The most important science policy issue in every state

A state-by-state breakdown of policies that could change your community.
california wind farm
To some degree, California and its nearly 40 million residents face almost every issue in the country. Where the Golden State sets itself apart, though, is in how its solutions to those issues can often set a national standard. Climate change is at the root of its most pressing issues—a five-year drought, more-frequent wildfires, and water scarcity—but the state's long-running push to expand renewable energy is facing challenges. Gov. Jerry Brown and some state lawmakers worry that President Trump's embrace of fossil fuels will interfere with state's 12-year-old effort to cut greenhouse-gas emissions and its new plan to go carbon-free by 2045. Thanks to a range of measures—capping industrial emissions, setting high vehicle fuel-efficiency standards, and providing incentives to switch to solar—the initial plan has met its goal of slashing greenhouse gases to 1990 levels four years ahead of schedule. (That's more ambitious than targets in other states, which aim to cut emissions to higher 2000 levels.) In August, however, the Trump administration proposed revoking California's authority to impose its own automotive standards. These and other federal climate-change rollbacks might be enough to sway voters, according to some analysts. The state is also a bellwether in the national debate about internet freedom. Home to the nation's leading tech companies, California is working to fill the regulatory vacuum left by the June federal repeal of Federal Communications Commission net neutrality regulations. This past August, state lawmakers passed a bill that will bar internet-service providers from slowing or blocking websites, and restrict "zero-metering," the practice of not counting preferred services and apps against a customer's monthly data limits. But days after Gov. Brown signed the bill into law in September, the Justice Department filed a legal challenge against it, arguing that internet runs between states, and is therefore subject to federal oversight. welcomia via Depositphotos

Wildfires burning around the West. Rising seas lapping at the East. Animal feces, coal ash, and fertilizer fouling waterways from the Carolinas to the Midwest. Bridges, roads, and pipelines crumbling across the country. With the midterm elections less than a month away, communities across the United States face some of the most formidable scientific, environmental, and technological challenges in decades. On November 6, voters from Alaska to Florida will choose not just their next governor, state representative, or member of Congress, but to some degree how we live for decades to come. “This is the most important election of our lifetime,” says Bill Holland, New Mexico policy director for the League of Conservation Voters.In the 36 gubernatorial and 470 congressional races around the country, some of these challenges, like opioids and fossil fuels, are campaign issues, while others, such as climate change’s role in severe wildfires, don’t appear on any candidates’ platform. But, whether these matters are on their minds, the victors will face them once sworn in. Their decisions will help shape how well storm-ravaged communities adapt, whether the water is safe to drink, how open our internet will be, and more.These are the top science, technology, or environment issues facing each state—plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Even if it never surfaces on the campaign trail, science is always on the ballot.

Bankhead Lock and Dam, impounding Bankhead Lake in Tuscaloosa County
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Lake Mead in Arizona
pig farm
colorado wildfire
connecticut highway
delaware shoreline
florida coastline
yellow river slider turtle
hoary bat
idaho forestry
illinois great lakes
Indiana coal pollution
Black Hawk Park, Cedar Falls, United States
bath water
opioids
louisiana bayou
maine forests
Chesapeake Bay
Andover Street
Flint River
minnesota boundary waters
Yalobusha River Bridge
Beyond Burger
Montana trees
Nebraska farm
Yucca Mountain
solar installation
drought in New Mexico
new york water with algae
coal ash in North Carolina
North Dakota landscape
opioid pills
Earthquake damage
Oregon Cannon Beach
shale gas well
People walking through Maria floodwaters
Beavertail lighthouse and coast
East Fork Chatooga River
mining for fossil fuels
yellow butterflies
Houses underwater post-Harvey
Utah waterfall
Lake Memphremagog
Norfolk Naval Base
Empty-ish highway in Seattle
Rainy Washington DC
west virginia river
groundwater pump
BLM coal picker-upper in swing

Update 12:07 PM 10/17/18: A previous version of this article stated Bill Holland’s title as “New Mexico policy director for the League of Conservation Voters.” It has been updated to “State Policy Director for the League of Conservation Voters.”