Democratic-run cities and counties across the nation have been working to implement ambitious climate policies and regulations within their jurisdiction. However, Republican-led states have pushed back against these efforts.
In Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota, conservative legislatures have recently passed laws that prevent cities from banning natural gas connections in new buildings.
Likewise, Texas has enacted a law that effectively blocks cities from adopting climate policies in their charters. Meanwhile, Idaho has implemented a measure to prevent local governments from setting stricter energy efficiency codes.
Republican lawmakers argue that these actions protect consumers and businesses from aggressive climate mandates. On the other hand, environmentalists view these moves as disempowering local officials who are committed to fighting climate change.
“Preemption laws” are laws that forbid municipalities from banning natural gas use in new buildings. Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, and South Dakota are among the states that passed such laws this year. All of these states are governed by Republicans in both chambers. They also all have Republican governors.
These measures are a response to Democratic-led restrictions on gas usage as a means to combat climate change and air pollution.
Although the impact of these new preemption laws is limited due to the smaller urban centers in these states, critics argue that they undermine democracy. The laws essentially disenfranchise blue cities in red states by preventing them from taking a different policy direction than the rest of the state.
Supporters of preemption laws argue that they are advocating for the freedom of choice for consumers. According to North Dakota state Rep. Glenn Bosch (R), his bill aims to safeguard the ability of both individuals and businesses to select the most suitable energy source for their needs.
Greg Abbott vs. El Paso
Texas is the largest state where blue cities and red states are butting heads.
In June, Governor Greg Abbott (R) enacted a law mandating that cities must obtain permission from the state legislature before making any changes to their charters related to climate change.
This legislative action was prompted by the unsuccessful “climate charter” proposal in El Paso. El Paso voters turned down an amendment to the city charter that aimed to establish ambitious climate and clean energy objectives.
Climate campaigner Miguel Escoto, the local leader of the Sunrise Movement, expressed determination to continue his advocacy despite the setback. He emphasized the need to find legal avenues to promote climate policies while navigating around restrictive bills from opponents like Governor Abbott.
Escoto attributed the failure of the charter to extensive spending by opponents, particularly from the fossil fuel industry. Notably, organizations like the El Paso Chamber and Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), which includes major players Chevron and Energy Transfer, collectively spent more than $1 million on campaigning against the measure.
Interestingly, the opposition to the climate charter did not align strictly with political affiliations. For instance, Matthew Gonzalez, the Southwest executive director of CEA and the leader of the campaign against the climate charter, also serves as the Democratic mayor of Cimarron, New Mexico.
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