By Nichola Groom
(Reuters) - U.S. environmental group the League of Conservation Voters on Thursday launched a $2 million campaign to press this year's candidates for state and local office to embrace clean energy, citing a lack of leadership on the issue in Washington.
The effort seeks to tap into increasing local-level leadership on climate change since President Donald Trump took office on a vow to roll back environmental regulation and promote fossil fuels production.
"Change is happening at the state level," Bill Holland, state policy director for the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), said in an interview. "What we want to do is get elected officials and local officials committed to big clean energy plans."
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Holland said the "Clean Energy for All" campaign will seek to secure commitments from local candidates for office to move their states to 100 percent clean energy, and support ballot initiatives to expand their renewable energy portfolios.
Many U.S. mayors and governors are already implementing climate-friendly policies to counterbalance the Trump administration's rejection of Obama-era initiatives to curb carbon emissions - which Trump has said would cost trillions of dollars with little tangible benefit.
LCV said its local-level strategy appeared to work last year, when it pushed New Jersey candidates for governor to make clean energy commitments. Democrat Phil Murphy, who ultimately won, committed during the campaign to move the Garden State toward 100 percent clean energy.
Holland said the clean energy effort is also aided by the fact that the cost of wind and solar energy has fallen in recent years, making those technologies competitive with electricity fueled by coal or natural gas.
"We are in this whole new world where clean energy makes sense regardless of your politics and regardless of the discussion around climate," Holland said.
The clean energy push comes in addition to LCV's previously announced decision to spend some $20 million on state-level races this election cycle to push its broader environmental agenda - a figure that is nearly double its previous record for investment in local elections.
The Washington-based group said it will leave it up to individual state organizations to define what precisely falls under the umbrella of "clean energy" - though fossil fuels including natural gas will be excluded.
(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Tom Brown)