Supreme Court upholds lower court decision on state’s cap and trade program

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The Delaware Supreme Court upheld a Superior Court decision that threw out a challenge to Delaware’s participation in theRegional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a “cap and trade” cooperative program among nine states.

Delaware Superior Court Judge Richard F. Stokes had earlier dismissed a lawsuit challenging the RGGI. Justices upheld the rulng in a one-page decision.

The lawsuit, Stevenson, et al. v. Delaware Department of Natural Resource and Environmental Control, et al., was brought in December 2013 by David T. Stevenson, R. Christian Hudson, and John A. Moore. All claimed that the state’s participation in the program caused an increase in their electric bills.

DNREC announced that Stokes issued his decision dismissing the suit June 26, stating that the plaintiffs, after more than four years of litigation, had failed to demonstrate that RGGI affected their electric bills.

“We are pleased the Court’s decision allows Delaware to continue with this market-based, environmentally-conscious and cost-effective collaboration that reduces harmful greenhouse gas emissions and supports a clean energy economy,” said Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “RGGI is vital in supporting energy efficiency, renewable energy, and clean transportation programs that save Delawarean’s energy and money. RGGI helps us provide for our energy needs while reducing our contributions to climate change.

Delaware has participated in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative since its start in 2008 and is one of nine current member states along with Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pulled the state out of the group. New Gov. Phil Murphy is taking steps to rejoin the initiative.

RGGI sets a cap on overall carbon dioxide emissions and sells emissions allowances to electricity generators through a competitive auction.

In June 2008, the Delaware General Assembly approved Delaware’s participation in RGGI through Senate Bill 263, which also mandated that Delaware use RGGI proceeds to fund programs that promote energy efficiency, renewable energy, and low-income programs.

According to the DNREC release, the programs help residents, businesses, local governments, and non-profits lower their energy use and costs, support cleaner air quality, and through rebates and incentives also have helped over 750 Delaware drivers in buying electric vehicles.

Critics claim the program commercial users hardest and hamper’s the state’s ability to attract business. Delaware has moved to the middle of the pack among states in its electric costs, but last year ranked in the top 15 in commercial rates.

Stevenson is a climate change skeptic who heads Center for Energy Competitiveness at the Caesar Rodney Institute, a Delaware public policy group. Stevenson was onthe Trump administration’s EPA transition team and has been a long-time critic of Delaware energy policies.

Stevenson made his casein a report issued earlier this year by the institute.

The Superior Court’s decision can be found on the State of Delaware website at https://courts.delaware.gov/Opinions/Download.aspx?id=275020

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