June 27th was a landmark day for proponents of climate action and renewable energy across the state of Delaware. Five bills, spearheaded by House Bill 99 – the Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act, were passed by the state legislature and are awaiting signature by Governor John Carney.
The Climate Solutions Act is a pivotal step for Delaware’s fight against climate change. It establishes a series of emission reduction goals – 50% net reduction by 2030, and net-zero by 2050 – in line with the Biden administration’s greenhouse gas emission goals. The bill also ensures the production of a strategic plan on how to best carry out these goals, and codifies the appointment of climate officers to each of Delaware’s nine government departments to best implement these strategies.
Four additional bills will also support climate action in Delaware:
HB10, Delaware’s Electric Bus Bill, requires the purchase of state-owned electric school buses through 2030, with a goal of 30% of Delaware school buses being electric by the end of the decade. Electric buses would reduce air pollution levels inside buses and in densely populated residential zones, which means healthier air for students and residents. Electric buses produce less than a third of the greenhouse gas emissions of their diesel counterparts.
HB11 requires new buildings with foundations 50,000 square feet and beyond to be built with solar panel compatibility in mind. This would increase Delaware’s ability to shift to more renewable sources of energy by using often overlooked spaces.
HB12 establishes a rebate program for clean, electric vehicles, new or used, purchased by Delawareans. The rebate program was introduced by DNREC, Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, back in 2014, offering a rebate of up to $2,500 for any Delawarean purchasing an EV, and up to $1,000 for the purchase of any hybrid EV. DNREC has previously worked with UD to expand campus- and statewide access to EV charging stations.
SB51 limits the use of single-use styrofoams and certain plastics in food establishments to provision on request, going into effect on July 1, 2025. This means diners would have to ask for those materials.
All five of these bills are currently awaiting signatures for approval from Gov. John Carney, who has expressed extensive backing and support of HB99 and its accompanying environmental legislative package.
Also this summer, SB170 – a bill on offshore wind energy – passed a vote from the Delaware House, allowing DNREC to begin working with PJM Interconnection, an energy transmission organization, to study the impacts of the possible development of an offshore wind farm. A report will be brought to Governor Carney and Delaware’s General Assembly in December 2023 to examine the likelihood of an offshore wind procurement process, which has the potential to provide more than two-thirds of the 40% renewable energy standard Delaware seeks to achieve by 2035. Last year, the Biden administration designated land off the Southern Delaware coast to be studied for offshore wind farm viability.
The reality of the climate crisis is becoming increasingly salient to many across Delaware, the state with the lowest sea-level elevation in the United States, as mentioned by Governor Carney in his reintroduction of the environmental bill package. Carney’s pending approval of the majority of the bills within this package will immediately follow two air quality alerts issued by DNREC across the month of June brought on by increased particulate matter from Canadian wildfires fueled by extreme weather conditions, along with the recent NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) declaration of July 3rd to July 6th as the Earth’s four hottest days on record.