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Lawmakers and environmental advocates discuss benefits of ACC II program, rapid transition to clean-energy vehicles

Delaware Public Media

Lawmakers and environmental advocates held a virtual meeting on clean car energy and options for the First State to clean up its air.

The webinar discussed benefits of adopting the Advanced Clean Car II program, which the Sierra Club says is the best tool states have for slashing emissions from the transportation sector.

Under the Clean Air Act, California is allowed to adopt stricter regulations on transportation emissions than the federal government, and 17 other states, including Delaware, have adopted some of these ACC I regulations.

But the ACC II program seeks to rapidly cut emissions by accelerating the transition to zero emission vehicles - including electric, plug-in hybrid, and hydrogen vehicles. It would begin with the 2026 model year and run through 2035, so by 2035 all new passenger cars, trucks and SUVs sold are zero emission.

Sierra Club Delaware Chapter Director Dustyn Thompson says more than a third of Delaware's emissions come from the transportation sector, the majority of which come from passenger vehicles.

But one of the biggest barriers in Delaware is sales. Thompson says EV makers almost exclusively prioritize states in the program, which is why most Delawareans have to shop out of state for clean emission vehicles.

“We can either help grow the market for cleaner vehicles in Delaware or continue to allow that market to bypass our state which is what we’ve seen over the past five to 10 years,” Thompson says.

This leaves Delawareans two options — buying online or buying the car out-of-state, or having the vehicle shipped to Delaware from out-of-state, which comes with a slew of additional costs.

Thompson says that rebates are not keeping up with the needs of Delawareans. Currently, the rebates can only be used up-front when buying the vehicle in-state, otherwise buyers are left waiting for a reimbursement.

Thompson says the program could help the 57% of Delawareans who live in areas with failing grades for air pollution levels, and adds that more than 15,00 children and about 85,000 adults in the First state are living with asthma.

Kathy Harris, senior advocate for Clean Vehicles and Fuels, Climate & Clean Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, says growing the used-vehicle market is key to making EV’s affordable for everyone.

“The sooner that we can start ensuring that there are new, clean vehicles on the road, the sooner that those vehicles will be able to enter the secondary market and provide significant cost-saving benefits and all of the other benefits of zero-emission vehicles to drivers who are purchasing their vehicles in the secondary market,” Harris says.

Harris says Delaware has already adopted the Low Emission Vehicle standards, but have not yet adopted this Zero Emission Vehicle program, which requires manufacturers to produce an increasing number of electric vehicles.

Reps. Sophie Phillips and Larry Lambert both touted bipartisan support in the Delaware General Assembly for bills related to electric vehicles and reducing transportation emissions.

DNREC has the authority to adopt these regulations, and a hearing will be held on April 26 to discuss amendments to Delaware’s current rules, with a 30 day comment period following.

Rachel Sawicki was born and raised in Camden, Delaware and attended the Caesar Rodney School District. They graduated from the University of Delaware in 2021 with a double degree in Communications and English and as a leader in the Student Television Network, WVUD and The Review.