State/Federal Legislative Monitoring
The Energy and Environmental Legislative Monitoring program tracks the progress of state and federal legislation related to a wide range of energy and environmental issues.
Every year, the program collects and summarizes legislation in all of the Board’s Member States to produce the Energy and Environment Legislative Digest. The Digest is presented at SSEB’s Legislative Briefing held in conjunction with the Southern Legislative Conference’s Annual Meeting.
Other projects of the program have included comparative studies on state Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) and recent EPA regulation.
This program also tracks developments in Congressional bills and monitors federal regulatory activities related to energy and the environment.
Energy and Environment Legislative Priorities and Analysis
For more than four decades, the Southern States Energy Board has published this Digest, and each year the Board endeavors to ensure that the information representing the legislative trends in its member states is accurate and comprehensive. The legislation presented in our most recent digest is current through September 1, 2020.
After last year’s unusually high number of energy and environment bills passed, the 2020 edition contains an unusually low amount of bills. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, legislatures across the nation have focused on the pressing matter of addressing the numerous problems caused by the pandemic. Some of these pressing matters do relate to energy and environment such as emergency and disaster response planning.
Precise bill summaries are categorized for easy comparison. Some bills may cover a range of issues and fall into multiple categories. Energy measures are divided among the following categories: Alternative Energy Development; Coal and Minerals; Computer Technology and Digital Innovation; Emergency Management and Homeland Security; Energy Efficiency; Natural Gas and Petroleum; Reorganization and Coordination; and Utilities. In total, 187 energy-related bills were passed this year by our member states and territories.
Environmental measures are divided into the following categories: Air Quality and Pollution Control; Coastal Zone Management; Emergency Management and Homeland Security; Environmental Health Services; Hazardous Waste and Substance Management; Inland Water Resource Management and Conservation; Land Management and Conservation; Radioactive Waste; Reorganization and Coordination; Solid Waste; and Water Quality and Pollution Control. These categories combined for 152 pieces of legislation. As with previous years, flood control and emergency management planning remain important to many of our member states’ legislatures.
When examining legislation passed state-by-state it is not unusual to observe trends. This year, several states passed legislation addressing the need for broadband access in rural areas, typically through the use of existing rural electric cooperative infrastructure. Such bills have seen a surge in popularity over the past few years, but with telecommuting and at-home learning becoming the new normal for many, the issue has become more important than ever before. Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia all passed bills related to the promotion, funding, and deployment of broadband access.
On the topic of emergency management response, Alabama created and established funding for a statewide emergency notification system to consolidate the previous county by county system. Virginia established the Emergency Shelters Upgrade Assistance Grant Fund in order to install, maintain, or repair infrastructure for backup energy generation for emergency shelters, and Florida passed a law requiring counties that maintain designated shelters to designate a shelter that can accommodate persons with pets. Tennessee extended the life of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency to June 30, 2025.
Flood control was the subject of multiple bills across our member states as well. The Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia legislatures all addressed flood water mitigation and response in some form.
North Carolina transferred leftover monies to a polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) recovery fund, while Maryland banned its use in fire-fighting foams, and Virginia established a work group to investigate, among other chemicals, the levels of PFAS in drinking water.
On the issue of coal ash, Georgia passed a law that upped the coal ash landfill fees to $2.50 per ton making it on par with the other landfill waste charges, while Puerto Rico extended restrictions and reporting on its ban of coal ash storage with its “Act to Prohibit the Deposit and Disposal of Coal Ash or Waste Coal Combustion in Puerto Rico.”
And in our other member territory, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the legislature passed a bill with the intention of developing a sustainable ocean-based “blue economy” within the territory.
Our members in Virginia had a very busy year passing more than 90 energy and environment bills, which doubles the amount passed by the legislature last year and accounts for nearly a third of the total bills contained within this digest. Clean energy adoption, specifically solar and wind energy legislation, was the topic of many of the bills passed in Virginia.