EES PAN Current Legislation and Initiatives: Federal and State

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Keeping track of current legislation and initiatives can be a very time-consuming and complicated exercise; yet it is essential for all of us - whether campaigners, policy analysts or interested Democrats - to follow this closely.

This page is intended to lay out routes you can follow to chase down what is happening at both federal and state levels on environment and energy security issues. For this, and many other policy areas, keeping track of developments at state level often gives early warning of emerging issues and signs of innovative practice.

Tracking Active Legislation

Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) which focus on the environment and/or energy security issues track current federal and state legislation as well as judicial challenges. The sites that are particularly useful for their routine and systematic coverage are:

Other useful sites include Natural Resources Defense Council and Earth Track on energy issues.  

At the Federal Level

The process of passing and enacting legislation

 For a reminder of the legislative process and how bills become laws, The Library of Congress -Thomas site provides an explanation of how laws are made; a shorter outline is available through a wikipedia article. Some of you may remember the Schoolhouse Rock classic video I'm Just A Bill, which provides a highly enjoyable summary of how a bill becomes a law.  You can watch it here.

With some exceptions, bills on the same subject can orginate in either the Senate or the House (source of appropriation bills) and are therefore assigned names and numbers particular to their origin. Bills then have to be reconciled through Conference and are then re-assigned a title.

Thus, it can become quite complicated to follow through the progress and passage of bills to completion.

 For tracking all federal legislation,  whether enacted, passed by both the Senate and House or under active consideration, the Library of Congress -Thomas site is a key source.

Alternative routes to use include GovTrack which is an independent, non-partisan, non-commercial website founded in 2004 which offers a user-friendly way to track bills on the basis of topic.

In addition to The Congressional Record, the Daily Digest summarizes committee activities, and provides lists of committee meetings scheduled for that day or the next day, including the topic of the hearing and a list of witnesses. At the end of the legislative week, usually on Friday, the Digest contains a section outlining the ”Congressional Program Ahead” with details of upcoming floor and committee schedules.

For the House, Nancy Pelosi, the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, provides a site where details of the progress of key  legislation on the floor  can be followed. The Clerk of the House also provides a website.

For the Senate, active legislation can be followed by topic. In addition The priorities and policy debates of Democratic Senators and the operation of the Democratic Policy Committee in the Senate are useful to check as well.

To track your representatives in the House and Senate use Votesmart

Key Federal bills relevant to Environment and Energy Security  

 Key bills going through  the 112th Congress now:

 There are a vast number of bills relevant to these issues introduced in Congress. Here we offer a selection, chosen to represent the range of issues addressed, different approaches to the same issue, as well as those bills which have a very high profile.

Follow Hearings and Debates in the House and Senate Committees

By consulting the files of the Committees of the House of Representative and Senate you can find details of legislation passed, under debate, as well as records - and in some cases-webcasts of hearings. You can also identify members of the Committees and Subcommmittees for lobbying.

You can also access proceedings on the floor via the general site for the House of Representatives . We have produced a separate page here that provides information on the relevant Committees and Subcommittees, and the links to them, their hearings, markups, publications and webcasts.  


At the State Level 

To follow legislative developments at the state level, it is useful to check the following sources routinely:

It is also important to check individual state's websites to follow developments. All states now have official working groups, advisory groups, committees or subcommittees devoted to environment and energy issues; many also have a focus on climate change. There are several gateways to state and local government websites, including: The US government official web portal State and Local Government on the Net Capitol Impact Gateway

State Initiatives

Of particular interest is the California Climate Change Portal because California is often an initiator of legislation that leads the way for other states.

Many of the campaigning groups listed in our Campaigns Organizations have state and local branches and organise campaigns specific to the locality.

One recently developed project, the Blue Green Alliance, is promoting a Jobs 21 campaign linking job creation with innovation and green policies. It is a alliance between the Sierra Club and the United Steelworkers. They, in combination with the Institute of Public Health and The Natural Resources Defense Council are launching national and state-based campaigns for Green Jobs for America.

A 2008 September New York Times article discusses the launch of the RGGI (Regional Greenshouse Gas Initiative) cap and trade program for carbon emissions set up by ten Northeastern states. Check here for other regional projects.  

  Before the Judiciary

There are no current relevant cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. There was considerable interest in the Massachusetts v Environment Protection Agency case before the U.S. Supreme Court in April 2007 - complete ruling here- because of its implications for the recognition of 'carbon dioxide' as an air pollutant under the terms of the Clean Energy Act and also because of the 'standing' of the state of Massachusetts in such a case. There have been a number of recent cases before state courts. It is worth checking your state's website for updated information.

In addition, Warming Law is a blog devoted to following the issue of climate change in the courts - both federal and state. It also has a useful discussion of the Massachusetts v Environment Protection Agency case.


Produced by Elaine Capizzi and Quinn McKew

Checked for updating February 22 2012