2022 Southwest legislative sessions wrap-up

Notable energy efficiency and clean transportation successes prevail in challenging landscape

August 25, 2022 | Elise Jones

Now that the Southwest state legislatures have adjourned, it’s time to recap our progress and look to opportunities in 2023. Despite challenges posed by the lingering COVID pandemic and growing inflation, we’re proud to report numerous significant wins achieved in legislative chambers led by both Republicans and Democrats across the region.   

Here are some of the key legislative gains in efficiency and clean transportation from around the Southwest in 2022: 

Colorado had another banner legislative session, although it came down to the wire, with a backlog of pivotal bills passing during the final hours of the session. Once again, greening the building sector was a major focus for lawmaker action, along with cleaning up transportation pollution to help improve the state’s air quality. Highlights of bills that the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) actively supported include:  

  • HB22-1362, Energy-Efficient Building Codes: A shared priority and partnership between SWEEP and the Colorado Energy Office, this landmark bill increases the statewide minimum performance requirements for building energy codes, requiring cities and counties to increase efficiency and cut pollution from homes and commercial buildings when updating their local codes, and creating a pathway to a future low-energy and low-carbon code for new construction.
  • SB22-206, Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Resources: Crafted in the wake of the devastating Marshall Fire, which destroyed over 1,000 homes on December 30 of last year, this bill provides $20 million to the Energy Office to help Coloradans rebuild efficient, resilient, and high-performance homes after wildfires and other climate disasters; and $15 million to the Department of Local Affairs to help fund resilient recovery efforts after disaster emergencies.
  • SB22-051, Heat Pumps and Building Materials: This bill creates a 10% tax credit and a state sales tax exemption for the purchase of heat pump systems, electrical panel upgrades, and energy storage systems. It also includes a state sales tax exemption for low global-warming-potential building materials.  
  • HB22-1304, Strong Communities and Affordable Housing: This bill invests $40 million in a new “Strong Communities Grant Program” to encourage local governments to adopt more efficient land use policies that support compact, infill development, and increase the supply of affordable housing in walkable, transit-friendly communities. It also provides $178 million for affordable housing.  
  • SB22-193, Air Quality funding: This clean air bill invests $65 million in helping school districts across the state replace diesel buses with clean, efficient electric school buses; $12 million in highly efficient electric bike rebates and bikeshare programs; $25 million in incentives for industry to adopt efficiency measures or clean technologies that go beyond regulatory requirements; and $750,000 to fund transit passes for state employees.  
  • SB22-180 (Transit and Main Streets): This bill invests $28 million to make transit in Colorado fare-free for the month of August, this year and next, a pilot to rebuild ridership and create momentum for improved transit service. It also provides $30 million to increase the regional Bustang bus service and $10 million to the Revitalizing Main Streets Program to improve safety and rejuvenate local downtowns. 

In New Mexico, the Community Energy Efficiency Development (CEED) Block Grant Act was a major victory in the state’s short 30-day legislative session. The CEED Act will make targeted energy efficiency improvements in underserved communities in partnership with local community organizations. The $10 million CEED fund will be established at the NM Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources and will provide block grants to local and Tribal governments, and the Mortgage Finance Authority. Two other major bills that failed to make it through the legislative gauntlet — the Governor’s far-reaching climate legislation and a clean fuel standard — will be pursued again next session. 

To the west, in Utah, SWEEP’s partner, Utah Clean Energy (UCE), delivered several energy efficiency and electric vehicle (EV) wins:  

  • HB186, EV Fee Compromise: To end the ongoing barrage of legislative proposals to dramatically increase fees on EV drivers, UCE negotiated a compromise this year that will ensure that EV drivers who participate in the state’s Road Usage Charge Program will pay a lower per-mile rate for the next nine years. 
  • SB152, EV Access: Another positive EV bill was also passed to prohibit homeowner associations from creating rules that would stop residents from installing EV charging equipment in their own parking spaces.   
  • SB188, Energy Efficiency and EV Funding: This bill facilitates the use of federal infrastructure funds to purchase new zero-emissions fleet vehicles and fund residential energy efficiency measures. It also modifies the low-income energy assistance programs to allow funds to be spent on replacing old, inefficient appliances and heating equipment.  
  • State Budget: The Utah Legislature adopted a $25 billion budget, its largest ever. Some of the important items it funded were: $3 million for a rural EV charging grant program, $5 million for residential water conservation incentives, and significant new funding for rail, bus, and bus and pedestrian paths. 

Finally, in Arizona, SWEEP’s major win was successful defense against damaging proposals to impose requirements on Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) candidates and hamstring future building code adoption, and problematic language that would have complicated the role of the ACC in the controversial utility retail legislation that passed. 

(The Nevada legislature only meets in odd-numbered years so no news to report from the Silver State.) 

SWEEP is now working hard on implementation of these newly signed laws to maximize their ability to save energy and money and reduce pollution, while increasing support for disproportionately impacted or underserved households and communities. And while the November elections will affect the membership of lawmaking chambers around the region, we’re already busy talking with partners and crafting new proposals in preparation for the next round of legislative sessions in 2023. From appliance standards and transit-supportive land use to clean fuels and climate standards, we forecast a robust efficiency agenda for Southwest legislatures next year. Also, with the recent passage of the federal Inflation Reduction Act — the United States’ largest ever investment in climate and clean energy — we will prioritize urging state lawmakers to leverage these unprecedented resources to achieve transformational efficiency and clean transportation gains at the state and local level. Stay tuned…