Posted on 02-16-2023

— Lawmakers Propose Less Restrictive Alternative —

State House Republican Leader Mike Ramone and State Senate Republican Leader Gerald Hocker recently asked the state’s top environmental official to reevaluate proposed regulations seeking to ban the sale of new fuel-powered vehicles in Delaware.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) is engaged in promulgating California’s Clean Car II regulations. The rules will require that by the fall of 2025 (model year 2026), 35% of all new passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs sold in Delaware be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). The mandated percentage of ZEV sales increases every year afterward. By the fall of 2029, 68% of all new light-duty vehicles sold will need to be ZEVs. The percentage rises to 82% two years later. By model year 2035, the sale or registration of new fuel-powered vehicles would be banned. 

The sale of plug-in electric hybrid vehicles, classified as zero-emission vehicles under the California rules, would also be restricted to 20% of new car sales in model year 2035.

DNREC is expected to take the next step to promulgate California’s regulations sometime this spring when an announcement will be published in the state Register of Regulations. Once in place, whatever changes are made to the rules in the Golden State will automatically be applied in Delaware.

In public hearings DNREC held late last year, the agency’s staffers maintained that Delaware needs to take aggressive action because the state’s air quality is not meeting federal standards.

However, in a letter delivered to DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin, Rep. Ramone and Sen. Hocker noted that all Delaware counties are currently “in attainment of all National Ambient Air Quality Standards as set by the EPA.” They said the state is considered out of compliance only because DNREC has failed to petition the EPA with the updated data.

“A previous redesignation petition filed by DNREC was approved for Kent County but denied for New Castle County as upwind air quality monitoring stations were above standards from possible Delaware emissions,” the letter stated. “The ten closest upwind stations are now in attainment.”

The legislative leaders said they believe it is in all Delawareans’ best interests to adopt the EPA standards. “We further believe that since attainment has been achieved under EPA guidelines, any further regulatory mandates to meet the California emission standards will bring unsurpassed difficulties and financial burdens on our citizens and small business owners,” they wrote.

In a related development, legislative budget writers recently heard that state government has been challenged to fully embrace electric vehicles.  

Speaking to the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) on January 31, Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director Courtney Stewart said “about 9.2% of OMB’s managed fleet were hybrid electric or plug-in electric vehicles.”

In further testimony before the JFC, Peter Korolyk, OMB’s Director of Government Support Services, said the agency currently only operates 73 fully electric vehicles. “The biggest constraint…is the fact we do not have sufficient electric charging infrastructure within the state, and because of such, it doesn’t pay to buy electric vehicles until you actually have someplace to plug them in, so we are working aggressively to make sure that we are planning for the future.” 

Mr. Korolyk said the state is planning to soon install 90 electric vehicle Level 2 chargers at five locations. He added that the state may also make electric vehicle charging stations a condition of future leases the state signs with private office space providers. However, he conceded that supply chain issues could frustrate and delay such plans.