Taking Action to Reduce Carbon Pollution at the State, Local, and Tribal Level

This morning, the Obama administration put forward the first-ever plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants. Cutting carbon emissions will help prevent up to 6,500 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks among children. It will also reduce electricity bills by approximately 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system, while creating tens of thousands of jobs across the country. We have set limits for arsenic, mercury, and lead pollution, but we let power plants emit as much carbon pollution as they want – until today.  

For decades, state, city, county, and tribal leaders have led the way in reducing pollution, making our communities healthier and cleaner. This carbon pollution standard proposal puts tools in the hands of each state – there’s no one-size-fits-all approach here. Governors will have flexibility to meet the proposed standards using the energy sources that work best for each state.

And let’s remember that the idea of setting higher standards to cut carbon pollution isn’t new. 47 states have utilities that run demand-side energy efficiency programs, 38 have renewable portfolio standards or goals, and 10 have market-based greenhouse gas emissions programs. More than 1,000 mayors have signed a climate protection agreement. And county and tribal leaders are on the front lines dealing with climate impacts every day.

As co-chairs of the President’s bipartisan State, Local, and Tribal Leaders Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, we have had the chance to travel to regions throughout the country. The community leaders we’ve met with are not consumed by Washington ideological debates; they want to discuss how they are dealing with the floods, fires, droughts, and super storms that are putting the health and well-being of their communities at stake. And in addition to dealing with the existing impacts of climate change, these elected leaders are taking bold action to reduce the carbon pollution that is causing climate change.

Here are some of the excellent examples of Task Force members who are leading actions that are making a difference for people in a very tangible way: 

  • Greensburg, Kansas Mayor Bob Dixson rebuilt his town in a more sustainable and energy efficient fashion after a tornado devastated his community, and today Greensburg is a model for other towns in a similar situation.
  • In Carmel, Indiana, Mayor James Brainard has improved safety and cut emissions by building hundreds of traffic roundabouts.
  • In Salt Lake City, Mayor Ralph Becker has launched a competition to improve the efficiency of buildings to drive down pollution and save businesses money.
  • Broward County, Florida Commissioner Kristin Jacobs co-led efforts with Miami-Dade, Monroe, and Palm Beach counties to create the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, a regional effort to coordinate mitigation and adaptation plans across county lines.
  • California Governor Jerry Brown, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, and Washington Governor Jay Inslee have joined together to rein in greenhouse gases on the West Coast, and governors in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have created regional systems that reduce carbon emissions while creating jobs and economic growth.
  • As a result of the leadership of Governor Pat Quinn, Illinois leads the nation in number of communities with renewable energy. 
  • Tribal leader Karen Diver, of the Fond du Lac Tribe of Minnesota, has led the way on conservation and energy efficiency efforts.

These state-by-state fact sheets help to detail the progress that has already been led by hundreds of state, local, and tribal leaders throughout our nation. The President’s Climate Action Plan builds on this great progress, and today’s announcement to reduce carbon pollution from power plants is a step toward a cleaner and healthier United States of America.      

To learn more about President Obama’s plan to flight climate change, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/climate-change.

State Fact Sheets

Alabama                              Alaska                          Arizona                       Arkansas         
California                            Colorado                      Connecticut               Delaware
Florida                                 Georgia                         Hawaii                              
Idaho                                   Illinois                            Indiana                       Iowa
Kansas                               Kentucky                        Louisiana                  Maine
Maryland                             Massachusetts            Michigan                    Minnesota
Mississippi                         Missouri                        Montana                    Nebraska
Nevada                                New Hampshire         New Jersey               New Mexico
New York                             North Carolina            North Dakota            Ohio
Oklahoma                           Oregon                         Pennsylvania            Rhode Island
South Carolina                   South Dakota              Tennessee                Texas
Utah                                      Vermont                       Virginia                      Washington
West Virginia                      Wisconsin                    Wyoming                   


David Agnew is Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. Mike Boots is Acting Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.