Dustyn Thompson is the director of the Delaware chapter of the Sierra Club.
By Dustyn Thompson
It has been a historic year for climate action in Delaware.
Gov. John Carney has signed into law several of the most critical bills included in the 2023 environmental legislative package supported by a coalition of environmental groups. Together, these bills set ambitious environmental goals for Delaware, including net emissions reductions of 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050, compared to 2005 levels. This legislation also includes specific steps to ensure the state meets these goals.
Supported by the majority of Democrats in both the House of Representatives and Senate, with only a few Republicans supporting individual bills, this is the most historic commitment to climate adaptation and resilience in state history. Let’s examine some of these bills, what they do and why they matter to all Delawareans.
- House Bill 99: Named the Climate Change Solutions Act, HB 99 serves as Delaware’s framework to mitigating current and future impacts of our warming planet. In addition to setting statewide net emission reduction targets of 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050, HB 99 requires the state to also draft and implement a detailed Climate Action Plan to meet those goals. By planning and acting with impacts on greenhouse emissions in mind, Delaware can fortify our infrastructure; protect our state’s natural global-warming defenses, like wetlands and forests; and better serve communities overburdened by poor air quality, flooding and other climate-related impacts.
- House Bill 10: Coalition members supported each bill in the environmental legislative package to better the health and well-being of future generations. That sentiment is especially true for HB 10. Delaware must now establish gradually increasing targets for the annual purchase of state-owned electric school buses through 2030. Our youngest Delawareans will breathe easier and travel safer on electric buses that help curb the dangerous emissions threatening their future. Every person breathing Delaware air, especially our neighbors already suffering from asthma and other respiratory illnesses, will benefit from the reduced air pollution this bill will bring.
- House Bill 11: Championed by the business community, developers and environmental advocates alike, HB 11 ensures that all new large commercial development is ready for solar installation. We know that solar energy is the cheapest source of energy available, especially large-scale installations. However, the cost of retrofitting large commercial buildings with expansive flat roofs has proven to be a huge hurdle. The challenge has pushed solar developers to utilize precious open space, farmland and private companies to forgo the investment altogether. This bill will guarantee that, as we build logistic centers and warehouses, new buildings lay the groundwork for a more sustainable, cleaner and resilient electricity grid for generations to come.
- House Bill 12: Similar to HB 10, HB 12 aims to clean our air and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by incentivizing the purchase of lower-emissions electric vehicles over the standard gas-guzzling car. HB 12 creates an Electric Vehicle Rebate Program that provides rebates of up to $2,500 for all-electric vehicles and $1,000 for hybrid vehicles. These incentives will make it more affordable for Delawareans to invest in vehicles made for the greener future we are building. Fewer heavily polluting cars and buses on the road move Delaware closer to achieving our emission reduction targets and better public health for all.
- Senate Bill 7: With the passage of SB 7, Gov. Carney grants the State Energy Office (a branch of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control) additional duties to aid in implementing Delaware’s energy policy. That includes ensuring equity in all new energy projects, in-depth analysis on needs and hurdles to a clean energy future, and collaborating with the federal government and our neighbors on revitalizing our energy infrastructure. Each of these added responsibilities will help Delaware to equitably and efficiently build out the clean grid we need, using renewable, research-supported resources, and to ensure that no community is continuously dumped on by the fossil fuel industry.
- Senate Bill 103: Some researchers predict that electric vehicle sales will outnumber traditional combustion engine vehicle sales by 2040. For that reason, SB 103 requires newly constructed single-family and multifamily homes to include some EV-charging infrastructure. We know that access to charging is a major hurdle for prospective electric vehicle buyers, especially those without driveways. That is why it is so important that we both do better moving forward and create programs to help those in need now. This bill gets us moving down that track, as we work to implement additional solutions.
- Senate Bill 170: The Northeast has a wealth of offshore wind capability. SB 170 orders the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to work alongside neighboring states and our regional transmission authority, PJM Interconnection, to study and access the processes necessary to procure offshore wind power in Delaware. By adding new jobs to the economy and cleaning our air, offshore wind can also help our state reach our economic development, public health and environmental justice goals.
These bills will make a real difference in the lives of present and future generations of Delawareans. By readying our homes and vehicles for the transition to cleaner, renewable energy, we can ensure Delaware moves toward achieving its emission reduction goals. There is no time to waste in tackling climate change. Every step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions will pay off now and in the long term.
This summer is just the start of Delaware’s clean energy transition. Together, we will transition toward a more just and sustainable future.