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34 states have climate equity policies in place as of 2023

EDF’s new equity map shows state efforts to make the energy transition fairer for all

Across the U.S. states are passing laws that will ensure greater equity as we transition to a clean energy system. EDF has developed an interactive map – based on our new report, the State Climate Equity Survey – that documents states’ efforts to make their energy transition more equitable and healthier. Our new map identifies which states require, allow, or promote consideration of equity and environmental justice in agency decision-making and budget-setting.
Media Article

Massachusetts outlines new strategy for getting customers and utilities off gas

After more than three years of considering the future of the natural gas industry in Massachusetts and what role it can play in the state's efforts to significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, the state's Department of Public Utilities issued an order meant to signal to gas utilities that it won't be business as usual going forward.
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Press Release

Peoples Gas Rate Case Decision Pivotal for Customers and Clean Energy Transition

CHICAGO (Nov 16, 2023) – The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) decided today on a controversial Peoples Gas rate case which environmental and public interest organizations applaud as a departure from previous rate proceedings and an overall victory benefiting customers. The Commission rejected a significant part of Peoples rate hike request, disallowing $265 million that Peoples requested for new pipes and $236 million for new buildings. Additionally, the Commission ordered the company to participate in a Future of Gas proceeding and to file new plans for its system every two years. The Commission made similar orders in Nicor Gas and Ameren Gas rate cases, collectively reducing utility rate requests by many millions of dollars. “Today’s decision marks critical progress in the fight for a cleaner, more affordable energy future. We applaud the ICC for hearing community concerns. And we also know there’s still a long road ahead for environmental justice communities like mine, where the cost of natural gas goes beyond just unaffordable rates,” says Cheryl Johnson, Executive Director of People for Community Recovery. “Across Chicago’s south and west sides, legacy contamination and poor outdoor air quality have contributed to disproportionate rates of respiratory illness. Gas stoves are making those worse. We’re glad to see the ICC pushing pause on future gas infrastructure investments and we hope Mayor Johnson and the Chicago city council take an important next step by supporting policies that transition homes and buildings away from dirty, expensive natural gas.” This decision comes at a time where Illinoians are struggling to pay their bills and as advocates call for a transition away from the gas system to meet our state climate goals. The ICC's determination in the gas rate case provides some concrete steps in achieving those objectives, according to advocates. “This decision is forward-thinking because it signals a commitment to our State’s climate goals by providing an actual framework for equitably winding down the gas system,” says Madeline Semanisin, NRDC Midwest Building Decarbonzation Advocate. The Commission rejected the company’s proposed fixed charge and implemented a robust low income discount program. These changes can lead to lower customer bills and promote and reward energy efficiency. “This order is virtually unprecedented in terms of changing the system that for far too long has benefited utilities at the expense of consumers,” says Rob Kelter, Managing Attorney, Environmental Law & Policy Center. “Today reflects the commitment from the commission and Governor Pritzker to reduce carbon emissions and move toward electrification and renewable energy. The ICC made it clear today that it will take charge of a robust planning process that will accelerate that shift.” The decision mandates a Future of Gas proceeding that will lay the groundwork for a comprehensive strategy to address the long-term challenges associated with the gas system. “Today’s decision is a major victory for Chicagoans forced to pay ever-escalating bills for the failing Peoples Gas pipe replacement program. At long-last, regulators are holding Peoples Gas and its troubled program accountable,” says Abe Scarr, Director of Illinois PIRG. “Today we got three decisions from the Illinois Commerce Commission that are a really big deal. Illinois just took vital steps toward aligning its gas systems with its overall clean energy goals, and toward affordable power for all Illinois families in the future,” says Christie Hicks, Senior Director for Equitable Regulatory Solutions for Environmental Defense Fund. ###
Illinois Commerce Commission chair announces decision favoring clean energy
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Advocates hail regulatory ‘earthquake’ as state slashes requested gas rate increases

Illinois regulators unanimously approved rate hikes for four major natural gas utilities, but slashed the utilities' requested rate increases by as much as 50%. The regulators also launched a series of "future of gas" hearings that will for the first time hold the utilities accountable for aligning their planning with the state's 100% clean energy goals. "As the state embarks on a journey toward a 100% clean energy economy, the gas system's operations will not continue to exist in its current form," the Commission's Chairman said in a statement.
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Peoples Gas seeks record-high gas bill increase for customers

Environmental and community activists turned out in Chicago to protest against Peoples Gas' request for a $402 million rate hike for next year. "We don’t think consumers should be having to spend more money to rebuild fossil fuel pipelines," said activist Caroline Wooten. Dozens of activists showed up to Thursday's Illinois Commerce Commission meeting to make their final plea before the commission votes on November 16.
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Understanding energy behaviors for a more equitable future

Dr. Destenie Nock published a new study based on research in Chicago showing that low-income households turn on their cooling systems in hot weather three degrees later than higher income households, but they turn on heat in cold weather six degrees earlier than high income households, whether because of poor insulation or other reasons. “This work highlights the challenges low-income communities face. Not only are they at higher risk in the summer, but in the winter they have to spend a lot more money to protect their pipes from freezing,” noted Nock. “The financial stress of heating homes in winter can also lead to broader inequities.” Dr. Nock's data can be used to shape policies that address systemic inequities, guide investments in infrastructure, and help improve living conditions for energy-insecure and vulnerable households. Dr. Nock has provided expert testimony in Illinois rate case proceedings.
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Press Release

New Website Helps People Have a Voice in Energy Decisions That Affect Their Lives, Communities

Environmental Defense Fund and Blacks in Green have launched a new website that will help people around the country get involved in decisions about energy for their communities. The website, Community Voices in Energy, gives people tools to participate in energy decision making so they can  protect their health, environment and money. These tools work with other planks of the partners’ Campaign To End Energy Poverty, which is designed to help make energy more affordable for all. The American standard is that light and heat cost about six percent of household income, but some low-income and frontline communities pay 20 percent or more. “Everyone should have a voice in creating our clean energy future and economic participation in the benefits. For that to happen, they need the ability to help shape decisions about the energy systems they rely on,” said Naomi Davis, founder and CEO of Blacks in Green and organizer of the campaign. “Our website is designed to help demystify the processes used by public utilities commissions and give people the tools they need to overcome participation hurdles.” The energy sector is one of the largest sources of climate pollution in the U.S., yet few people know how to get involved and influence the decisions public utility regulators make to govern gas and electric companies. Low-income and frontline communities often face more consequences from energy decisions than anyone else. Communities located near polluting power plants suffer from higher than average rates asthma and other lung diseases, lower property values, and worse air quality. At the same time, utilities have historically invested more in wealthier neighborhoods – so low-income communities can face more blackouts, slower repairs and less reliable service even while paying high and rising energy rates. Community Voices in Energy provides resources to help people learn about energy issues in their area, a toolkit to help them get involved, and training to help them provide expert testimony that brings community interests into public utility hearings. “A more just and equitable energy system is within reach, said Christie Hicks, EDF Senior Director for Equitable Regulatory Solutions. “When more people get involved in the process, it will change the information that regulators have – and that will change the way big decisions about energy are made. We hope this website will help utility regulators make rulings that lead to a more equitable, healthy and affordable energy future for all.”
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The richest Americans account for 40 percent of U.S. climate emissions

The richest 10 percent of U.S. households are responsible for 40 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study released Thursday in PLOS Climate. The study, which looked at how a household’s income generated emissions, underlines the stark divide between those who benefit most from fossil fuels and those who are most burdened by its effects. “It just seems morally and politically problematic to have one group of people reaping so much benefit from emissions while the poorer groups in society are asked to disproportionately deal with the harms of those emissions,” Starr, a sustainability scientist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, said. Previous research has shown that extreme weather events made worse because of climate change, from flooding to hurricanes, often have a greater effect on lower-income communities.