Governors Use Earth Day to Push State Efforts on Improving Environment

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By Martha Kessler

April 22 — Governors across the nation took the opportunity on Earth Day April 22 to promote state efforts to improve the environment and highlight programs intended to support a go-green agenda.

From a proclamation signed by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) declaring a soil and water conservation week to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker's (R) unveiling of a state LED initiative, elected leaders in many states put their environmental efforts on display.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) said he had signed an executive order calling for the creation of a new council to ensure that Connecticut is on a path to meeting its greenhouse gas emission goals established in legislation adopted in 2008 by the year 2050.

That target calls for GHG emissions to be 80 percent below 2001 levels by 2050, and the council would be charged with establishing interim goals to ensure the 2050 goal can be met.

In the state of Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) took the opportunity to call on the Legislature to take action now on oil train safety, updates to clean water regulations and a toxics bill and carbon pollution.

Governors Announce State Agency Actions 

A number of governors took the time to announce, or highlight, actions being taken by state agencies.

In New York, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) unveiled findings that showed the implementation of “green” policies at state agencies has saved an estimated $13 million while reducing waste and the amount of paper used and also increasing recycling. Cuomo also showcased the adoption by state agencies of non-chemical means of controlling pests on turf and ornamental plantings.

In Boston, the governor said Massachusetts expects to save about 3 million kilowatt hours per year, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1,000 metric tons and save more than $500,000 annually by converting more than 4,500 street and outdoor lights to energy-efficient Light Emitting Diode (LED) lighting and associated fixtures.

States Committed to Natural Resources Protection 

In some states, governors took Earth Day as an opportunity to proclaim their state's commitment to protecting natural resources.

In New Hampshire, Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) signed a proclamation stating that GHG emissions and other human-induced pollutants are the key contributors to climate change and thus urged citizens and businesses to take actions to address climate change and improve air and water quality in that state.

California Gov. Jerry Brown Jr. (D) issued a four-page proclamation declaring April 22 as Earth Day and outlining what he views as the impacts of climate change already being felt and presenting a “Warning to Humanity” that indicates five areas of concern that he believes must be addressed simultaneously.

And in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie (R) noted in a proclamation that the state's Department of Environmental Protection was created on the first Earth Day in 1970 and emphasized its position as a national leader in environmental protection.

Christie, Cuomo Comment on Storm Damage 

Both Christie and Cuomo underscored the efforts underway in their respective states to address the damage caused by recent hurricanes and superstorms and to invest in the building of more resilient and sustainable development.

In certain other states, governors took steps to acknowledge Earth Day by expanding or establishing loan and grant programs.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) announced the expansion of the Heat Saver Loan program which provides loans for state residents for the installation of high-efficiency boilers and furnaces to also cover weatherization, cold-climate heat pumps, solar hot water, biomass heat and other clean heating technologies.

And in Rhode Island, Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), celebrated Earth Day by awarding $3.3 million in grants for 23 local water quality protection and restoration projects.

New Mexico's governor, Susana Martinez (R), participated in the first Governor's Environmental Excellence Award. The purpose of the program, according to the state's website, is to “support, recognize, and celebrate the hard work of those New Mexicans dedicated to restoring and protecting the natural heritage and environmental health of our state.”

Environmental Concerns Raised 

In other states where no official notice or proclamation were made by the governor, other elected officials took the opportunity to make their environmental concerns known.

For example, in Wisconsin, a number of Democratic lawmakers held an Earth Day press conference to raise concerns about Gov. Scott Walker's (R) budget which called for the elimination of 66 positions from the Department of Natural Resources.

And finally some governors took to Twitter to mark Earth Day, including Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) who tweeted “Happy #EarthDay from the home of the prettiest places on Earth.” And In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) tweeted a picture of himself planting a tree at a child care center in Annapolis with environmental officials.

With contributions from state correspondents

To contact the reporter on this story: Martha Kessler in Boston at mkessler@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com