Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

House lawmakers pass Climate Change Solutions Act

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

Delaware House lawmakers voted this week to pass the Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act, which would set a goal of zero net emissions for the state by 2050.

In the near term, the bill sets a goal of a 50 percent reduction in emissions by 2030, using 2005 emissions measurements as a baseline; DNREC estimates the state has already reduced emissions by 27 percent relative to 2005 levels.

The bill would also require biannual updates to Delaware’s Climate Action Plan and enable departments to consider emissions targets when planning projects and procurement.

The bill received pushback from Republicans mirroring criticism of DNREC’s recent decision to adopt California's Advanced Clean Car regulations limiting the sale of internal combustion engine vehicles.

State Rep. Richard Collins (R-Millsboro) contended enabling state agencies to make decisions with emissions in mind could mean higher costs for consumers and strain low-income Delawareans.

“The more upwardly mobile we could make people by making their energy cheaper, their appliances… just this year alone, the federal government has put 100 new regulations on appliances that manufacturers say will make them more expensive," he said. "That’s not helping overburdened communities.”

But the bill’s backers, including sponsor State Rep. Debra Heffernan (D-Brandywine Hundred), argue it gives the state flexibility to choose strategies that will not disproportionately impact vulnerable communities.

DNREC Secretary Shaun Garvin noted that on some key fronts – including efforts to increase public transit ridership and reduce vehicle emissions – changes might not require technological advancements, but could instead be accomplished with better uses of existing resources and technologies.

The bill also allows carbon offsets – the efficacy of which has been questioned by some environmental groups – as an alternative to emissions reductions.

Other Republicans argue the bill, which would enable state agencies to make decisions based on the state’s emissions goals and create a team of advisors tasked with considering and recommending emissions reduction strategies, could give outsized authority to unelected agency leaders.

“This bill does not give any additional statutory authority to state agencies," Heffernan responded. "It is simply asking them to consider to the extent practicable these targets when making their decisions.”

The bill passed on a near-party-line vote, with Republicans Rep. Michael Smith (R-Pike Creek) and Rep. Kevin Hensley (R-Odessa) joining Democrats in support. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration in committee.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.