Alert #53

Delaware's Worst Polluter at it Again

Public hearing March 15, 2000 on increased pollution by Motiva

Motiva is a joint venture of Shell, Texaco, and Saudi-Aramco, three of the worlds worst polluters. It's refinery near Del. City pumps out about 400,000 pounds per day of air pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, particulates, "volatile organic compounds," oxides of nitrogen, sulfuric acid, and lead. This is roughly one pound of poison per day for every person in New Castle County. Motiva also has a permit from Delaware to dump 38,000 Lbs. per day of oil and grease into the Delaware River. Motiva's frequent upsets, releases, fires, stinks, and explosions cause hundreds of complaints to authorities every year. Rarely, the State imposes fines, but all agree they are so small compared to the enormous funds of the refinery as to offer no deterrent.

Motiva is more or less at war with Delaware's Div. of Air Quality Management, and the refinery frequently violates its permits, fails to obtain permits for activities requiring them, submits false and misleading applications, gives false testimony at public hearings, and generally mocks the authority of the State. How does Motiva get away with this? Simple enough-they have "bought the system" through political contributions.

Motiva is one of a small number of US refineries using a "fluid coker" as part of the process of turning crude oil into gasoline, heating oil, and other products. The fluid coker is a big polluter in its own right, and makes about four million pounds per day of "petroleum coke" waste, a fine black powder containing toxic materials. Every since the refinery was built around 1957, this petroleum coke has either been burned at the refinery at a plant run by Conectiv, Delaware's other really big polluter (the big, dirty, red and white smokestack, often with a plume of smoke, is connected to the coke burners) or exported from the Port of Wilmington, to be burned overseas (probably without any pollution controls...).

Several years ago Motiva received over 300 million dollars of tax exempt "revenue bonds," courtesy of the Del. Economic Development Auth., to build a new coke burner. (Motiva officials have courteously given Green Delaware tours of the facility.) Motiva said it would be a lot cleaner than the existing burners. Now, Motiva admits the "repowering project" won't be quite so clean, and wants revised permits. According to a memo from Motiva dated March 15th, emissions of ten pollutants during the "startup" year will be over six million pounds per year higher than claimed in the original applications. For example, emissions of deadly "PM10" particulate would increase from 180,000 lbs to 298,000 lbs. Limits for even more deadly "PM2.5" aren't in the permits at all, although Del. Regulation #3 sets limits for this too.

The public hearing will be held at 6:00 at 391 Lukens Drive, Riveredge Industrial Park, New Castle. (For directions call 395-2600) At one time, according to long time clean air activist Jake Kreshtool, Delaware environmental hearings were a national model. Now, under Hearing Officer Rod Thompson, members of the public must expect to be insulted, badgered, humiliated, and ignored. For this, we can blame Gov. Carper, Nat. Resources Secy. Nick DiPasquale, and Attorney General Jane Brady, who all seem to agree that only the big, politically connected polluters deserve respect. Smile, bend over, but don't breathe.


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Alan J. Muller, Exec. Director
P.O. Box 69
Port Penn, DE 19731
302-834-3466 Voice
302-836-3005 FAX 

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This page was last updated on March 17, 2000.