Ella Ivanescu, climate change

First of 7 climate change bills moves to House floor

Sam HautGovernment, Headlines

Ella Ivanescu, climate change

House committee passes bill to address climate change.

As part of a suite of other climate bills, the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee approved a bill that would require Delaware to lower its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 2050.

House Bill 99, which is sponsored by Rep. Deb Heffernan, D-Bellefonte, says net state greenhouse gas emissions must be 50% of the 2005 levels by 2030 and have net zero emissions by 2050.

Net emissions in this case doesn’t mean no greenhouse gasses are being created, but that if they are, they are paired with systems that remove carbon from the atmosphere, such as planting more trees.

The bill drew opposition from Republicans who said Delaware isn’t a big enough state to contribute much to global climate issues and that change could stop manufacturing companies from considering Delaware for projects.

The bill requires that the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, along with the governor’s office, produce and update a Climate Action Plan every five years, starting in 2025, and a Climate Action Plan Implementation Report every two years starting in 2024. Both  will outline what the state is doing to reach its net emissions goals.

Each cabinet level department would be required to have a climate change officer, and each of those officers would meet biannually to talk about the progress being made towards the state’s climate goals.

According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 25 states and the District of Columbia, have established some kind of target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions either through executive or legislative action.

Rep. Richard Collins, R-Millsboro, said that because Delaware is such a small state, passing this bill wouldn’t have a large impact on climate change.

“What can Delaware do: We’re one million people out of eight billion,” Collins said. “Folks, when the Titanic hit the iceberg, they did the best they could to get to the lifeboats and save as many lives as they could.

“But you know they could have ordered everybody to take their teacups to start bailing it out, to make a statement. That’s what we’re trying to do here folks.”

Rep. Jeff Hilovsky, R-Long Neck, said he opposes the bill because it doesn’t provide enough oversight for the sweeping changes that it proposes.

“I think that when we look at the future of our state in the crystal ball, five years, 10 years, 15 years from now,” Hilovsky said. “You have to wonder what sort of, if any, manufacturing is going to want to center in a state that is so regulated by maybe people who don’t have to answer to anybody.”

This isn’t the first time Democrats have tried to pass a climate bill. Last year Senate Bill 305 passed the Senate 13 to 6, but it wasn’t heard in the House.

Related Story: DNREC hears mostly support for EV mandate

More than two dozen people spoke about the bill during the public comment section of the session. Around 20 people, including members of the Delaware Sierra Club and the The Nature Conservancy in Delaware, spoke for it. Seven people, including members of the Caesar Rodney Institute, spoke against it. Tyler Micik of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce said it was not in a position yet to support it.

Heffernan said in a press release on several environmental bills, including House Bill 99, that they are necessary to protect the planet.

“These ambitious bills ensure attainable goals that will protect our portion of this fragile planet,” Heffernan said. “It’s time we do our part in the here and now, providing the foundation for future generations, so that this issue will move from ‘crisis’ to memory.”

While House Bill 99 is the only bill to have been heard before a committee, several other bills, House Bill 8, House Bill 9, House Bill 10, House Bill 11, House Bill 12, and Senate Bill 103, which seek to address climate change in some manner, have also either been proposed or filed. 

House Bill 8 would encourage the use of clean construction in public works contracts.

House Bill 9 would require all vehicles owned and operated by the state be zero emission vehicles by 2040.

House Bill 10 would set targets for purchasing electric school buses by up to 30% by 2030.

House Bill 11 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 would set up a rebate program of up to $2,500 for electric vehicles and a rebate of up to $1,000 for hybrid vehicles.

Senate Bill 103 would require newly built single-family and multi-family homes to have certain electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

House Bill 99, which doesn’t require a fiscal note, has 28 additional sponsors and cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats.

Heffernan said that there are still some changes that will need to be made to the bill, but didn’t specify what those changes would be.

House Bill 99 passed with eight votes in favor.

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