DOVER, Del. — Republican lawmakers are proposing legislation to block state officials from eliminating the sale of new gasoline-powered vehicles in Delaware.
GOP lawmakers said on Thursday, April 6, that they are circulating two bills to restrict the ability of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to adopt new regulations that reduce and eventually eliminate sales of new gasoline and diesel cars, trucks and SUVs over the next 12 years.
The move comes in response to proposed regulations published last week under which Delaware would adopt and implement revisions to California’s “Advanced Clean Cars” rules. Those rules require automobile manufacturers to gradually deliver an increasing percentage of zero-emission vehicles to dealerships, starting with the 2026 model year and culminating in a total ban on sales of new gasoline-powered vehicles in 2035.
The regulations were published roughly six months after a spokeswoman for Democratic Gov. John Carney said Delaware’s Climate Action Plan does not include a phaseout of gas-powered vehicles, and that administration officials had “not yet had the discussions of its feasibility.”
Administration officials are accepting public comment on the proposed regulations in advance of a virtual public hearing on April 26.
Carney said in a prepared statement earlier this week that the “orderly transition” to zero-emission vehicles is already required in Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, New York, and 11 other states on the same timeline envisioned for Delaware. He also said many car manufacturers have pledged to build nothing but electric fleets.
“Vehicle emissions are one of the largest sources of air pollution so we cannot make our air cleaner and our residents healthier without a substantial commitment to cleaner cars,” Carney added.
Critics say the mandate will limit consumer choice, force people to buy more expensive electric vehicles, and have little impact on the environment. They also argue that Delaware’s electric grid infrastructure is not ready to support the all-electric mandate.
“The claim the action is about air quality rings false when Delaware is meeting all National Ambient Air Quality Standards, as are the 10 closest upwind air quality monitoring stations,” said David Stevenson, director of the Center for Energy & Environment at the Caesar Rodney Institute, a conservative think tank.
Republican House Minority Michael Ramone echoed those comments earlier this week, saying Delaware’s air quality has improved “steadily and dramatically” over the past two decades without significant assistance from battery-electric vehicles.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there were about 3,000 electric vehicles registered in Delaware in 2021, compared to 796,400 gasoline-powered vehicles. California, meanwhile, had 563,100 electric vehicles, accounting for almost 40% of all electric vehicles in the United States, but only 1.6% of the 30.5 million vehicles registered in California.
Under the proposed regulations, electric vehicles, which accounted for about 0.3% of Delaware’s registered vehicles in 2021, must represent at least 35% of all new vehicles delivered to Delaware dealerships starting with the 2026 model year. The percentage requirement would climb steadily to 51% for model year 2028, 76% for model year 2031, and 100% for model year 2035 and thereafter.
Republican lawmakers say comments made at five town hall meetings held across the state last month suggest there is widespread opposition to the electric-vehicle mandate. Ramone said it will impose an undue hardship on low- and moderate-income residents as the availability and price of inexpensive used cars will be negatively affected by the proposed mandate.
One bill being circulated by Republicans would allow DNREC to adopt the proposed regulations only with the consent of the General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats. The second bill would remove DNREC’s authority to adopt any rules dealing with vehicle sales mandates. Both measures would be retroactive to March 1.
“I think it is important that there is accountability and that our citizens’ voices are heard,” Sen. Minority Whip Brian Pettyjohn said in a prepared statement on Thursday, April 6.
“DNREC should be subservient to our citizens, not the other way around,” added Pettyjohn, a Georgetown Republican. Pettyjohn said he has asked DNREC officials to hold in-person public hearings in all three counties instead of the single virtual hearing they plan later this month.
A spokeswoman for Carney said in response to the proposed legislation that, under the federal Clean Air Act, the administrative regulatory process “is where vehicle emissions have always been addressed.”
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