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New climate bill would increase scope of energy agency

Sam HautGovernment, Headlines

climate bills, DNREC Facebook

Delaware DNREC Facebook page

With several climate bills moving through the Delaware General Assembly, a new bill proposes to increase the scope and power of a DNREC energy agency, sort of a state government version of Toklien’s “one ring to rule them all.”

Senate Bill 7, sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, would empower the Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy to help oversee Delaware’s greenhouse gas emissions and implement the State’s Climate Action Plan.

It is an agency under the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, which already is fielding complaints about creating regulations to increase the state’s number of electric vehicles under an executive order from Gov. John Carney. Critics are angry about the vehicles and angry the rules are not the result of legislation.

“Now it’s time for the rubber to meet the road,” Hansen said. “And to do that, we need one agency with the capability and resources to holistically direct Delaware’s overall energy portfolio, recommend solutions that will meet our goals and coordinate all of those efforts with the complex network of constituencies, advisory groups, regulatory agencies and private companies who have a stake in Delaware’s energy policy.” 

Senate Bill 7 would require the State Energy Office to create a new energy plan for the state every five years.

The bill also would have the energy office to promote energy equity, support the governor’s Energy Advisory Council, serve as a liaison between the state and federal government on energy programs, promote the building of the state’s energy grid, analyze how to make more resources, create more offshore wind farms, find out how to produce more renewable energy in Delaware, and inform the public about what they’re doing.

While the bill doesn’t yet have a fiscal note, the press release on the bill stated it would most likely add five new staff members in the State Energy Office and hire a consultant to model future energy demands in the state.

The Republican Senate Caucus said in a statement, “We are still reading over Senate Bill 7 but have concerns with any legislation that could expand DNREC’s scope of authority.”

Senate Minority Leader Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View, said that he hasn’t had a chance to look at the bill but is generally against bills where the cost doesn’t warrant the benefit.

David Stevenson, director of the Center for Energy & Environment at the Caesar Rodney Institute, said Hansen said during an energy stakeholder group meeting Friday, that the bill would see changes before it gets heard in the Senate Environment, Energy & Transportation Committee.Wednesday at 2 p.m.

The only specific change mentioned was removing two lines that would require the energy office to study, coordinate and plan energy generation, transmission, distribution, consumption and conservation. Stevenson said.

Stevenson said DNREC isn’t able to create energy that is reliable or cost effective.

“[DNREC] is responsible for environmental regulation. That’s what they know how to do. That’s what they do,” Stevenson said. “That’s what they will continue to do. And that’s only one of the three legs that we need here. The other two legs, reliability and cost, DNREC will ignore, as they have done, in my experience, for the last dozen years.”

In addition to Senate Bill 7, eight other climate bills that deal with topics ranging from electric vehicle charging stations to electric buses to reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions now are moving through the legislature.

Related Story: 4 climate bills draw support, criticism ahead of hearings

This isn’t the first time that the energy office has dealt with statewide plans.

In the Delaware Energy Plan from 2009, the State Energy Office had several responsibilities, including conducting studies on fuel efficient vehicles and the feasibility of new technologies, and researching geothermal heat pump systems. 

Senate Bill 7 would require the State Energy Office to create a new energy plan for the state every five years.

The bill has 15 additional sponsors and cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats.

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