Carney urged to double-down on environmental spending

DOVER — The Environment America Research & Policy Center showcased a new report Friday it says highlights the potential benefits Delaware might see by spending more to reduce pollution.

At a press conference in Legislative Hall, Lindsey Mendelson, a “climate fellow” with the center, urged Gov. John Carney to double the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program its proponents say helps protect clean air and the climate.

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, state Rep. Trey Paradee, Tony DePrima, executive director of the Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility, and Dover council members Fred Neil and Scott Cole were also on hand.

Sen. Carper, referencing President Trump’s Tuesday signing of an executive order to roll back the “Clean Power Plan,” criticized the current administration’s will to continue what he called climate change progress made by previous administrations.

The Clean Power Plan is a set of rules regulating power plants that run on fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas).

“It has been slow going, but we’re making progress,” said Sen. Carper, a Democrat and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “However, what the current administration has done has hit the pause button, maybe even the delete button on clean coal.”

President Trump has said he wants to reduce “excessive” environmental rules and regulations that he argues have slowed the economy, harmed U.S. industry’s ability to compete in world markets and led to a loss of jobs in the United States.

The environmental report, co-authored by Frontier Group, is titled “Doubling Down on Climate Progress.” It reviews the alleged benefits the state has seen from its 12-year participation in the Regional Gas Initiative to date in an effort to influence upcoming environmental policy.

The initiative, started in 2005, is a nine-state cooperative effort that Delaware belongs to that aims to cap and reduce power sector C02 emissions. Among the report’s claims of the progress in the state are:

• It helped cut global warming pollution from power plants by 51 percent

• It has helped to avoid 300 asthma attacks and 20 deaths in the last six years by cutting air pollution

• It has driven a $99 million investment in clean energy, efficiency and consumer benefit program

• Regionally, it has locked in more that $4.6 billion in long-term savings on energy bills

“Right now, Gov. Carney is our best hope for action to protect the climate,” Ms. Mendelson said at the press conference. “It’s up to Delaware to lead the region and nation towards a clean energy future. As good as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is, we can make it better.”

The report argues that by doubling the strength of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an estimated “investment” of $850 million over the next 10 years, the region could avoid up to an additional 100 million tons of pollution over the decade.

Because Delaware is the lowest lying state in the country in terms of elevation, Rep. Paradee noted few have as much at stake when it comes to climate change.

“Delawareans can already see the ravaging impact of climate change,” he said. “Our coastlines are literally shrinking. Storm surges have flooded our towns, causing immense damage and flood insurance rates to skyrocket. We’re spending millions of dollars in federal and state money replenishing our beaches and local farmers are grappling with unpredictable weather that adversely affects our crop yields.”

Citing state figures, Rep. Paradee said the entire state is barely 500 feet above sea level and 62,000 acres of land in the state lies less than 5 feet above the high tide line which exposes 20,000 homes ($1.1 billion in property value) to the mercy of climate change.

At the press conference Mr. DePrima said that by using grants and low-interest loans the Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility had funded $12.5 million worth of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects over the last two years through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

“Last year, we got $4.5 million for the Delaware National Guard for energy saving improvements at their sites that are now saving a quarter million dollars yearly and, at the same time, we also did a $29,000 loan to install a solar system for the Community Lutheran Church in Frankford — so there is some breadth there,” he said.

Mr. DePrima also noted that the utility recently invested $900,000 toward establishing four community energy centers in the state — one in Dover, Newark, Wilmington and Georgetown.

“These centers are set up for low and moderate income people to get counseling on how to make their apartments and houses more energy efficient, how to deal with their energy bills and how to be smart with their utilities in general,” he said.

Applauding the recent investment in the Dover energy center, Councilman Cole noted several other local projects that sought funding through the initiative.
“The city of Dover is always looking to work with different groups, agencies and local government to help improve the quality of life for our citizens,” he said. “Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiave dollars have helped out a lot of organizations and residents. The Modern Maturity Center got a $46,000 grant to install a solar thermal heating system they use for their indoor pool, the Race Track Car Wash got a low-interest loan for their solar heating system too.”

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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