Clean Air or Clean Water, We Deserve Both

Date: June 16, 2016

 

 

By Tony DePrima

Senator Greg Lavelle (R-Sharpley) is proposing a bad choice for Delawareans: Clean air or clean water. Lavelle says we can’t afford both.

Senator Lavelle wants to raid Delaware’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) monies to pay for clean water. These monies are used to great effectiveness by the DESEU which receives 65% of the funds.  The DESEU has been a success, each year rolling out new energy and cost saving programs for businesses, homeowners, nonprofits and government facilities. A partial list of DESEU projects this fiscal year, all of which reduce greenhouse gases include:

  • $5.3 million for financing energy saving capital improvements for two schools in the Christina School District
  • $3 million for financing energy saving improvements at the Chase Center on the Wilmington Riverfront
  • $650,000 for home energy audits, efficiency rebates, and efficiency measures in homes throughout Delaware
  • $575,000 to assist Low Income Delawareans prepare their homes for weatherization
  • $415,000 to finance Solar and Energy Efficient HVAC systems at the Lewes Library
  • $380,000 to finance LED street lights for the City of Newark

Lavelle makes his case that the DESEU is sitting on millions of unused RGGI dollars that could be repurposed to finance the clean water initiative. The DESEU has a large reserve because, during its formative years, it was careful to roll out energy saving and renewable energy programs in a way that was not wasteful. These monies are now being earmarked to expand existing programs and to roll out new ones. The DESEU spent $11.1 million in RGGI funded programs through April 2016, and is on track to exceed its annual RGGI proceeds. Total program expenses have already exceeded proceeds, in line with the DESEU’s goal of reducing its reserve funds by $20 million in the next three years. Recently, the Board of Directors approved a budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year that will further reduce the reserve by $7 million. A partial list of pending fund obligations that reduce greenhouse gases include:

  • $5.1 million for Delaware National Guard to finance solar and energy efficiency improvements in facilities throughout Delaware
  • $2.2 million to fund solar systems with battery backup for the First Baptist Church/School in New Castle; Selbyville Fire Department; Indian River Fire Department; and Aetna Fire Department in Newark
  • $1.5 Million for Wilmington Housing Authority Solar Project financing
  • $700,000 to fund a new Energize Delaware Farm Efficiency program to assist agricultural producers install energy efficiency improvements
  • $500,000 to finance energy efficiency improvements at Boys and Girls Clubs throughout Delaware
  • $500,000 to establish four Community Energy Centers throughout Delaware to assist low and moderate income families reduce their energy expenses

A 2015 study by the Analysis Group, one of the largest economic consulting firms in America, showed that the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative generated a combined $1.3 billion in economic activity, saved $460 million in electric bills and spawned 14,200 new jobs in its nine states from 2012 to 2014, including nearly 1,000 green jobs in Delaware (Antipollution program created 953 Delaware jobs: study, News Journal, July 15, 2015).

 Senator Bryan Townsend (D-Newark), is proposing a small hike in state personal income tax and a slight increase in business license fees to raise money needed to restore thousands of miles of polluted creeks, streams, rivers and bays that are so polluted that fish can’t survive and people can’t swim in almost all of them. His efforts are on target.

Senator Lavelle’s proposal is at least misguided and at most not permitted under RGGI Memorandum of Understanding originally signed by Governor Minner and nine other Governors. We all have the right to both clean air and clean water. The Delaware Sustainable Energy Utility must continue its mission to provide energy and cost savings while reducing greenhouse gas pollutants that provide long term benefits to all Delawareans.

We shouldn’t have to make a choice between clean water and clean air.