Legates: A requiem for the electric vehicle mandate?


Dr. David R. Legates is a retired professor of climatology and geography/spatial analysis at the University of Delaware, and the director of research and education for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.

Mark Twain was once quoted as saying, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

Unfortunately, the same can be said of the electric vehicle mandate in Delaware, as I have heard several Republicans comment that we won the fight.

After the GOP held five town hall meetings to foster a discussion of the mandate with Secretary Shawn Garvin of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Dave Stevenson of the Caesar Rodney Institute and me, the Republicans initiated two bills to attempt to stop the secretary from unilaterally adopting the California standards regarding the restriction of the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars and trucks.

The first, Senate Bill 96, would have prohibited the secretary from adopting California’s rules to slowly decrease the proportion of gas-powered vehicles delivered to automobile dealers to zero by 2035. SB 96 was proposed by Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, and co-sponsored by every Republican in the House of Representatives and the Senate. The bill was introduced April 19 but was tabled by the Environment, Energy & Transportation Committee in the Senate and, thus, was never voted upon.

A second bill was proposed by House Minority Leader Mike Ramone and would require DNREC to pause the application of the California air quality regulations in Delaware until a report of their fiscal impacts on Delaware could be obtained. Thus, this bill would require any electric vehicle mandate be approved by the General Assembly. As with SB 96, House Resolution 17 had co-sponsorship from every Republican member of the House. HR 17 was introduced into the House on June 22 and enjoyed bipartisan support, with all Republicans and two Democrats voting for the bill. Nevertheless, HR 17 was defeated by a vote of 22-17 that same day.

Some saw the EV mandate as having nothing to do with the state’s goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 50% in less than six-and-a-half years (i.e., by 2030) and becoming “net-zero” (i.e., no net greenhouse gas emissions from the state) by 2050 in a vain attempt to minimize global climate change; rather, this simply was an issue where rules affecting people’s lives were being made by an unelected governmental official (i.e., the secretary of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control), rather than by the state legislature. Those who held this view must be pleasantly surprised, even though SB 96 and HR 17 went unenacted. Why?

Because another bill passed with bipartisan support. HB 99, better known as the “Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act of 2023,” “establishes a statutory target of greenhouse gas emissions reductions over the medium and long term to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions on the State.”

Moreover, HB 99 “creates Climate Change Officers in certain Key Cabinet-Level Departments who will assist DNREC in the ongoing implementation of the Climate Action Plan (and) requires State agencies to consider climate change in decision-making, rulemaking, and procurement.” HB 99 passed the House 27-13 and in the Senate by 15-5. In the House, bipartisan support for HB 99 was afforded by GOP Reps. Kevin Hensley of Townsend and Mike Smith of Pike Creek, who both voted in favor of the Climate Change Solutions Act. An amendment specifically to require that “this chapter does not confer authority to State agencies to promulgate or amend regulations” was rejected in the House on a pure party vote of 25-15.

What does this mean for Delaware and its EV mandate?

Delaware’s Climate Action Plan notes that the largest in-state source of greenhouse gas emissions comes from the transportation sector at 61%. Thus, if the state is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in just six-and-a-half years, there must be an electric vehicle mandate. But the Climate Change Solutions Act of 2023 authorizes DNREC to implement the state’s Climate Action Plan, and it requires state agencies to take the initiative to consider climate change in all that they do. Moreover, it expands the bureaucracy by creating a cadre of climate change officers across the executive branch to assist the department in its implementation of the Climate Action Plan. And all this transfer of power to the various state agencies was afforded by a vote of the state legislature, which has granted DNREC the power that the opposition to the EV mandate sought to squelch.

Still not convinced? Consider House bills 10 and 12. HB 10 establishes targets for converting all school buses in the state to electric vehicles. HB 12 creates an Electric Vehicle Rebate Program to encourage Delaware residents to purchase and lease new and used electric vehicles, with standards and procedures to be developed by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. And Senate Substitute 1 for SB 103 requires that all new construction of single-family and multifamily residences must include electric vehicle-charging infrastructure by providing county and municipal government enforcement. SS1 expires only when the secretary of DNREC advises the legislature that the Delaware Administrative Code has been updated to match or exceed these standards. Moreover, if the single-family dwelling does not have a garage, attached or detached, “an electric vehicle capable parking space must be provided in the driveway, assigned parking space for the dwelling, or at an unassigned non-street residential parking space constructed as part of the project.” These three bills passed with only support from Democratic legislators (though Sen. Eric Buckson, R-Camden, voted for HB 12), but various Democrats did join the Republicans in their opposition. And all three bills cited mitigating the state’s carbon footprint and its concomitant climate change as the reason for these actions.

The Delaware legislature is foolish if it thinks that the electric vehicle mandate will cause anything more than economic hardship for our citizens. While we make it increasingly expensive for Delawareans to heat and cool our homes, cook food and get around, China is building the equivalent of two new coal-fired power plants per week. Delaware’s electric vehicle mandate will have no effect on the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, in light of the increase in carbon dioxide being emitted by China’s coal-based power plants. Thus, Delaware’s legislators make our energy unaffordable, while China enjoys inexpensive energy from coal.

So, to modify a line from Francis Pharcellus Church’s editorial, “Yes, Delaware, there is an electric vehicle mandate.” And expect natural gas appliances and fireplaces, as well as fertilizer, to be under attack in subsequent legislative sessions because, despite objections to the contrary, the legislature is attempting to save our state from climate change.

It is a shame that some Republicans think we are winning.

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