2012 Legislative Summary
The Delaware Chapter took positions on several bills in the legislative session that ended on June 30, 2012.
We were successful in our efforts to stop two bills:
We opposed SB 129, An Act to amend Title 7 of the Delaware Code relating to coyotes.
This bill would have designated coyotes as "wildlife", which are not protected in Delaware, and would have opened Delaware's resident population of coyotes up to trapping and hunting, even though there is no scientific evidence that coyotes pose a risk to wildlife or the public.
We opposed this bill as a needless for coyotes and damaging to other forms of wildlife, that could be caught in leg-hold traps that would be set out for coyotes.
SB 129 was tabled in the House Natural Resource Committee. It did not make it to the floor for a vote.
We opposed HB 247, An Act to amend Title 26 of the Delaware Code relating to Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards.
This bill proposed to freeze the minimum percentage of renewable energy electricity suppliers must provide to customers at 2012 levels. Passage of this bill would have hindered the development and installation of additional renewable energy resources in Delaware, substantially decreased the return on investment for current renewable energy system owners, increased the amount of electricity that would be generated by fossil-fuel burning power stations, and thus, increased greenhouse gas emissions.
Delaware has proudly been a leader in the nation in renewable energy policy, and this bill would have represented a huge step backwards. As Delaware is particularly susceptible to sea level rise, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions, a leading contributor to global warming, is critical to the health of our local environment.
HB 247 was tabled in the House Energy Committee on March 28, 2012. It did not make it to the floor for a vote.
We were unsuccessful in our efforts on three bills:
We supported SB 263, An Act to amend Title 26 of the Delaware Code relating to public utilities, also known as the Low Income Solar Energy Act.
This bill would have increased access to solar energy by low-income households and would have allowed all Delawarean’s, regardless of income levels, to participate in the benefits of the Delaware Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS). In addition, the bill would have strengthened our access to distributed renewable energy generation, reducing our reliance upon dirty sources of energy like coal. Because solar energy is peak-following, it produces energy during the times when we need it most and when energy purchased from the grid is the most expensive.
The Motion to suspend the rules to consider Senate Bill 263 on June 28 was defeated. The bill was tabled
We supported HB 324, An Act to Amend Title 7 of the Delaware Code relating to finfish, also known as the Shark Fin Ban.
This bill would ban the possession, transport and sale of shark fins in Delaware.
The populations of some shark species have declined by more than 90% in the past 50 years, and some have declined by as much as 97-99% in the last 35 years. The growing demand for shark fins, which are used to make a popular Asian dish called shark fin soup, is a major reason for the declines in shark populations. Although federal law requires that all sharks caught in US waters are landed with fins attached, the law has a huge loophole – it permits importation of fins themselves.
We are pleased to report that HB 324 passed the House on June 14 unanimously with a vote of 38 to 0. However, the bill was not referred to the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Control Committee until June 28, too late in the session for the committee to hold a public hearing on the bill. A Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Control Committee hearing is scheduled for HB 324 on July 11 at 11:00 am, in the 2nd floor Senate Hearing Room, Legislative Hall, Dover.
We opposed HB 369, An Act to amend Chapter 29, Title 30 of the Delaware Code pertaining to wholesalers gross receipts taxes.
This bill exempts the Delaware City Refinery from certain Gross Receipts Taxes, including those from specific transactions engaged in by the Delaware City Refinery in the process of acquiring raw materials, refining such materials, and distributing the refined products. According to the Department of Finance, this bill would reduce the gross receipts tax collections by $3,600,000 in Fiscal Year 2013 and $1,500,000 in Fiscal Year 2014.
The Sierra Club opposes the use of subsidies of the fossil fuel industry. Such an exemption of the Delaware City Refinery to the Gross Receipts Tax amounts to just such a subsidy of the fossil fuel industry. Fossil fuel subsidies create an unfair economic advantage for polluting industries in comparison to renewable energy sources. While the Delaware City Refinery has reopened in 2011 after being closed for approximately one year, it has already exceeded its air pollution permits numerous times and has been demonstrated to pose a significant health risk to surrounding communities.
Unfortunately, all state-level elected officials in Delaware support such fossil fuel subsidies. HB 369 passed the House 39-0 on June 7, passed the senate 21-0 on June 21, and was signed by Governor Markell on June 26, 2012.
The Delaware Chapter also attempted to have several other legislative measures in place. We were unable to find a sponsor for these measures in the recent legislative session.
Plastic Bag Ban
The Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club supported a statewide ban in Delaware on the provision by retail stores of free non-biodegradable, single-use plastic bags, and we urged statewide elected officials to pass legislation to that effect. This action would promote the health and safety of wildlife, watersheds, coastal ecosystems and marine environments. It would also protect the natural beauty of our communities, conserve our oil supply, increase the longevity of landfill space, and reduce trash management costs to taxpayers.
While we were unable to find a sponsor for this bill, Senators Connor and Clouter introduced Senate Resolution 24, requesting that that the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and the Zero Waste Working Group work with all interested parties to develop a plan with proposed legislation to be delivered to the Senate of the 147th General Assembly in January of 2013. This resolution passed the senate unanimously, with a vote of 21-0.
Amendment to the Nutrient Management Act
Delaware's agricultural nutrient management strategy, as described in the Nutrient Management Act, is intended to restore water quality by controlling agricultural fertilizer runoff. Nutrient management is vital to the preservation of water quality, as agricultural fertilizers are a leading cause of hypoxia in the Delaware Inland Bays and the "dead zone" in the Chesapeake Bay.
Unfortunately, when the Nutrient Management Act was signed into law in 1999, a provision in the law exempted nutrient management plans from the Freedom of Information Act. This prevention of public disclosure casts a shadow on the ability of the Nutrient Management Act to achieve its stated goals. We support an transparency in our state's regulatory programs and an amendment to the Nutrient Management Act that would remove the Freedom of Information Act exemption.
Join Resolution supporting a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for natural gas in the Delaware River Basin.
This resolution would support the DRBC fracking moratorium until a comprehensive environmental impact assessment determines if it could be done safely.
In November 2011 Governor Markell supported policy based upon scientific findings by publicly opposing the proposed regulations for natural gas development in the Delaware River Basin Commission. The proposed regulations would have opened the Delaware Basin in parts of Pennsylvania and New York to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) without adequate safety measures to insure that public health and the environment were protected. As a result of this statement, the Delaware River Basin Commission cancelled their vote on their proposed natural gas regulations on November 21, 2011. Political pressure by the gas industry is escalating.
This Joint Resolution would have provided political support for the Governor to uphold his 2011 decision and maintain the moratorium on natural gas development until after a comprehensive environmental impact assessment is completed. Representative John Kowalko has indicated that, if reelected in November, he will support this resolution in the next session.
Ban on “fracking” waste disposal in Delaware.
This bill would make it illegal to possess, dispose, transport or process fracking waste in Delaware. Fracking waste is extremely hazardous, containing a cocktail of toxic materials that are beyond the capacity of wastewater treatment plants. While hydraulically fracked gas drilling does not take place in Delaware at present, gas drillers in the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania are exporting fracking wastewater to neighboring states.
Delaware has already been the recipient of fracking wastewater. The News Journal reported that “1.4 million gallons of partially treated wastewater collected from hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wells outside the Delaware River basin were further processed and flushed into Delaware waters through the commercial side of DuPont Co.'s big wastewater plant in Deepwater, N.J., near the foot of the Delaware Memorial Bridge” (Jeff Montgomery, May 20, 2012). This wastewater was released Delaware without the knowledge of state regulators.
This bill would prevent such wastewater from being possessed, transported through Delaware, or disposed of in Delaware; preventing fracking chemicals from contaminating our land, surface water and groundwater resources. Representative John Kowalko has indicated that, if reelected in November, he will support this bill in the next session.
Thresholds for radon in natural gas in Delaware.
This bill which would set a radon threshold for natural gas in Delaware. Hydro-fractured natural gas from the Marcellus shale has an alarmingly high level of radon, which would place Delawareans at risk. Radon is a leading cause of cancer in the United States. This bill would require natural gas to be tested for radon and to meet radiation thresholds. Representative John Kowalko has indicated that, if reelected in November, he will support this bill in the next session.
VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED!
You can get involved in our legislative agenda!
The next session of the Delaware General Assembly begins in January 2013.