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Climate change bills propose major emissions goals

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Climate Change Bills Stephanie Hansen HB 99

State Sen. Stephanie Hansen speaks during a rally for a package of climate change bills in Dover, Delaware, on May 2. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DELAWARE SENATE DEMOCRATS

DOVER — A package of bills aimed at eventually reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 has been introduced in the General Assembly.

Two years ago, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control published the state’s Climate Action Plan, which is a roadmap for how improve resiliency in the face of a changing climate. Now, House Bill 99, also known as the Climate Solutions Act, aims to put the recommendations of that plan into state law.

Chief among its proposals is a benchmark goal of reducing net emissions by 50% by 2030 and 100% by 2050. HB 99 lays out those targets from a 2005 baseline and would codify a planning process to guide the state to meet those goals. It would also require the state to adopt a climate action plan that is updated every five years to ensure the best and newest practices are being implemented. Key cabinet-level departments – such as Natural Resources, Transportation, Agriculture, Health and Social Services and others – would appoint climate officers to work with a chief climate officer to update and implement the plan.

Last year, similar legislation passed the Senate but didn’t make it to consideration by the House because it was entered too late into the legislative session. Business advocates also criticized the late filing of the bill, which didn’t leave adequate time to vet its impact.

One major difference between last year’s bill and this year’s is that the emissions goals have changed from gross emissions to net emissions, which means that carbon offsets like purchasing credits for a third-party entity to plant trees, buy renewable energy or other measures, would be considered in the calculations.

Meanwhile, a coalition of Democratic legislators and Gov. John Carney have backed a package of six other bills dealing with electric vehicles and building codes that help lay the groundwork for achieving the ambitious reduction goals.

“We can no longer sit passively and pretend that no-action is the best way to protect the planet’s future. Humankind has contributed detrimentally to the environment and it’s time we own our responsibility to address the issue,” said Rep. Debra Heffernan, chair of the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee who has led on the climate change issue in recent years. “These ambitious bills ensure attainable goals that will protect our portion of this fragile planet. 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.”

The bills, which are likely to see passage with Democrats holding enough votes in the House and Senate, will have a wide-ranging impact on the business community, especially petrochemical and chemical companies like PBF Energy, BASF, Croda, IFF, Veolia, Kuehne Chemical, and more that emit more gas byproduct that other industries.

The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce “is not yet in a position to support House Bill 99,” according to Tyler Micik, director of public policy & government relations.

“We hope to continue working with the sponsors to enact legislation that improves the environment while allowing Delaware’s economy to prosper for the benefit of all employers and their employees. We acknowledge the intent of the legislation to create a framework for addressing climate change. However, further amendments are needed to ensure the bill provides certainty and predictability to the business community and all stakeholders. We’re all in this together. We all want clean air and clean water and all of us, businesses included are good environmental stewards and we hope the General Assembly will enact policy in a balanced way that makes progress, embraces new technology, and creates jobs,” he added in a statement.

Included in the bill package are:

  • House Bill 8 would direct state agencies to develop and implement “clean construction preferences” that would allow sustainability and carbon impact data to be incorporated and considered in awarding public works contracts. Under the bill, the preference would require bidders to submit embodied emissions information related to the proposed construction materials and allow covered agencies to award additional points or other positive considerations. The preferences would be required to be incorporated into Delaware’s bid process by July 1, 2025.
  • House Bill 9 would set a goal that all state-owned and operated passenger and light-duty vehicles will be zero-emission by 2040. Under this measure, 15% of state vehicles must be zero-emission by 2026. That percentage would increase to 25% by 2029 and 50% by 2032. Law enforcement and school district vehicles would be excluded from this initiative.
  • House Bill 10 would establish targets for the annual purchase of state-owned electric school buses through FY 2030, gradually increasing the percentage of electric buses. Currently, the state Department of Education owns about 500 buses, used in various districts throughout the state and replaces about 50 buses each year. HB 10 would require that 5% of the buses the state replaces in fiscal 2025 are electric. Those percentages would increase in 5% increments each year until it reaches 30% in fiscal 2030.
  • House Bill 11 would require new commercial buildings with a foundation footprint of 50,000 square feet or greater to meet standards ensuring that their roof is able to support solar infrastructure. These standards would include orientation of the building, electrical equipment capability, and roof strength among other requirements. This would apply to buildings requesting building permits beginning on January 1, 2025.
  • House Bill 12 would codify an existing Clean Vehicle Rebate program offered by DNREC since 2014 to incentivize the purchase of electric and hybrid vehicles. Under HB 12, the program would allow up to a $2,500 rebate for electric vehicles and a maximum of $1,000 for hybrid vehicles for vehicles that retail for up to $60,000. DNREC would be required to develop standards, forms, and procedures necessary to implement this program. This program, combined with a tax credit offered under the federal Inflation Reduction Act, would bring the overall cost of EVs down.
  • House Bill 13 would require DNREC and DelDOT to assess the availability of residential charging stations for electric vehicles and to develop strategies to deploy additional charging stations in high-need areas. DNREC also would develop a residential incentive program to improve the EV charging infrastructure throughout our state.
  • Senate Bill 103 would require newly constructed single-family and multi-family residential dwellings include certain electric vehicle charging infrastructure. SB 103 also would provide county and municipal government enforcement of the electric vehicle charging infrastructure requirements.

To date, House Bills 8, 9, 10 and 99 have been voted out of House committees, but have yet to see a vote on the House floor.

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