DNREC appeals Public Service Commission’s Earth Day action to halt key environmental policy

DOVER, Del. – The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control filed in Delaware Superior Court on Monday to stop the state Public Service Commission from freezing Delaware’s increasing standard for renewable energy in its power generation portfolio.

“Last Wednesday was Earth Day, when we consider what we each can do to preserve the planet for future generations. And yet the Public Service Commission acted on Earth Day to halt Delaware’s considerable progress in renewable energy,” DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin said. “The PSC’s action, if allowed to stand, would economically harm our state’s solar industry and stall further reduction of air pollution from electricity generation.”

At issue is the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards Act (REPSA), which requires an increasing percentage of electricity used in Delaware come from renewable energy, with 25% of the state’s electricity required to come from renewables by 2025, of which at least 3.5% must come from solar power. With REPSA’s standards, solar energy capacity in Delaware has grown from 2.3 megawatts (MW) 12 years ago to more than 125 MW today, with more than 5,400 solar installations. The measure is having the intended effect of making renewable energy more affordable: the cost of renewable energy for Delmarva Power customers declined 18% last year, according to the PSC’s analysis.

A mechanism in the REPSA law allows the percentage of mandated renewable energy, which increases each year, to be “frozen” if the cost of acquiring the renewable energy is above a percentage of the total cost of electricity. According to Title 26, Section 354 of the Delaware Code, any freeze is to be invoked by the “State Energy Coordinator” – a role that resides in DNREC – “in consultation with” the PSC.

At the urging of the conservative Caesar Rodney Institute and others who oppose the required purchase of renewable energy, the PSC acted unilaterally to invoke the freeze provision effective later this year, even though DNREC has maintained that only DNREC has the authority in the law to decide to freeze progress on renewable energy. Further, DNREC has contended that the calculation the PSC used to justify its freeze is at odds with state law and contrary to the purpose of REPSA.

On Earth Day, as the PSC was finalizing its order, state Senator Harris McDowell, author of the original REPSA law, announced legislation that would further increase Delaware’s RPS to 40% as well as clarify that the PSC cannot act unilaterally to impose a freeze. Gov. Carney, in his State of the State address, called for the increase the renewable energy standard to 40%. DNREC fully supports passage of the proposed legislation from Sen. McDowell, Rep. Ed Osienski, and 14 co-sponsors.

“Earth Day is not a day for retreating on actions to combat climate change, but for reaffirming our commitment to protecting our planet and our state.” Secretary Garvin said. “Delaware’s environmental agency will work through the judicial and legislative processes to continue the significant progress we have made in renewable energy, which the PSC is unfortunately trying to stop in its tracks.”

About DNREC

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. For more information, visit the website and connect with DNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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St. Jones Reserve trail reopened

A small greenhouse was destroyed in the April 13 storm. DNREC photo.

Repairs after April 13 storm completed

DOVER, Del. – The trail at the St. Jones component of the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR) near Dover has reopened, with repairs to the trail and boardwalk completed following storm damage to them earlier this month.

The trail was closed past the first marsh walk April 13 after a storm downed trees and damaged the boardwalk. A small greenhouse on the reserve was also destroyed by a fallen tree. The weather station operated by DNERR measured a peak wind gust of 67.9 miles per hour just before 4 p.m. the day of the storm. Numerous trees also fell across sections of the trail that connects to the adjoining Ted Harvey Conservation Area.

“The St. Jones Reserve trail is a popular place with visitors,” said Dayna Cobb, Director of DNREC’s Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy. “Our staff worked hard to get the trail reopened for the public’s use.”

In addition to the Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve’s trails at St. Jones in Dover and Blackbird Creek Reserve in Townsend, state parks and wildlife areas remain open. Many amenities, however, including restrooms, are closed. Individuals who visit state properties are required to engage in responsible social distancing practices, avoiding groupings of people.

About DNREC
The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. The Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy uses science, education, policy development and incentives to address Delaware’s climate, energy and coastal challenges. For more information, visit the website and connect with DNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contact: Michael Globetti, Michael.globetti@delaware.gov, or Jim Lee, JamesW.lee@delaware.gov

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Report highlights Delawareans’ desire for climate change action

50th anniversary of Earth Week theme resonates across the state

DOVER, Del. – The theme for the 50th anniversary of Earth Week is climate change, an issue that concerns most Delawareans, according to a report commissioned by DNREC’s Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy. The report found 77% of Delawareans see climate change as a serious threat that will harm future generations.

The report, conducted by Standage Market Research in partnership with University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication, is based on a survey of more than 1,100 Delaware adults. The full report, published this week, is available at de.gov/climatesurvey.

The full report builds on preliminary survey results released in February. It reveals differences in perceptions of climate change and sea level rise across the state and compared to those nationwide. Key findings include:

  • A majority of adults in both Delaware and the U.S. believe climate change is an important issue. Additionally, 64% of U.S. residents are worried about climate change, and the same is true of Delaware residents (62%).
  • Delawareans in all three counties say they have been personally affected by climate change. However, New Castle County residents are more likely than residents of Kent and Sussex counties to favor immediate action to reduce the impacts of climate change (76% versus 68% and 58%, respectively).
  • Sussex County residents are more likely to say they have been personally affected by sea level rise. More than half (51%) of adults in Sussex County said they have personally experienced or observed local impacts of sea level rise, compared to 47% for Kent and 45% of New Castle residents.
  • Women are more likely than men to say we should act now on climate change (78% versus 62%). They are also more likely to say they have personally experienced or observed local impacts of climate change (62% versus 50%). Opinions about sea level rise follow similar patterns.
  • There are no significant age differences for having personally experienced or observed local impacts of climate change. However, younger adults are also more likely to favor acting now to reduce the impacts of climate change (78%, versus 64% and 69%, respectively).

“The impacts of climate change threaten our environment, economy and way of life,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin. “Over the past decade the percentage of Delawareans concerned about this issue has increased. We continue to experience the impacts of sea level rise, hotter temperatures and more frequent intense storms, but we are also working toward solutions as we continue to develop Delaware’s Climate Action Plan.”

According to the climate perceptions survey, Delawareans support a range of options to address the causes and consequences of climate change, including:

  • 82% support preserving undeveloped land;
  • 80% believe we need stronger air pollution controls;
  • 79% support changing building codes;
  • 74% said roads and infrastructure should not be built in flood-prone areas;
  • 74% think we should increase the amount of electricity we get from renewable sources;
  • 73% believe we should improve energy efficiency standards;
  • 64% support elevating building in risk areas

Development of the Climate Action Plan will continue through 2020, with a report due in December. Public input sessions on development of the plan were held in each of the three counties in March. More than 250 people participated in those meetings, and many others have gone online to declimateplan.org to complete a questionnaire asking about various actions the state can take to address the causes and consequences of climate change.

The period to complete the questionnaire closes Friday, May 1.

Later this summer, virtual meetings will be held to gather additional public input addressing what the state can do to manage the impacts of climate change that we are already seeing, such as sea level rise. A third opportunity for the public to weigh in will occur this fall, after possible strategies have been identified.

About DNREC

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. For more information, visit the website and connect with DNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contact: Nikki Lavoie, nikki.lavoie@delaware.gov; Jim Lee, jamesw.lee@delaware.gov

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St. Jones Reserve trail in Dover temporarily closed due to storm damage

Trails in parks, wildlife areas and DNERR’s Blackbird Creek Reserve remain open

DOVER, Del. – The trail at the St. Jones Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve (DNERR) near Dover is temporarily closed past the first marsh boardwalk as a result of damage caused by Monday’s severe storms.

A University of Delaware-operated weather station at the reserve measured a peak wind gust of 67.9 miles per hour just before 4 p.m. Monday. Numerous trees fell across the trail that connects to the adjoining Ted Harvey Conservation Area. Staff have worked to clear the trees and will need to perform repairs to the boardwalk, which could take a few weeks. A small greenhouse on the reserve was also destroyed by a fallen tree.

“Many people enjoy getting out and walking the trail at St. Jones, especially lately,” said Dayna Cobb, Director of DNREC’s Division of Climate, Coastal & Energy. “But the safety of visitors is our primary concern, and so much of the trail will be closed until repairs are completed.”

For those looking for alternatives, state parks and wildlife areas remain open, as well as the trails at DNERR’s Blackbird Creek Reserve near Townsend.

While most state parks, nature and wildlife areas continue to stay open for Delawareans, many amenities, including restrooms, are closed. Individuals who visit state properties are required to engage in responsible social distancing practices, avoiding groupings of people.

About DNREC

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. For more information, visit the website and connect with DNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contact: Joanna Wilson, joanna.wilson@delaware.gov

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DNREC announces changes to operations in response to COVID-19

Parks, wildlife areas open with no entrance fees until April 30,
but park and wildlife buildings, centers closed to public;
Fishing, hunting, boating licenses, park and conservation passes sales moved online

DOVER, Del. – The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control continues to focus on taking a proactive and preventative approach to keep communities and employees safe in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, while maintaining operations and services as best as possible.

To encourage Delawareans to be active outdoors and to provide space for activity during the coronavirus period, no fees will be charged or passes required for entrance to Delaware State Parks and state wildlife areas, effective immediately until April 30.

“Times are challenging and options are few, and this is an opportunity for Delawareans to experience our amazing parks and wildlife areas, to embrace nature while we maintain social distance from each other,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin. “Hopefully, people will enjoy them enough that they will want to keep coming back long after coronavirus has passed, so we encourage people to buy a state park or wildlife conservation area pass online to use for the rest of the season and to support park and wildlife area operations.”

  • State parks and wildlife areas are open, and no entrance fees will be charged from now until April 30. All state park campsite, cabins, bathhouses, cottages continue to be open at this time. Buildings such as park and wildlife area offices and nature centers will close after the end of the day Tuesday, and programs and tours are canceled. Anyone visiting a park or wildlife area is encouraged to engage in responsible social distancing practices, avoiding groupings of people. People can find parks and wildlife areas listed online.
  • As of Wednesday morning, sales of fishing licenses, hunting licenses conservation passes for vehicle access to wildlife areas and boat registrations will occur online only or at any third-party vendors that remain open, instead of in person at DNREC’s Dover office. Annual park passes good for the entire season and surf fishing tags should also be purchased online only or at any third-party agents instead of at park offices or in the Dover office; purchased park passes will be mailed before April 30. The Department has provided convenient links to these resources on its homepage, available at dnrec.delaware.gov.
  • Commercial fishing license sales will continue at the Department’s main office in Dover by appointment only. Call 302-739-9916 to make an appointment.
  • Applications and information provided for well, septic, air, water and other permits are being accepted by email, mail and phone, reducing direct interchange of documents.
  • Hearings for permits, regulations and appeals are being moved to phone or video for public access. Details on how to access any hearings will be posted with the official hearing notices.

Most Department-related events and programs, including tours, trainings and special events have been postponed, including the Junior Solar Sprint competition for middle-school students at Delaware Technical Community College’s Dover campus April 2, the volunteer training April 4 for the annual horseshoe crab spawning survey and the “Make a Splash” water education event for elementary students at the St. Jones Reserve April 7. Specific information about the status of any events is available on the online events calendar, parks program calendar and social media pages, Facebook and Twitter.

The Department remains open. Many office-based employees are working from home and remote locations or relocating within offices to create distance among individuals. Adjustments are being made to procedures for many parks, wildlife and field personnel to reduce interactions among employees and with the public.

For the latest information on COVID-19 in Delaware, visit de.gov/coronavirus.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control protects and manages the state’s natural resources, protects public health, provides outdoor recreational opportunities and educates Delawareans about the environment. The Division of Climate, Coastal and Energy uses science, education, policy development and incentives to address Delaware’s climate, energy and coastal challenges. For more information, visit the website and connect with @DNREC on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Media Contact: Nikki Lavoie, nikki.lavoie@delaware.gov