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Delaware Senate Democrats

Senate passes five bills to reduce pollution, encourage adoption of renewable energy sources

June 27, 2023

DOVER – The Senate on Tuesday sent five environmentally focused bills to Governor John Carney, including measures that will reduce greenhouse gases in our air and plastic waste in our green spaces, as well as legislation that will further Delaware’s transition to electric vehicles and solar power.

“Taken together, these bills will help drive the First State toward a more sustainable and pollution-free future for all Delaware residents,” said Sen. Stephanie Hansen, chair of the Senate Environment, Energy & Transportation Committee.

“I am thrilled my colleagues in the Senate and the House were able to work together to get these bills through both chambers this year and on to Governor Carney,” she said. “Just as greenhouse gases pose a threat to our entire state by contributing to rising sea levels and worsening air quality, it’s going to take a whole-of-government approach to reverse the long-term harm of our reliance on fossil fuels. While our work is far from complete, our votes today on these bills mark a significant step forward in our progress.”

Sponsored by Rep. Debra Heffernan and Sen. Hansen in April, House Bill 99 sets out Delaware’s net greenhouse gas emission reduction targets of 50% by 2030 and net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, an amount equal to the emission reduction goals established by President Joe Biden in 2022.

Known as the Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act of 2023, the bill also would codify a planning process to guide the state in its efforts to meet those goals, and require the state to draft and implement a climate action plan to serve as a framework to help state agencies meet the same goals.

Under HB 99, the state’s climate action plan would be updated every five years to ensure the best and newest practices are being implemented. Key cabinet-level departments would appoint climate officers to work with a chief climate officer to update and implement the plan.

Reduction strategies would be required to be equitable, complement federal efforts, maintain an adequate and reliable energy supply for Delaware, and not disproportionately impact overburdened and underserved communities. The bill also requires at least one annual public meeting to allow for opportunities for public engagement in the development of the plan.

“We are in the throes of a climate crisis that is impacting every aspect of our daily lives, and we have to take action if we want to preserve our environment and way of life,” said Rep. Debra Heffernan, chair of the House Natural Resources & Energy Committee. “The measures the Senate passed today are a resounding recognition and response to the growing climate threat we face, offering a pathway for our state to embrace green alternatives that will responsibly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I’m grateful to my colleagues for acknowledging the pressing need to protect our environment and for taking this bold step toward a cleaner and healthier future.”

Sponsored by Sen. Trey Paradee and Rep. Paul Baumbach in February, Senate Bill 51 would limit the use of polystyrene containers and many single-use plastics at food establishments across Delaware.

If signed by Governor Carney, the legislation would bar restaurants from serving ready-to-eat food in containers made of polystyrene, starting on July 1, 2025. Food establishments in Delaware also would be prohibited from providing single-use plastic straws unless requested by a customer, while single-use plastic coffee stirrers, cocktail picks and sandwich picks would be banned entirely.

The House passed a series of amendments to the bill on Thursday that removed exceptions on polystyrene use by fire companies and nonprofit organizations, narrowed an exception given to healthcare providers, clarified that no food establishment’s license may be suspended or revoked for violating the bill and delayed any monetary penalties for one year. All of those amendments were included in the version passed by the Senate on Tuesday.

“I want to thank my colleagues in the House for working with me to get this legislation across the finish line,” said Sen. Paradee. “We have a responsibility to future generations to reduce the amount of these harmful products entering our environment and our bodies. As a coastal state with a vibrant tourism industry, the time has finally come for us to join other states in banning these products and setting a good example for our children to follow.”

Sponsored by Rep. Heffernan and Sen. Hansen, House Bill 10 would establish targets for the annual purchase of state-owned electric school buses through Fiscal Year 2030 that would gradually increase the percentage of electric buses in the fleet. The bill also would require the Delaware Department of Education to submit an annual report and a final report in 2030 detailing recommendations for future electric vehicle purchases and other steps to reduce the environmental impact of the state’s school transportation fleet.

Sponsored by Rep. Heffernan and Sen. Russell Huxtable, House Bill 11 would require new commercial buildings with a foundation footprint of 50,000 square feet or greater to meet standards that ensure the roof is able to support solar infrastructure. The bill would apply to construction projects seeking a building permit after Dec. 31, 2024.

Sponsored by Rep. Sophie Phillips and Sen. Sarah McBride, House Bill 12 would codify an existing Clean Vehicle Rebate Program offered through the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) since 2014. Under the bill, the program would allow consumers to seek a rebate of up to $2,500 on the purchase of an electric vehicle and up to $1,000 for a hybrid vehicle that is valued at up to $60,000.

Four other environmentally focused measures are still being considered by the General Assembly:

House Bill 8, sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski and Sen. Jack Walsh, would direct state agencies to develop and implement “clean construction preferences” that allow sustainability and carbon-impact data to be considered in awarding public contracts. HB 8 was released by the House Natural Resources and Energy Committee in May and remains on the House Ready List.

House Bill 9, sponsored by Rep. Krista Griffith and Sen. McBride, would set goals for all state-owned and operated passenger and light-duty vehicles to be zero emission by 2040. HB 9 is awaiting consideration by the House Appropriations Committee.

Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 103, sponsored by Sen. McBride and Rep. Phillips, would require that newly constructed single- and multi-family residential dwellings include certain electric vehicle charging infrastructure. SS 1 for SB 103 passed the Senate in May and was released for consideration by the full House earlier this month.

Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 7, sponsored by Sen. Hansen and Rep. Heffernan, would strengthen the ability of the Delaware Energy Office to serve as the lead agency on a variety of climate and energy issues. SS 1 for SB 7 is awaiting final action on the House Ready List.