Delaware officials recently laid out the plan requiring car manufacturers to only sell zero-emission vehicles in a series of public meetings, but not everyone commenting during the Nov. 15 meeting was on board.
“Everything has been done by executive order by the governor. That’s a weak basis for doing this. This is a major issue. You’re going to tell people what they can and cannot buy … for something this major, we need legislation from our Delaware Legislature,” said David Stevenson, director of the Center for Energy and Environment for the Caesar Rodney Institute. “EVs are great. If people want to buy them, fine. But we’re making progress without EVs on air pollution … we don’t need a mandatory regulation from the government.”
Stevenson also said Delaware should wait until a court challenge over the regulations is completed. He said he expects a challenge could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court and the regulations possibly be thrown out over the difference between air pollution and greenhouse gases.
Under Gov. John Carney’s commitment to the U.S. Climate Alliance, 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.
Delaware officials with the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control started the process to adopt new regulations in April 2022. Valerie Gray, a planning supervisor with DNREC, said meetings are held to gather feedback on the regulations, and workshops are planned for December. She said she expects the regulations will be posted about February or March, and public hearings will be held in the spring. DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin will make the final decision on the regulations by mid-2023, Gray said.
Paul Johnstone, a New Castle County farmer, said he is concerned the regulations will eventually affect the farming industry in the state, and he objects to adopting California’s regulations.
“We are not California; we are Delaware,” he said. “We do not need California dictating to us what needs to be done.”
Those supporting electric and zero-emission vehicles welcome the change.
“We’ve been waiting for a long time for this to come,” said Rehoboth Beach resident Charlie Garlow, an electric car advocate who heads the Delaware Electric Vehicle Association.
Lewes resident Mary Douglas said moving away from internal combustion engines will improve health conditions for all residents. “Delaware needs to clean up its fleet. I urge DNREC not to take half measures, but to fully adopt [the regulation] for our health and the health of our planet,” she said.
Others were supportive of the move to zero-emission vehicles, but skeptical over whether the state will provide the necessary charging stations needed to keep those vehicles running.
Sussex County resident Amy Kyle said she supports the regulations, but more needs to be done to address charging stations on the way to the beach resorts, instead of simply north and south along the Route 1 corridor. “It doesn’t seem like there is any thought to that in your planning,” she said. “This issue of charging is a big issue that needs to be actively addressed.”
CJ Myers of Delaware Electric Cooperative said Royal Farms got $1.4 million for fast-charging stations across the state, but none of them are working. He questioned handing out more money for charging stations on top of what has already been given out. “My problem is that we’ve already given them $1.4 million and they’ve done nothing with it. The entire state has one fast charger that is not Tesla. It’s not possible to drive an electric vehicle through our state for fast charging,” he said.
Myers also said the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles is blocking the sale of certain electric vehicles in Delaware, such as Tesla and Rivian.
One of the meeting officials said the state Legislature is looking into the matter.