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Alert #30

Senators Roth and Biden promote chicken poop
incineration, ignore pollution threat

Port Penn, DE. September 25, 1998. Manure from Delaware's politically powerful poultry industry causes water pollution. Delaware Senators Biden and Roth have sponsored a bill (S. 2453) that would give a "production credit" of 1.5 cents/kilowatt hour for electricity produced by burning chicken manure. The Poultry Electric Energy Power Act ("PEEP") would extend a subsidy created for wind power and "closed loop" biomass. The technology being promoted is from a British firm, Fibrowatt, with two chicken shit burners in Britain and a third being readied. In a Sept. 9 press release, Roth said: "...several companies have been able to do what medieval alchemists dreamed of - turning a base element into gold - in this case an agricultural waste product into electricity." Green Delaware's conversations with Biden and Roth staffers indicate that neither got any hard data on environmental impact, particularly air emissions, before signing on to promote manure burning. Nor, apparently, did they seek the views of representatives of environmental concerns. Nick DiPasquale, Director of Air and Waste Management for the Delaware Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), said that Roth, author of the bill, did not seek the views of DNREC, responsible for managing air quality in Delaware, a state with severe air quality problems and a high cancer rate.

Biden and Roth say they are only trying to "level the playing field." Their bill would in fact drastically "tilt" the playing field: the proposed subsidy could about double the electric revenues of a chicken manure incinerator and provide a strong incentive for building such a facility, rather than using composting or another, possibly cleaner and cheaper, approach.

Fibrowatt representatives claim support of environmentalists for the process. Kim KcKeggie of the Natural Resources Council of America has written enthusiastically about the process but had not reviewed actual emissions data. Paul Connett, professor of chemistry at St. Lawrence Univ. and one of the world's foremost incineration and waste management experts, called the idea "ludicrous," saying chicken waste should be composted and used beneficially as fertilizer. Calls to Fibrowatt head Rupert Fraser (in England) seeking emissions data were not returned.

Green Delaware is now investigating four Delaware incineration schemes, including two wood burners proposed for the Coastal Zone, expansion of a duPont Company hazardous waste incinerator, and chicken shit burning. Incineration promoters commonly claim their systems are clean and green but are reluctant to provide solid supporting data (an incinerator called a "power plant" is still an incinerator). Data on the Fibrowatt process are still lacking, but every incinerator Green Delaware has investigated promised to cause air pollution. An incinerator can "meet all standards," "comply with its permit," be "legal," etc, and still emit millions of pounds per year of health damaging air pollutants. DiPasquale said, in reference to the duPont incinerator: "if a facility meets legal requirements we have to give them a permit." Thus, the environmental regulatory process can't be relied upon to ensure that sensible decisions are made or that public health is protected. Delaware Coastal Zone administrator Dennis Brown has publicly endorsed the building of a waste wood burner in the Coastal Zone, directly contrary to recently passed Senate Bill 98, banning large incinerators in the Coastal Zone.

Look for more details in upcoming Green Delaware News. (C) Alan Muller

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This page was last updated on January 25, 2000
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