State legislatures continue to be major battlegrounds over policies to combat global warming and to deal with its impacts.
On the positive side, the Virginia state legislature’s refusal to prohibit local governments from restricting gas use in buildings is a positive sign in fighting national efforts to promote fossil fuel use. Virginia has now followed North Carolina as a politically divided state which this year declined to adopt such laws, despite the introduction of bills to do so. Previously, 20 states had adopted laws that act to protect the gas industry in particular. Most of those are southern and midwestern states under unified Republican control. States moving in the other direction—mandating the move to electrification and away from fossil fuel usage—are Democrat-controlled states on the west and east coasts.
On the negative side, industries are fighting against efforts to protect workers from the serious health impacts of rising heat on the job. Heat-related injury and illness have long been a problem for agricultural workers in particular, especially in hot and humid southeastern states. With the rise in temperatures caused by climate change, the health impacts are also rising. Despite the increasing dangers, industries employing outdoor workers (including agriculture and construction) are fighting against regulation of the risk. To rulemaking proponents’ mantra of “water, shade, and rest” they reply that “breaks cost us money.” National rules by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) are years away, and dependent on the results of the 2022 and 2024 elections. This makes state legislatures’ inaction on safeguarding workers’ lives from heat stress an ongoing threat.
These tensions spotlight the critical importance in yet another environmental health issue of electing candidates who understand the need for action, and are prepared to fight for it.