Nicholas Doherty, energy office

Senate committee moves along energy office bill

Sam HautGovernment, Headlines

Nicholas Doherty, energy office

Proposed bill would expand role of State Energy Office.

A Senate committee has pushed along a bill that would expand the powers of the State Energy Office, but delayed hearing a bill that would restrict DNREC’s powers over electric vehicles.

The Senate Environment, Energy & Transportation Committee voted Tuesday to send Senate Bill 7 to the Senate Finance Committee for further vetting.

While Senate committees do not take votes in public, the bill tracker said it passed with 5 yes votes and one on its merits.

Sponsored by Sen. Stephanie Hansen, D-Middletown, SB 7 would give the State Energy Office in DNREC’s Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy the right to oversee Delaware’s greenhouse gas emissions and implement the State’s Climate Action Plan.

As hard as that office works, Hansen said, it’s not equipped to handle everything it should.

SB 7  will give them additional marching orders to collaborate and provide guidance, she said. 

The bill’s financial note says the move would cost the state $462,478 in ongoing costs and $1,021,000 in one-time costs for the 2024 fiscal year, $623,498 in the 2025 fiscal year in ongoing costs, and $635,664 in the 2026 fiscal year in ongoing costs.

Not everyone is thrilled with the idea.

David Stevenson, director of the Center for Energy & Environment at the Caesar Rodney Institute, said he believes nuclear power should be considered as a way to help reduce carbon emissions.

“I had suggested in our laundry list of things we should be looking at to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, that we included nuclear energy and carbon capture,” Stevenson said.

He said he’s working on a project that would reprocess existing nuclear waste fuel to reuse it in a reactor that would replace buying uranium from places like Russia.

“Leaving that off the list is just, I think, unconscionable,” Stevenson said.

Hansen proposed an amendment to Senate Bill 7, which came about after a May 12 meeting with energy stakeholders.

It would add the Delaware Department of Transportation to the list of organizations that have a hand in energy matters, allowing the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to intervene in the Public Service Commissions and also adds cost as a factor in decisions made by the office, among other things.

The Public Service Commission is responsible for regulating investor-owned public utilities in Delaware.

Stevenson, who attended the stakeholder meeting, thanked Hansen for having the State Energy Office consider costs in the proposed amendment.

Anne Farley of Delmarva Power and Light Co., said they have concerns that Delmarva Power could be impacted by DNREC’s possible intervention in the Public Service Commission.

“DP&L does have some broad concerns about vesting broader authority into DNREC,” Farley said. 

The power company thinks several lines create potential ambiguity and need clarification of the roles that the public service commission and DNREC will play, “given the turf battles that have occurred in the past and tensions there,” she said.

“That could impact us as a regulated utility,” she said, before she was cut off for using her allotted time.

Related Story: DNREC hears mostly support for EV mandate

Ongoing costs for the bill would come from hiring seven more full-time positions at the State Energy Office.

The one-time costs would come from $1 million for grid modeling and $21,000 for furniture and technology start-up costs for the seven new positions.

The bill has 16 additional sponsors and cosponsors, all of whom are Democrats.

Senate Bill 96, sponsored by Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, would forbid the DNREC from restricting the sale of vehicles under the Advanced Clean Car I regulation.

While it was scheduled to be heard by the committee, due to time constraints, it was moved to the next committee meeting.

The bill has 20 additional sponsors and co-sponsors, including all Republicans in both the House and Senate.

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