Local environmental groups joined Wilmington city officials and businesses on a walking tour Wednesday to tout the benefits the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, has provided the state’s largest city.
Stephanie Herron, the outreach coordinator with the Delaware Sierra Club, said environmental outreach in Delaware is important because the state’s location along the coast makes it particularly vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise.
“A lot of folks in Delaware don’t necessarily realize that Delaware is the lowest lying state of any other state in the entire country,” Herron said.
Wilmington, in particular, Herron said, is especially vulnerable. With sea level rise projections that it will be between a half a meter and 1.5 meters higher than it is by 2100, one-third to three-fourths of the Port of Wilmington could be inundated at a regular high tide, she said.
That’s why some businesses, churches and homes are getting on board with RGGI funds, to help cut pollution.
A parking garage near the McConnell Johnson Real Estate building is equipped with a charging station for electric vehicles. It’s the only parking garage in the city that has one, said McConnell Johnson General Facilities Manager Joe Antognoli.
And it’s among a handful of Wilmington initiatives funded by RGGI proceeds.
Antognoli said the charging station has only been in the garage for about a month and they’re still trying to gauge how often it is used.
“Most people, if they’re gonna leave it plugged in, we’ll have a meeting with all our tenants and say here it is, here’s what we have and we’re gonna try to get numbers of people that are using it,” Antognoli said, “and then we can reach out to the person and say ‘hey we see it’s unplugged, could you move it when it’s not being used?’”
Mendelson said Environment America, the Sierra Club and other groups want the First State to double its annual emissions reduction goal from 2.5 percent to 5 percent each year through 2030. Funds also support the Faith Efficiencies Program that offers energy audits to local churches, then recommends energy savings initiatives.
And at St. Patrick’s Church, Father Leonard Kline said though they have used RGGI money for an audit, they’ve also sought to be more efficient on their own with a changeover to LED lighting and cutting off radiators in unused spaces.
“In this mild winter it’s hard to tell what the difference would be, but I think there’s no question these efficiencies save money,” Kline said.
Environment America’s Lindsey Mendelson said the EV charging station and energy audits are just two things tied to RGGI that have helped cut Delaware emissions in half over the last decade.
Mendelson also claims RGGI generated over $97 million for use in clean energy and energy efficiency efforts in Delaware. Across the northeast, she said, RGGI has invested over $2.5 billion dollars in energy efficiency.
Correction: An earlier version of the story said RGGI wanted to cut emissions by 5 percent a year. Lindsey Mendelson said this has not been decided officially yet and RGGI is undergoing a review period to decide the next phase of the program from 2020 to 2030. Pollution is being reduced by 2.5 percent a year.