Mark Twain was once quoted as saying, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Unfortunately, the same can be said of the electric vehicle (EV) mandate in Delaware as I have heard several Republicans comment that they have won the fight.
After the GOP held five town hall meetings to foster a discussion of the EV mandate with Secretary Garvin of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), Dave Stevenson of the Caesar Rodney Institute, myself, and the Republicans initiated two bills to attempt to stop the DNREC Secretary from unilaterally adopting the California standards regarding restriction of the sale of fossil-fuel-powered cars and trucks.
The first, Senate Bill 96 (SB96), would have prohibited the DNREC Secretary from adopting California’s rules to decrease slowly the proportion of gas-powered vehicles delivered to automobile dealers to zero by 2035. SB96 was proposed by Senator Brian Pettyjohn and co-sponsored by every Republican in the House and the Senate. The bill was introduced on April 19 but was tabled by the Environment, Energy & Transportation Committee in the Senate and, thus, was never voted upon.
A second bill was proposed by House Minority Leader Michael Ramone and would require DNREC to pause application of the California Air Quality Regulations in Delaware until a report of their fiscal impacts on Delaware could be obtained. Thus, this bill would require any EV mandate be approved by the General Assembly. As with SB96, House Resolution 17 (HR17) had co-sponsorship from every Republican member of the House. HR17 was introduced into the House on June 22 and enjoyed bi-partisan support with all Republicans and two Democrats voting for the bill. Nevertheless, HR17 was defeated by a vote of 22-to-17 that same day.
Some saw the EV mandate as having nothing to do with the State’s goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 50% in less than 6½ years (i.e., by 2030) and becoming ‘net-zero’ (i.e., no net greenhouse gas emissions from the State) by 2050 in a vain attempt to minimize global climate change; rather, this simply was an issue where rules affecting people’s lives were being made by an unelected governmental official (i.e., the Secretary of DNREC) rather than the State legislature. Those who held this view must be pleasantly surprised, even though SB96 and HR17 went unenacted. Why?
Because another bill passed with bipartisan support. House Bill 99, better known as The Delaware Climate Change Solutions Act of 2023, “establishes a statutory target of greenhouse gas emissions reductions over the medium and long term to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change due to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions on the State”. Moreover, HB99 “creates climate change officers in certain key cabinet-level departments who will assist DNREC in the ongoing implementation of the Climate Action Plan [and] requires State agencies to consider climate change in decision-making, rulemaking, and procurement”. HB99 passed the House 27-to-13 and in the Senate by 15-to-5. In the House, bi-partisan support for HB99 was afforded by GOP Representatives Hensley and Smith who both voted in favor of the Climate Change Solutions Act. An amendment specifically to require that “this chapter does not confer authority to State agencies to promulgate or amend regulations”  was rejected in the House on a pure party vote of 15-to-25.
What does this mean for Delaware and its EV mandate? Delaware’s Climate Action Plan notes that the largest in-state source of greenhouse gas emissions comes from the transportation sector at 61%. Thus, if the State is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% in just 6½ years, there must be an EV mandate. But the Climate Change Solutions Act of 2023 authorizes DNREC to implement the State’s Climate Action Plan and it requires State agencies to take the initiative to consider climate change in all that they do. Moreover, it expands the bureaucracy by creating a cadre of ‘climate change officers’ across the Executive Branch to assist DNREC in its implementation of the Climate Action Plan. And all this transfer of power to the various state agencies was afforded by a vote of the State legislature which has granted DNREC the power that the opposition to the EV mandate sought to squelch.
Still not convinced? Consider House Bills 10 and 12 (HB10 and HB12). HB10 establishes targets for converting all school buses in the State to electric vehicles. HB12 creates an Electric Vehicle Rebate Program to encourage Delaware residents to purchase and lease new and used electric vehicles, with standards and procedures to be developed by DNREC. And Senate Substitute 1 for Senate Bill 103 (SS1) requires that all new construction of single-family and multi-family residences must include electric vehicle charging infrastructure by providing county and municipal government enforcement. SS1 expires only when the Secretary of DNREC advises the legislature that the Delaware Administrative Code has been updated to match or exceed these standards. Moreover, if the single-family dwelling does not have a garage, attached or detached, “an electric vehicle capable parking space must be provided in the driveway, assigned parking space for the dwelling, or at an unassigned non-street residential parking space constructed as part of the project”. These three bills passed with only support from Democratic legislators (although Senator Buckson voted for HB12) although various Democrats did join the Republicans in their opposition. And all three bills cited mitigating the State’s carbon footprint and its concomitant climate change as the reason for these actions.
The Delaware legislature is foolish if it thinks that the EV mandate will cause anything more than economic hardship for our citizens. While the state makes it increasingly expensive for Delawareans to heat and cool our homes, cook food, and get around, China is building the equivalent of two new coal-fired power plants per week. Delaware’s electric vehicle mandate will have no effect on the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, in light of the increase in carbon dioxide being emitted by China’s coal-based power plants. Thus, Delaware’s legislators make our energy unaffordable while China enjoys inexpensive energy from coal.
So, to modify a line from Francis Pharcellus Church’s editorial, “Yes, Delaware, there IS an Electric Vehicle Mandate.” And expect natural gas appliances and fireplaces, as well as fertilizer, to be under attack in subsequent legislative sessions because, despite objections to the contrary, the legislature is attempting to save our State from climate change. The only thing they have achieved is making our state unaffordable and stripping choice from Delawareans. We should not stand for it.
David R. Legates, Ph.D., is a retired Professor of Climatology and Geography/Spatial Analysis at the University of Delaware and is Director of Research and Education for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He serves on the ABD Board of Advisors.