama was president,” U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, said. “Our withdrawal today demonstrates that this certainly was the case.”