Northeastern states have committed to significant economy-wide cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. But despite these goals, most states have not empowered the agencies that play an outsized role in carbon emissions to prioritize climate, equity, and environmental justice in their decision-making. States’ commitments to climate and equity are just pretty words if they do not have a mechanism to make them binding and real. To achieve our climate goals, all government agencies should be required to prioritize climate change impacts and equity in their decisions.

Acadia Center wrote recently on the importance of reforming PUC and state agency mandates to better align with climate and equity goals. Since then, we have been a part of several notable mandate reform successes across the region.

In June 2021, Maine Governor Mills signed LD 1682, An Act To Require Consideration of Climate Impacts by the Public Utilities Commission and To Incorporate Equity Considerations in Decision-making by State Agencies. The Maine PUC is now mandated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the state’s climate targets and to prioritize climate alongside its other responsibilities. In addition, LD 1682 opens the door for all state agencies to address equity concerns in environmental justice, frontline, and other vulnerable communities that are disproportionately burdened by current energy policies by requiring a stakeholder process to develop guidelines for how state agencies should include equity considerations in their decision-making. Acadia Center played a key role in ensuring the passage of LD 1682 and will continue to work with stakeholders to ensure that all agencies consider equity in their regulatory and programmatic decisions.

In addition, in March 2021 Massachusetts Governor Baker signed a landmark climate bill (S.9) that achieves key mandate reform goals. The bill went into effect in June and requires the state’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to consider equity and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions as equal priorities to reliability, safety, and affordability. The bill will serve as a critical tool in empowering the DPU to act in alignment with the state’s climate goals.

By reforming agencies’ mandates, states can empower the entities that play a key role in emissions and equity outcomes to be partners in meeting state policy priorities. Instead of choosing the cheapest solution in the moment, agencies will be positioned to choose the best solution for both today and tomorrow’s consumers and environment.

Click here to read more about the role of the PUC and state agency mandate reform in supporting progress on climate and equity policy.