State Climate Equity Survey

The transition to an equitable, affordable, and healthy energy future for everyone is underway. Right now, more than two-thirds of states authorize agencies, including public utilities commissions, to consider environmental justice (or EJ) implications in decision making and budget setting. Some states have more effective legal mechanisms than others, however.

Below is a comprehensive assessment of environmental justice and energy equity legislation and regulations in each state. By clicking on a state, you will find detailed information about the policies in that state that include environmental justice provisions.

Explore the map and find out what policies are in place where, if there are models of legislation that might work in your state, and the statutes that you might leverage in your own fight for energy equity in your community.

Key Survey Findings

  • 34 states have given state agencies the authority to consider environmental justice and equity implications in decision-making and budget-setting. 
  • Across the country, there is a wide variety of ways that environmental justice considerations are legally being implemented including through bills, executive orders, agency-specific regulations and policies and state Supreme Court case law; this means that a state with at least one arm of government interested in advancing environmental justice principles has a path forward.   
  • Only 16 states lack any sort of mechanism for enabling agencies to incorporate environmental justice principles into their decision-making. 

Gold Standards in Environmental Policy Legislation 

Some of the legal provisions currently in place are more effective and enforceable than others. Below is a list of the best policies and where they are being used right now.

Constitutional Amendments are provisions added to the bill of rights of a state constitution that recognize and protect the rights of all people, including future generations, to pure water, clean air, a stable climate, and a healthy environment. Currently constitutional amendments are in place in Massachusetts, Montana, New York, and Pennsylvania and are proposed in Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. For a model see Connecticut’s proposed amendment.

Cumulative Impact Bills consider the combined, incremental effects of human activity which may be insignificant alone but accumulate over time. These bills prevent the approval and re-issuing of permits that would increase disproportionate and inequitable pollution on BIPOC, low-income, and limited English proficiency communities. Currently eight states have Cumulative Impact Bills in place including California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and North Carolina. An additional eight states have proposed bills including Arizona, California, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. For a model see New York S8830.

Redistributive Bills require state agencies, authorities, and entities to reinvest resources accumulated through the bill into low-income and BIPOC communities. For a model see New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (2019).

  • Utility Justice Bills require public utilities commissions to complete a study and submit a report assessing low-income discount rates for electricity and natural gas; it can result in utilities companies being required to file a tariff establishing low-income discount rates. For a model see Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (2021).
  • Environmental Justice Task Force Bills create an Environmental Justice Task Force made up of members who represent minority communities, low-income communities, environmental interests, and industry groups to advise on environmental justice issues in the state. For a model see Oregon HB 4077 (2022).

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