Opposition grows against Delaware plan for zero-emission vehicles

Many question whether power grid could handle increase usage
December 20, 2022

Opponents to the state plan that would end the sale of new gasoline-powered cars in Delaware by 2035 outnumbered those in favor about 4-to-1 during a Dec. 13 public workshop on the proposal.

“I’m against following anything that California is doing because I feel they are a failure with their power grids. I would stick with the federal [standards], please,” said Kathy Scott, one of dozens of people who spoke out against Delaware’s plan to adopt strict California emissions standards.

Under those standards, car dealerships would be required to phase in the sale of zero-emission vehicles starting in 2025. By 2035, the only new cars sold in Delaware dealerships would be ZEVs.

Valerie Gray, planning supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, said when Congress wrote the Clean Air Act, it gave two mechanisms for states to consider vehicle emission standards – federal emission standards or the more stringent California standards.

“If we don’t pick one or the other, what else are we going to do is the question,” Gray said. “We are obligated to find additional emission reductions in order to meet the clean air standards the [Environmental Protection Agency] has established.”

DNREC first held public meetings in November on the state plan to adopt California’s standards before two workshops were held in December. Following the workshops, Gray said the new standards will be written, followed by another round of public hearings in early 2023

DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin will ultimately decide on the regulations by March 2023, she said.

Dave Stevenson, who studies emissions data as director of the Center for Energy and Environment for the Caesar Rodney Institute, said Delaware – which is included in the Philadelphia emissions area – is already meeting federal standards based on 2022 data. In the future, he said, federal standards are set to become more stringent for greater emission improvements.

“There is really no specific reason that we need to go to the California standards. We’re going to get cleaner no matter what,” he said.  There’s nobody against cleaner air.” 

Other speakers said Delaware could improve emissions by tightening up its routine inspection process.

Rehoboth Beach resident Charlie Garlow, president of the Delaware Electric Vehicle Association, said he supports the California standards because clean air is important for healthy communities.

“Apparently some on the call tonight don’t care so much about that,” he said. “These rules aren’t being rammed down our throats or required of us any more than other regulatory programs that protect the health and safety of Americans.”

He used seatbelt requirements, airbags and bumpers on cars as examples.

However, the cost for those improvements is much less than pricey electric vehicles, many with starting prices above $50,000, which some opposing the new standards say they cannot afford.

Serena Silva said she has doubts Delaware’s power grid will be able to handle more cars hooking into it.

“I would rather see our state get our infrastructure up to par for the amount of people we have now plus the amount of people who are coming in the future,” she said. “You're just going to end up costing the average household more money, and we’re already in an inflation type of economy. Middle class and lower class can’t handle this.”

Speaking of the grid, Gray said officials are working on grid reliability and resiliency. She said power plants are controlled to remove emissions exceedingly well. 

“So by moving from the tailpipe to a well-controlled power plant, we are in the end reducing those emissions,” she said.

Sherry Long questioned whether grid officials are on board with the emissions plan after attending a recent meeting and getting no response from grid officials when she asked about the plan.

She also took issue with the characterization that those opposed to the plan do not care about clean air.

“I care enough to know that I don’t want ... to repeat Texas and have multiple people dying because our grid can’t handle it,” she said, referring to power outages that plagued Texas last winter. “Just because somebody doesn’t see this as an all-green-lights-go does not mean that we do not care.”

Gray said all comments made during public sessions or submitted in writing will be considered by Garvin as he makes his final decision.


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