In November, a group of Wisconsin legislators released 22 bills to reduce the effects of climate change and make Wisconsin more sustainable. These bills were spearheaded by representatives across the state, including Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine, who said,

“We have no time to waste if we want to give young people a fighting chance. We have a crisis on our hands, but we also have an opportunity to make life better for each other and for the people who come after us.”

We at 350 Madison are excited to see lawmakers commit to reducing emissions, creating jobs within the green energy sector, and diminishing environmental injustices.

The bills are an outgrowth of the work of the Governor’s Task Force on Climate Change. In their 2020 report, task force members — who included lawmakers, environmental advocates, utilities representatives, and farmers — made recommendations to increase sustainability and decrease reliance on fossil fuels. Although the bills face a challenging path to passage, 350 Madison would like to celebrate those who drafted the legislation for their ongoing commitment to addressing climate change.

The bills would:

  1. Require the Public Service Commission to consider the social cost of carbon in its vetting process for new utility-scale energy generation, high-voltage transmission lines, and other public utility projects.
  2. Create a $10 million annual grant program to support weatherization and energy efficiency updates in Wisconsin’s public schools.
  3. Create a sustainable agriculture grant program to support farmers, reduce fossil fuel usage, and sequester carbon dioxide.
  4. Make green home upgrades — including solar panels, HVAC updates, weatherization, and energy efficiency updates — more affordable through an on-bill repayment option.
  5. Create a $1 million grant program to support the planning and establishing of regional biodigesters, which convert municipal wastewater, dairy and agricultural waste, and food runoff into biogas that can be used to heat or power communities.
  6. Create and fund two agriculture and climate change research positions at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Division of Extension.
  7. Increase funding to the Focus on Energy program by requiring participating investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities to contribute 2.4% (currently 1.2%) of their annual operating revenue from retail sales to the fund.
  8. Require Focus on Energy to include programs designed to decrease the energy burden for and address the energy needs of low-income households, including energy efficiency and renewable energy measures.
  9. Expand the duties of county conservation staff to include work associated with climate change and climate change resiliency and create a $1.8 million fund to do so.
  10. Provide grants for food waste reduction pilot projects, aiming to prevent food waste, redirect surplus food to hunger relief organizations, and compost food waste.
  11. Require local governments to prepare for climate change in their comprehensive plans, community health plans, and disaster mitigation plans. Also provide funding and state staffing to support this work.
  12. Require the Department of Transportation to ensure bikeways and pedestrian paths are constructed in all new highway and reconstruction projects funded with state or federal money.
  13. Require that the long-range statewide transportation plan include low-carbon public transit, electrification of the transportation sector, cost-effective charging infrastructure, incentives to develop clean transportation options, and transportation solutions for underserved areas of the state.
  14. Increase the funding for the Department of Natural Resources urban forestry program by $500,000 to support a grant program designed to mitigate the “urban heat island” effect.
  15. Support model academic standards related to climate change, in order to prepare students for success in a world changed by the climate crisis.
  16. Create a fund to administer scholarships of up to $5,000 per academic year to students studying for careers in occupational areas addressing or responding to climate change.
  17. Require the Department of Safety and Professional Services to create stretch energy codes so that local governments can approve residential and commercial developments that exceed the requirements of the current energy conservation code.
  18. Require the Department of Natural Resources to take additional steps before permitting facilities under regulation for air and water and hazardous solid waste when the facility is located in vulnerable communities.
  19. Establish the Wisconsin Climate Corps program to provide employment training, professional development, and career pathways for workers in climate resiliency, restoring and rebuilding natural lands, and supporting the clean energy transition.
  20. Provide grants to public and private organizations to create or scale up existing green jobs training programs, targeting jobs that produce goods or provide services benefiting our environment and conserving our natural resources.
  21. Provide additional funding to the existing Energy Innovation Grant Program to augment its capacity to fund projects that reduce energy consumption and support renewable energy and energy storage, energy efficiency and demand response, or comprehensive energy planning.
  22. Create a revolving loan fund for homeowners and municipalities with property on Great Lakes shoreline to enable these property owners to take proactive steps to prevent future damage from rising water levels.

A summary is available here, and a full description, here.