Delaware’s Climate Action Plan calls for more trees, more electric vehicles, and lower carbon emissions in the First State, but it is light on how these changes will be paid for.
Implementation of the plan depends on legislation, building on existing clean energy programs, and potential expanded regulations on energy delivery.
In the end, Delaware taxpayers could be footing a chunk of the bill, although it’s unclear whether that means higher taxes, impact fees or more state funding.
Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwarzkopf, D-Rehoboth, said he has not yet heard of any legislation proposed that would raise taxes or fees to fight climate change. “It’s kind of soon,” he said. “I’m not aware of anything in a bill.”
Fresh off a White House visit to see President Joe Biden sign the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, Schwartzkopf said some of the funding included in the federal bill for transportation and clean water might be able to help meet Delaware’s goals.
According to the 90-page report released Nov. 4, transportation is currently the largest in-state source of greenhouse gas emissions. “One of the most direct ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation sources is to drive less,” the plan states.
The plan outlines a goal of reducing vehicle miles traveled by 10 percent by the year 2030. In order to do so, however, the plan calls for looking into a mileage-based user fee on greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Developing a Low Carbon Fuel Standard and a Transportation and Climate Initiative cap-and-invest policy should also be considered, the plan states.
The cap-and-invest policy is defined as “a mechanism that sets a decreasing cap for on-road transportation emissions while also generating revenues that can be invested in additional low-carbon transportation programs.”
There’s also a push for studies on telecommuting and carpooling to reduce emissions, which also includes converting 20 percent of state-owned light-duty vehicles to electric by 2025.
More charging stations for electric vehicles are suggested, but there is no detail on whether they would be free of charge.
Expanding Delaware’s existing energy programs is an effective way to address climate change, the plan states, and it suggests continuing programs such as Delaware’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards Act, Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and renewable energy and energy efficiency incentive programs.
Potential ways to move residents onto renewable energy include collaboration with the Public Service Commission to consider a graduated rate structure – for example, a lower electricity rate for income-qualified ratepayers – and strengthening programs to increase energy efficiency in homes and businesses while continuing rebates for electric or hybrid car purchases.
Delaware’s Clean Transportation Incentive Program currently reimburses $2,500 for an electric car purchase and $1,000 for a hybrid, as long as the total vehicle cost is less than $60,000.
Recapturing methane gas from landfills as a renewable natural gas source and planting 371 more acres of urban trees by 2025 are among dozens of strategies offered by the plan to combat climate change.
Overall, Gov. John Carney said the plan will help Delaware meet its current commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions up to 28 percent by 2025 from levels recorded in 2005.
“The strategies in the Climate Action Plan can be implemented over time as resources, data and partnerships develop. Taking these actions to reduce emissions will allow Delaware to meet or exceed its 2025 reduction target and make further emissions reductions in the years ahead,” he said.