Strong laws needed to protect environment
People all over Delaware are fighting again to protect themselves from incinerator pollution. A reasonably strong bill, Senate Bill 280, is making its way through the General Assembly. (It passed the Senate 17-3, with only Sens. Still (Dover), Venables (Laurel) and McDowell (Wilmington) voting no.) Governor Carper, a long-time incinerator supporter, says he supports the bill "generally" but wants a sunset provision. This means he wants the bill to die after a few years and people might have to go through the same thing all over again. What a mean spirited idea. (Shamefully, Grace Pierce of the Delaware Audubon Society spoke in favor of a sunset provision.)
Sometimes people argue that incinerators might be OK in the future because "technology will improve." Wrong. Technology does improve, but this has little to do with the situation. Incinerators, like most things, are built in a world of economics more than a world of technology. What gets built is not the cleanest incinerator our technology can provide, but the dirtiest incinerator our weak environmental regulations will allow. This is why an incinerator was built near New Castle in the 1980's without scrubbers, a technology known for at least a century. (It was one of the last big garbage burners to be built anywhere without scrubbers, and it poisoned the neighborhood just as Delaware Citizens for Clean Air said it would.) Now, in 2000, Philpower Corp. want's to build another incinerator lacking the very same scrubbers. State and Federal regulators would probably allow this travesty again, because our air pollution regs are about the same in this regard as they were 15 years ago.
This situation, of course, isn't because the investors in these projects hate the environment, or want to poison kids. Its more because in a competitive economy businesses have to minimize their costs, and they cant afford to spend more, to be cleaner, than the competition. Regulations, supposed to apply to everybody, level the playing fieldöbut at too low a level. But when these same businesses lobby to weaken the environmental laws, as they have done very effectively, they are on very shaky ethical ground.
First they weaken the laws, and keep them from being enforced. Then they tell us we shouldn't worry about pollution because of the strict environmental laws! This is one important reason why we need a strong bill banning incinerators We know from experience that we can't count on our environmental regulators to protect us from health threatening pollution. Pollution is legal. (It's interesting that those who support incinerators, while babbling about "technology," have not exactly been in the forefront of efforts to tighten up limits on emissions. Wonder why?)
Nor is there any need for incinerators. Consider that the Delaware Solid Waste Authority tried to build incinerators all over the state, claiming Delaware would be covered with trash if we didn't burn it. Plainly enough they were wrong. The Philpower project is even harder to defend, because the waste would be hauled into Delaware to be burned.
SB 280 will probably be taken up by the House of Representatives this Thursday, March 30th. People who care about their health and their children's health, and their quality of life and property values, should urge their elected representatives to support this bill with no weakening amendments.
By Alan Muller
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This page was last updated on June 18, 2000.