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Excerpt: "Seven Republican-led states voted for Democratic governors this week in an election that could shift the landscape for climate and clean energy policies, especially in the increasing number of states where Democrats will also dominate the legislature."

Technicians install solar panels. (photo: Getty)
Technicians install solar panels. (photo: Getty)

Clean Energy a Winner in Several States as Governors, Legislatures Go Blue

By Dan Gearino and Marianne Lavelle, InsideClimate News

08 November 18

With the 2018 election, more states will also have one party controlling both the legislature and governor's office. That could help clean energy—or hurt it.

even Republican-led states voted for Democratic governors this week in an election that could shift the landscape for climate and clean energy policies, especially in the increasing number of states where Democrats will also dominate the legislature.

Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Maine and Wisconsin are all switching from Republican to Democratic governors.

In 14 states, Democrats will have a "trifecta" of the governor's office and control of both houses of the legislatures, with Colorado, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, Maine and New York joining eight others.

That broadens the list of states where ambitious clean energy standards, carbon-reduction initiatives and other climate policies are likely more politically viable than before, environmental advocates say. It also is likely to strengthen state-level opposition to the Trump administration's moves to weaken pollution controls.

"We know that governors are the ones who make decisions on how the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and other environmental safeguards promulgated by the EPA (federal Environmental Protection Agency) are enforced," said Kevin Curtis, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund, its political arm. "Does a coal plant stay on line, or is it replaced with clean energy? Governors have a tremendous voice in that question. Do we invest in new fossil fuel infrastructure or do we transition to clean energy? Governors have a big voice in that."

The six states that are gaining Democratic trifectas may be the first places where renewable energy agendas advance, said Gene Karpinski, president of the League of Conservation Voters.

Republicans continue to have an edge at the state level, controlling the governor's office and both houses of the legislature in 22 states, and they are on track to have 27 governors, assuming the party wins in results still being finalized in Georgia. While some of those governors, like Massachusetts' Charlie Baker and Maryland's Larry Hogan, support clean energy and climate policies, many of them are opposed.

"We're not going to make progress everywhere," Karpinski said. "Unfortunately, the leadership of the Republican party is bought and sold by the fossil fuel industry, these days, so you're not going to get comprehensive solutions in some of these states."

Karpinski said that in states where GOP legislatures block action, the environmental movement will look to leadership in cities that are setting ambitious goals.

The 7 States that Flipped from Red Governors to Blue

Four of the seven states that switched to Democratic governors are in the Midwest, partially reversing the region's swing toward Republicans in 2014.

In Michigan, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, a former state legislator, defeated Republican Bill Schuette, the state attorney general. Whitmer had support from environmental advocates because of her criticism of Enbridge's Line 5 fossil fuel pipeline and her support for moving to 100 percent renewable energy. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder had reached the state's term limit.

Wisconsin Democrat Tony Evers beat Republican Gov. Scott Walker in a close race that was near the 1 percent mark that could trigger a runoff. Walker, a Republican, had made an enemy of environmental groups with an array of positions on clean air, water and clean energy (along with outraging public employees for his moves against collective bargaining). However, rapid policy changes are not likely in Wisconsin because Republicans retained control of the legislature.

Maine is poised for a major change in direction on climate and clean-energy policy with the election of Democrat Janet Mills, who will replace term-limited Republican Gov. Paul LePage, an outspoken foe of wind energy who also has sought to reduce how much utilities pay to rooftop solar owners who sell power to the grid. Mills, the state attorney general, would seek to reverse LePage's actions on renewable energy, which could give new lift to Maine's stalled ambitions to develop offshore wind. She defeated Republican Shawn Moody, an auto-body business owner who had said he would carry on LePage's legacy.

In Illinois, Democrat J.B. Pritzker, a venture capitalist, defeated Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Pritzker has said he wants the state to move to 100 percent renewable energy. Rauner supported some renewable energy efforts, including as part of a 2016 law that is now boosting the state's solar power, but he also supported easing pollution rules for coal-fired power plants.

Nevada could become a leader on renewable energy with the election of Democrat Steve Sisolak, who made support for solar power part of his campaign. Sisolak, chair of the county commission in the county that includes Las Vegas, defeated Adam Laxalt, the state attorney general, who had sued the Obama administration over environmental issues and had criticized Sisolak's positions on renewable energy. Sisolak will replace term-limited Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, whose tenure included a drastic reduction in support for rooftop solar that was so unpopular the policy was reversed.

In New Mexico, solar-power-friendly policies will have a better chance of passing with Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham, a member of Congress, elected governor, replacing a term-limited Republican who vetoed solar incentives three times. Lujan Grisham defeated Republican Steve Pearce, also a member of Congress, who had strong support from the oil and gas industry.

Kansas, a leading wind energy state, elected Democrat Laura Kelly, a state legislator who has supported clean energy policies. Kelly defeated Republican Kris Kobach, the secretary of state who drew national attention for using unsubstantiated claims about voter fraud to try to make it harder for people to vote, attacked Kelly for her support of state requirements that utilities obtain at least 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources.

"For the next two years, most clean energy and climate policy action will likely continue to be at the state and local level, with last night's election results creating a host of new opportunities," said Trevor Houser, head of the energy and climate practice at Rhodium Group, an economic and policy research firm.

Colorado, Oregon Keep Governor's Offices in Democratic Hands

In Colorado and Oregon, two states where climate and clean energy issues are on the agenda, Democrats retained control of the governor's offices.

In Colorado, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat, prevailed over Republican Walker Stapleton, the state treasurer, in a race with clear contrasts on environment and energy issues. Polis has embraced a plan for 100 percent renewable energy, while Stapleton talked about developing the state's oil and gas resources. Polis replaces Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, who could not run again because of term limits.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, won a second term, defeating Knute Buehler, a state legislator. She has supported plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the use of clean energy, a policy direction that she says she will continue.

Republicans Also Held on in Some States Democrats Hoped to Flip

Republicans had their share of wins, retaining control in states where Democrats had hoped to prevail.

In Florida, Republican Ron DeSantis received more votes than Democrat Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, in a close race. Gillum made climate change part of his campaign in a state that has been dealing with toxic algae blooms and flooding from rising seas. DeSantis, who until recently was a member of Congress, rejects climate science and has said he is "not a global warming person."

In Ohio, Republican Mike DeWine, the state attorney general, defeated Democrat Richard Cordray, a former state attorney general and the first director of the Federal Consumer Protection Bureau. Cordray's loss is a blow to clean energy advocates who had hoped to see a counterweight to a Republican-controlled legislature that has been hostile to renewable energy.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, won re-election, defeating Democrat James Smith, a state legislator. Smith is a strong supporter of solar power, while McMaster stressed his own opposition to offshore oil drilling.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, won a second term, defeating Democrat Molly Kelly, a former state legislator. Sununu vetoed a bill this year that would have expanded net metering, a system for compensating rooftop solar owners. Clean energy advocates supported Kelly.

In Oklahoma, Republican Kevin Stitt, a business executive, was elected governor over Democrat Drew Edmondson, a former state attorney general. Stitt benefited from support from the oil and gas industry, one of the most influential interests in the state.

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+2 # economagic 2018-11-09 08:01
A bit of related news that does not involve a change in the party of the governor: In North Carolina the clueless former nice guy was defeated in 2016 by a "moderate Democrat," who has been neutered by supermajorities of vandals and a few outright thieves in both houses of the General Assembly. It now appears that the supermajorities in BOTH houses have been broken. Late Tuesday or early Wednesday the governor announced an ambitions plan for the state to have 40 percent renewable energy by 2025, though without any information on how this would be achieved. The "plan" may count plug-in electric vehicles as "zero emissions" in a state where the majority of electrical generation is coal fired by the mighty Duke Energy, possibly the largest electric utility in the state since a merger with its main rival under the previous governor.
+1 # Robbee 2018-11-09 12:02
"In Michigan, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, a former state legislator, defeated Republican Bill Schuette, the state attorney general. Whitmer had support from environmental advocates because of her criticism of Enbridge's Line 5 fossil fuel pipeline and her support for moving to 100 percent renewable energy. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder had reached the state's term limit." - InsideClimate News 08 November 18

InsideClimate doesn't half tell the story of what went on in michigan?

gretchen skewered schuette with ads declaring him filing federal suits to end pre-existing condition health insurance coverage and trying to throw about 700,000 working michiganders off medicaid expansion!

bernie and barak aggressively campaigned for gretchen!

while us michiganders ended gerrymandering, the fix takes effect after the 2020 census, meaning gretchen will face constant, rock-hard conservative opposition throughout her first 4-year term, through, in other words, the 2022 election!

gretchen has boundless energy and enthusiasm! her strength will be transparency, that, amid all corporate hypocracy, she tells michiganders what's really going on!

as governor she has firm hands on bully-pulpit!

michigan has gone progressive in electorate!

michigan has gone transparent in governor!

for the next 4 to 8 years, plan to hear alot of state leadership coming from michigan governor's office!

michigan also swept leut. gov, atty gen. and sec'y of state!

all 3 dem props passed!

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