Election Day is on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. There are many important issues that need to be considered when casting your vote, but the intention of this blog post is to focus on how clean energy policies and regulations can be impacted by federal, state, and local elections. 

Federal 

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a federal, independent executive agency with offices concerning energy policy and energy efficiency and is one of the federal entities responsible for energy policy and regulations. The EPA regulates all energy policy, including traditional fossil fuel and clean energy sources. According to the Energy Policy Act which went into place in 2005, the EPA addresses energy production in the United States including: 

  • Energy efficiency
  • Renewable energy 
  • Oil and gas 
  • Tribal energy 
  • Nuclear matters and security 
  • Vehicles and motor fuels, including ethanol
  • Hydrogen 
  • Electricity 
  • Energy tax incentives 
  • Hydropower and geothermal energy 
  • Climate change technology 

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is another independent federal agency responsible for regulating the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil. While the states have the authority of deciding how energy is generated, whether that be by clean energy sources or traditional fossil fuel sources, it is the FERC that regulates the transmission of the energy from the generator to the local utility.   

The President of the United States has an indirect, yet still important, impact on the nation’s energy policies. The President has the authority to sign executive orders, which may concern energy policy, but it is up to Congress to make the executive order a law or assign any funds to the order. The President is also not directly involved in enforcing and addressing energy production policies. However, the head of the EPA is nominated by the President and is confirmed by a Senate vote, and the President also appoints FERC commissioners; currently, there are two confirmations pending before the Senate. Typically, the people who are nominated by the President to head the EPA and to be FERC commissioners have similar beliefs about how federal energy policy should be handled as the President. So, although the President isn’t directly in charge of creating federal energy legislation, they still have a strong influence the nation’s energy policy. One of the best ways to find out where a presidential candidate stands regarding energy policies is by going directly to their website. Below are the official campaign websites for the four presidential candidates on the North Carolina ballot: 

With election day just around the corner, there is a lot of information that is circulating about where the presidential candidates stand on certain issues. It is important to cross-check information you are finding online to ensure that the information is accurate and truly reflects the candidate’s beliefs. 

States 

Many energy programs and policies are delegated to the states. State level energy policy includes legislation, taxes, energy efficiency standards, tax breaks, and rebate programs for energy generation. 

States have an active role in renewable energy policy by implementing policies, tax breaks, and rebate programs to encourage clean energy development. Renewable energy policies adopted by states are aimed at reducing renewable energy costs for consumers, increasing individual and business adoption of renewable energy, and reducing investment risks involving renewable energy. Some of the programs that help encourage the adoption of renewable energy policy include tax breaks, rebate programs, loans, and renewable portfolio standards. These programs vary from state to state; you can check your state’s clean energy policies here and clean energy programs through the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.    

The governor has a critical role in managing a state’s energy policies. Governors revise programs and policies and also have the authority to implement executive orders, oversee executive budgets and legislative proposals, and veto bills. Legislative proposals and budgets can promote clean energy development by allocating more funding towards rebate programs and giving tax cuts to consumers who install specific clean energy and energy efficiency technologies.   

North Carolina is one of the eleven states that will be electing a governor this election. Below are the four listed candidates on the NC ballot and their official campaign websites so you can see their stance on energy policy: 

Click here to see other states holding a gubernatorial election this fall and to see the candidates that will be on those ballots. 

Local 

Local governments can also support clean energy development and programs. According to the United States EPA, local governments can either purchase or generate clean energy electricity. This allows local governments to lead by example to their communities, and other nearby local governments, by showing the importance and ease of adopting clean energy practices. 

The ballot for local governments is varied depending on where you are registered to vote. If you are in North Carolina, one of the easiest ways to check local candidates and positions is by viewing a sample ballot. If you are NC, you can do that by going to this website and following the instructions that are given. In other states, sample ballots can be found by going to a search engine and typing in “state sample ballot.” The sample ballots won’t provide you with information about the candidates, but most candidates have a campaign website or social media page. This can typically be found by going to a search engine and typing the candidate’s name as printed on the ballot and the position they are running for.   

General Election Reminders 

  • Make sure you are registered to vote. You can do this by going here 
  • You can check voter registration deadlines and election day registration here. 
  • Many states have changed absentee voting guidelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You get more information about absentee voting specific to your state here 
  • In North Carolina, all registered voters are eligible to request an absentee ballot. 
  • If you can’t, or don’t want to, visit the polls on election day but still vote in person, you can participate in early voting. Click here to view when early in-person voting starts and ends for your state and where you are able to find more information. 
  • In North Carolina, early voting begins on Thursday, October 15th and runs through Saturday, October 31st. You can contact your local election office for more information.

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