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17 governors make bipartisan pledge toward clean energy

Citing the economic benefits of clean energy, governors from across the country have come together to modernize the energy grid with renewable power.  

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A general view shows solar panels used to produce renewable energy at the photovoltaic park in Les Mees, in the department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, southern France March 31, 2015.

Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters

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Citing the economic benefits of clean energy, 17 governors  – including four Republicans – have agreed to expand clean energy programs involving solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal power technologies.

Titled the “Governors’ Accord for a New Energy Future,” the signed document pledged the collaboration of the 17 states to make policies and build renewable power infrastructure without ever mentioning the term “climate change.”

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In a media conference call Tuesday, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown of California said they had deliberately avoided the issue of climate change due to its divisive nature, instead focusing on economic incentives and protecting resources for posterity.

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“There’s a very sharp cleavage in the United States on this issue of climate change, and it has a lot of partisan coloration,” he said to reporters. “We want to move forward. We want to get done important stuff without getting bogged down in the larger controversy.”

But the contents of the pact deal with the specific consequences of climate change, such as air pollution and extreme weather.

“Extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, wildfires and sea-level rise, can negatively impact electric reliability and the economy,” the document reads. “Embracing new energy solutions can provide more durable and resilient infrastructure, and enable economic growth, while protecting the health of our communities and natural resources.”

Goals listed in the pact include integrating alternative power sources into regional electrical grids, investing in clean transportation options such as biofuel and hydrogen, and cooperating with federal agencies in promoting a national shift towards clean energy.

“This is a powerful message that they’re sending across the country,” Todd Foley, chief strategy officer at the American Council On Renewable Energy, tells The Christian Science Monitor. “We’re seeing a number of states led by their chief executives coming together on a bipartisan basis from virtually every part of the country talking about how important renewable energy is to economic development.”

“On behalf of the [renewable energy] industry, we’re quite pleased,” he added.

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Given the temporary halting of President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan by the Supreme Court, experts say the governors’ accord is an auspicious step in curbing the effects of climate change.

“While the court may have temporarily blocked the Clean Power Plan, it can’t block progress toward wind and solar energy, affordable electric vehicles, and a more modern and efficient electric grid,” Rob Sargent, senior director of Environment America’s clean energy program, told the Scientific American.

“Kudos to these governors for pledging to forge a path forward for climate progress and clean air."

Not every governor, however, has been on the same page on energy policy in the past. As Debra Kahn of Scientific American points out, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), was one of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan.

But according to Mr. Foley, most of the governors have cultivated substantial clean energy policies separately in their respective states and are now sending a message to the rest of the country.

“What’s most important is the leadership that these governors are demonstrating,” he explains.

“We already know most of these states have championed renewable energy policies. What’s interesting is that they’re coming together to talk about role of renewable going forward.”