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Nebraska is a reliably red state. The last time Nebraskans backed a Democrat in a presidential election was 1964. Former president Donald Trump won the state in 2016 by a double-digit margin. So it’s no surprise that Nebraska, like 15 other Republican-controlled states, does not have a plan in place to tackle climate change — its conservative lawmakers have blocked efforts to create such a plan. But, unlike other states, Nebraska has other elected officials capable of making progress on reducing emissions. 

On Thursday, the board of directors of the Nebraska Public Power District, the largest electric utility in the state, voted in favor of adopting a nonbinding decarbonization goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, which means that Nebraska is now the only Republican-controlled state in the U.S. to plan to fully decarbonize its electricity sector by mid-century.

Plenty of private utilities have pledged to go green in recent years, even in Republican-controlled states. But Nebraska is unique because it’s the only state in the country where electric utilities are publicly owned. That means that Nebraskans actually vote for the people who sit on the boards of its three power utilities. 

“That gives voters in Nebraska quite a bit of power to determine the future of our electricity generation” independent of their opinions on “other issues that often go into election decisions,” said Chelsea Johnson, deputy director of Nebraska Conservation Voters, a nonprofit that has been instrumental in getting Nebraskans to elect pro–clean energy candidates to its utility boards in the past five years.  

[Zoya Teirstein]

More: In a red-state first, Nebraska plans to decarbonize power sector by mid-century

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