climate bills

4 climate bills draw support, criticism ahead of hearings

Sam HautGovernment, Headlines

climate bills

House and Senate committees to consider several bills related to climate change.

Three House bills and one Senate bill are set to be heard Wednesday by the House Natural Resources and Energy committee and the Senate Environment Energy & Transportation committee. 

All of them are part of an initiative by Gov. John Carney and Democratic legislators to lower harmful emissions in Delaware to improve air quality. The package includes eight bills, seven in the House and one Senate bill.

House Bill 8, 9, and 10 are set to be heard by the House Natural Resources & Energy Meeting  Wednesday.

House Bill 8, sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, requires that sustainability and carbon impact data be considered when awarding construction contracts and preference be given to contracts that use materials with lower carbon emissions.

David Stevenson, director of the Center for Energy & Environment at the Caesar Rodney Institute, said the bill doesn’t provide enough details on what alternatives construction companies can use.

“I don’t even know how you’re going to do HB 8 with these clean construction materials,” Stevenson said. “You start laying out the cradle to grave cost of all these raw materials and decide, gee, we’re not going to use concrete anymore. Please, what’s the alternative here? It’s just impractical.”

House Bill 9, sponsored by Rep. Krista Griffith, D-Greenville, requires more of the state-owned fleet of vehicles to be zero emission vehicles, starting with 15% by 2026, increasing to 25% by 2029, to 50% by 2032, and up to 100% by 2040.

House Bill 10, sponsored by Rep. Deb Heffernan, D-Bellefonte, requires that more school buses be electric, with 5% of new vehicles purchased needing to be electric in 2026, increasing by 5% each year until it reaches 30% by 2030.

Kim Klein, associate secretary of operations support for the Delaware Department of Education, said it would cost an additional $250,000 per electric bus, along with $75,000 per bus for electric infrastructure.

Klein said buses have been advertised as having a range of 120 miles, but several factors contribute to a decrease in that range.

“So some of that information we expect to really learn as we get buses in place because if you have the air or heat on obviously that drains your battery faster,” Klein said. “If you have hills versus flat area, obviously your battery is going to drain faster. So there are a lot of factors that go into ultimately what the range is for an electric school bus.”

While the Delaware Department of Education doesn’t now have any electric buses in its fleet of around 500 buses, they received a grant from the EPA for three buses, and a grant from DNREC for another bus.

Klein said they expect those buses to be delivered by late spring or early summer of 2024.

Also Wednesday Senate Bill 103 is set to be heard by the Senate Environment, Energy & Transportation Wednesday.

SB Bill 103, sponsored by Sen. Sarah McBride, D-Wilmington, requires residential buildings completed in 2025 and beyond to have at least one parking space for charging electric vehicles.

Senate Bill 103 is set to be heard by the Senate Environment, Energy & Transportation Wednesday.

Stevenson said he doesn’t think it’s necessary to install electric vehicle charging stations in every new home.

“You’re going to assume every building is going to need an EV charger. And yes, I know that the state thinks that’s a great goal but it’s not happening,” Stevenson said. “Last year we had about 2% EV sales in the state…so you’re spending all this money on construction, raising the price of houses and maybe 90% of the houses are never going to use it.”

Rounding out the package of bills are ones that deal with solar power, an electric vehicle rebate program, reporting on electric vehicle charging and net greenhouse emissions.

House Bill 11, also sponsored by Heffernan, would require commercial buildings that are 50,000 square feet or greater to have roofs that are equipped to handle solar power.

House Bill 12, Rep. Sophie Philips, D-Christiana, would provide a rebate program of up to $2,500 for electric vehicles and a rebate of up to $1,000 for hybrid vehicles.

House Bill 13, sponsored by Phillips, requires the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Delaware Department of Transportation to put out a report by the end of 2023 on electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the state and then every three years until 2032.

House Bill 99, sponsored by Heffernan, requires net state greenhouse gas emissions in the state to be 50% of the 2005 levels by 2030 and have net zero emissions by 2050.

That bill passed the House Natural Resource & Energy Committee last week with eight votes in favor and has been placed on the House ready list.

Related Story: First of 7 climate change bills moves to House floor

Dustyn Thompson,  director of the Delaware chapter of the Sierra Club, said that House Bill 99 is the most important bill in the package because it’s necessary for the other climate bills to work.

“How do we plan and prepare for the impacts that we can no longer avoid? And so House Bill 99 is really the key to doing that,” Thompson said. “Everything else is just to help make the transition easier and more equitable.”

Last year, Senate Bill 305, which passed the Senate 13 to 6 but didn’t appear before a House committee, would have set emission reduction goals, similar to House Bill 99. 

However, Senate Bill 305 specified gross emissions, while House Bill 99 specified net emissions, meaning pollution that could be offset by other sustainable practices such as planting more trees.

Thompson said this was part of the process of the bill getting more support from the business community.

“There was some sausage making that happens anytime there’s a big bill like this and we had to make some compromises, particularly with the business community, to make sure they were comfortable,” Thompson said. “But in the end, it is still a monumental piece of legislation.”

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