Public hearing on zero-emission cars draws crowd

Final decision to adopt strict California regulations expected by end of June
May 2, 2023

A public hearing April 26 on Delaware’s plan to adopt California vehicle emission regulations – a move that would incrementally require car dealerships to only sell new cars that are zero emission – drew more than 100 commentators on the proposal. A decision is expected before the end of June.

Proponents said the plan is needed to curb emissions and protect the environment.

“The air quality of Delaware is materially degraded by carbon and other pollution in upward wind regions of the country,” said Clem Dinsmore. “Delaware has the need to take compensatory actions to mitigate the harm to its residents.”

Asthma and lung cancer affect Delaware residents and reducing emissions would improve those conditions, said Will Barrett, national senior director for clean air advocacy for the American Lung Association.

“By cleaning up the combustion vehicle fleet, [California regulations] will clear the air,” he said. “In Delaware, we’ve estimated over $5 billion in public health benefits cumulatively by 2050 through transition to zero-emission passenger vehicles, trucks and cleaner energy. Our study points to hundreds of lives saved, over 10,000 asthma attacks avoided, and over 55,000 lost work days avoided because the air will be that much cleaner.”

John Irwin said he wants options to buy electric cars in Delaware, which are not extensive at this time.

“Adopting [the California regulations] will help us make a gradual transition and be prepared for a big change. We need to give dealerships time to get up to speed so they can provide good service, and for use to build up and infrastructure that we need to support it,” he said. “There will be 12 years to buy new gas cars for those who want them, and used cars that most people buy will continue to be available indefinitely. You can keep driving your gas car if you like.”

Those against the plan questioned environmental impacts by lithium batteries, stress on the regional power grid, and the high cost of zero-emission vehicles for low to average wage earners.

“Where are we getting the electric from and what is the price going to be?” asked Denise Clendening. “Also, what about the price of the cars themselves? They at least start at $60,000. We never purchased a car in that amount in our entire lifetime, and neither have our children.”

She also asked what happens to the lithium batteries when they run out. 

Sherry Long said she believes Delaware is already reducing emissions, and is against adopting California regulations.

“Even California is continuing to change its plan as the worst possible scenarios have been occurring in their state,” she said.

Days after California adopted its regulations in August, California Gov. Gavin Newsom told residents to avoid charging their electric vehicles over concerns the power grid would be stressed during a heat wave.

A report released in February by regional power grid operator PJM Interconnection said electric reliability risks are increasing as energy generation transitions from fossil fuel to sustainable sources. The report stated that a number of existing fossil fuel generators are scheduled to retire before 2030, and near-term electric adequacy is at risk unless new solar, wind or other sustainable energy production is added to the power grid.

Larry Mayo said only the Legislature should make laws and ruling by regulation is illegal.

“You cannot dictate commerce. You cannot dictate to the auto dealers that they cannot sell a legal product,” he said. “I would say this regulation is a violation of the state constitution … So until Delaware’s Legislature passes a law giving you the authority to do this regulation specifically, you don’t have that authority.”

Under Gov. John Carney’s commitment to the U.S. Climate Alliance, which he first announced in 2022, the state is moving toward adopting California’s Advance Clean Car II low-emission vehicle and greenhouse gas standards, which require cars and light trucks to have zero emissions by the 2027 model year. Model year 2027 vehicles are available in 2026, the year Delaware’s zero-emission vehicle regulations would go into effect. Delaware’s plan also requires auto manufacturers to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

Public comment will be taken until Friday, May 26. Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn Garvin is expected to make a decision in the second quarter, which ends at the end of June. Final adoption of the California regulations is expected in July.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter