Green Delaware News #23

Port Penn, DE. October 21, 1998. After the incinerator bill victory on June 30, Green Delaware had a busy summer, of research and public outreach. We'll be writing more about WHY Delaware is one of the most polluted and unhealthy places around, and WHY "development" is obliterating our natural resources and quality of life so rapidly. This means we'll be writing not only about misbehaving industrial polluters, and negligent regulators, but also about "environmental" organizations, newspapers, civic groups, and others when they make themselves part of our problems. This will annoy some. Why then do it? To quote a sign worn by a Green Delaware member "If our environment could be protected by bootlicking, Delaware would [already] be a paradise." We'll find some good news too.

Green Delaware publications

Our two main emissions are the Green Delaware News and (this is News # 23) and "Alerts" (the next will be Alert #31). The alerts are usually focused on one topic. The News is broader in scope. Sometimes there is overlap. We generally limit our coverage to matters originating in Delaware or nearby states, and we try to stick to things readers wouldn't otherwise hear about. What goes on in Washington, DC, is important to us all, but there are many other sources of information on these battles. Contributions invited: We would like to hear more from people who are working to create democracy and preserve a viable future for their communities.

Whatâs Delaware really like?

A truism is that all activists feel their areas are the most difficult and hostile to be found anywhere. Still, Delaware, with it's traditions of control by the chemical industry, paternalistic, anti-democratic style of government, and determination to remain a preferred legal home for corporations everywhere, poses special challenges. For instance, our small size, with a total population of around seven hundred thousand, makes it hard to build independent organizations supported by member dues. The weak state of journalism in Delaware means that public dialog tends to be limited, with alternative points of view not treated seriously, and often blacked out completely. 

Perhaps it's not surprising, in these circumstances, that Delaware has an ineffective "environmental community," and environmental concerns are far from the forefront in policy making. Seldom do civic, peace and justice, or "good government" organizations emerge from the corporate shadows and offer serious challenges to the status quo. The so-called "Delaware Nature Society," (An affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation) which we see as largely representing the interests of the Du Pont family and Company (along with Delmarva Power and many others), is commonly (mis)understood by Delawareans as an independent "environmental" advocate. On the other hand Green Delaware, which would probably fit into the "Middle of the Road" in many places, encounters hostility from the Delaware branches of the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, American Lung Association, etc, as well as from some government agencies and businesses. The "nationals" of these organizations do not seem to make much effort to counteract the servile behavior of their Delaware affiliates, but, rather, seem content to allow them to adapt to the local circumstances. The Student Environmental Action Coalition, sometimes an effective ally of Green Delaware, seems to be gone from Delaware. Students at the University of Delaware apparently decided SEAC was "too radical" and broke off their affiliation. No member of the Delaware General Assembly regularly speaks out publicly on behalf of environmental or public health concerns while many members actively work to weaken environmental protections. (A few of the worst are Reps. Joe DiPinto, Rich Davis, "Bobby" Quillen, and George Carey, and Sen. Robert Venables.) 

The nightmare of Governor Thomas Carper

Tom Carper has been elected twice by large margins. He's racked up, according to long-time clean air activist Jake Kreshtool, the worst environmental record since former Gov. Pete Du Pont (Dumont in now an activist on the right wing of the Republican Party.) Carper replaced the respected head of the Coastal Zone Industrial Board (Don Crossan) with a person whose only obvious ties were to the chemical industry (Christine Waisanen). He replaced the respected Chair of the Public Service Commission (Nancy Norling) with a person (Robert McMahon) who said his main objective was to "help" the utilities. He set up a "task force" to revise utility regulation. The chair was a Delmarva Power stockholder, the members were mostly utility officials, and the Stateâs utility "Public Advocate" (Patricia Stowell) was not included. (This changed after we fussed about it. Stowell later opposed our intervention in a case in which she supported the shutdown of Connectiv conservation and efficiency programs.) 

The Board of Directors of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority has no members with ties to communities impacted by waste disposal facilities, nor a person of color, nor anyone with noticeable interest in sustainable waste management policies. Carper has appointed members with conflicts of interest (such as construction trade reps "Toby" Ryan and Pat Healy), and a Chair, Richard Pryor, who thinks environmentalism is "a threat to the progress of modern life." 

When public concern about exploding sprawl development in Delaware became hard to ignore, Carper gave two hundred thousand tax dollars to the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce (acting through the so-called Delaware Public Policy Institute) to put on a pro-development dog-and-pony show. Many observers think the Chamber is Delaware's real government.

Carper replaced the respected Natural Resources (DNREC) Secretary "Toby" Clark with Christophe Tulou, who stated publicly that he was "not an advocate for the environment." (Tulou later retracted the words, but his actions stayed true to them. His wife is a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, one of the most aggressive and well-funded anti-environment organizations.) Among Tulou innovations: DNREC now has a person sometimes described as an "ombudsman." This personâs actual responsibilities are to lobby against the Clean Air Act (Ostensibly on behalf of small business but actually on behalf of the big politically dominant polluters) Texaco, DuPont, ICI, and so on. 

Carper appointed as head of the Advisory Council on Tidal Fin Fisheries a politically ambitious insurance salesman, Tim O'Conner, with ties to the Sierra Club--as the Sierra Club agreed to support the gutting of the Delaware Coastal Zone Act. 

Carper's attacks on the integrity of government aren't limited to any particular area. For example, early in his administration he signed an Executive Order giving the lawyers' union (Delaware State Bar Association) more influence over the selection of judges. In short, Carper's influence in Delaware can perhaps only be compared to that of President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. He has run Delaware's government as little more than a branch of the State Chamber of Commerce. Even if he were to leave office tomorrow it would take years for the poisonous influence of so many bad appointments to work it's way out. Columnist Georgie Anne Geyer, writing about someone else, offered a fitting description: "... a strange passivity about real action, amorality and rhetorical high-mindedness masking emptiness of principle ..." Carper is now head of the National Governors' Association. Carper's proposed successor, Lt. Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, seems likely to be even more hostile to environmental regulation than Carper.

Lest we complain too much

Consider the recent death of lawyer Louis L. Redding at the age of 96. Redding graduated from Harvard Law School in 1928 and became the first Black lawyer in Delaware in 1929. He remained the ONLY Black lawyer in Delaware until 1955. The NINTH Black lawyer in Delaware was not admitted until 1975. He was a major figure in the struggle for public school desegregation. Kym Liebler of the Wilmington News Journal wrote: "throughout most of [his] 30-year crusade to integrate Delawareâs schools, he rarely had a local lawyer on his side." Just imagine the reserves of determination and self-respect Redding must have had to carry on, basically alone, for all those years, in racist, segregated Delaware. (Many would say Delaware is still racist and segregated.)

Good news from Germany

After September elections, Germany has a new coalition government including the Greens, an avowedly environmentalist party, and the Social Democrats, lead by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. This may be the first time a "Green" party has had a major role in a national government. Both the Greens and the Social Democrats have called for the abolition of nuclear power. For many years Germany has been a leader in forward-looking environmental policies and this lead is likely to increase if the new government lives up to it's promises.

Pennsville NJ garbage incinerator officially dead

Conectiv (Atlantic Electric/Delmarva Power) officially announced their abandonment of the Pennsville New Jersey burner (intended to burn Delaware garbage), and say they aren't interested in the garbage burning business. Pennsville Deputy Mayor Bob Jack told Green Delaware the Township Committee decided the environmental risks weren't worth the claimed benefits. He said the most telling piece of information for him was that the prototype burner in Robbins, IL, had violated its air pollution permit more than seven hundred times in its first months of operation. Jack gave the Concerned Citizens of Pennsville credit for bringing forth this information.

Pennsville officials threaten Dr. Paul Connett:   Dr. Paul Connett, the world-famous incineration expert, spoke in Pennsville on April 15, 1998. Afterwards a township official called this writer asking for his address. Rather than a thank-you note, they sent him a letter accusing him of defaming township officials and demanding an apology.

New Jersey objections blacked out:   The Gannett-owned Wilmington News Journal (known to some as the "Stooge Journal") received many letters from New Jersey residents objecting to the attempt to burn Delaware garbage in their state. So far as we could determine after talking to Letters Coordinator Betty Heidelberg, all these letters were thrown out by the Journal. 

More Delaware incinerator schemes...

With the death of the Pennsville burner, and the passage of Delaware Senate Bill 98, banning garbage incineration in the Delaware Coastal Zone, some hoped that incineration schemes would dry up. Not so. At least three popped up in Delaware this summer, and they are being encouraged by Delaware officials in spite of SB98.

Edge-Moor Delaware wood burner (Provident Power):   This proposal was for a 50-megawatt waste wood burner. A principal investor in this project tells us it's been moved to Perryville, Maryland.

Pigeon Point waste wood burner (Philpower, Inc):   This 25-megawatt waste burner would also sell steam and carbon dioxide. (See Green Delaware Alert #29 for more information). Philpower representatives tell us repeatedly that the burner would be clean and green and so on, but repeated requests for actual emissions data have not been answered. A previous, defeated, wood burner project would have emitted as much "NOx" as 55,000 new cars. Philpower promoters met with DNREC officials and others of the "Development Advisory Service" on January 16, 1998. Needless to say, community members werenât notified. (Green Delaware is asking to be notified of all meetings of this group.) Philpower has a "power purchase agreement" with Delmarva Power, and has received a "Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity" from the Delaware Public Service Commission. While Senate Bill 98 clearly prohibits "incinerators" in the Coastal Zone, the term is undefined in the bill. (We anticipated this problem and proposed clarifying language, but bill sponsor Sen. Dave McBride did not choose to adopt it. In retrospect, we should probably have been more insistent on this point.) Incinerator promoters always say their projects would be "power plants," "waste to energy facilities," "energy recovery facilities," or some such thing. The Del. Solid Waste Authority incinerator at Pigeon Point, the source of so many problems, was given a Coastal Zone permit as a "steam electric power plant." Nevertheless, Carperâs Coastal Zone Act Administrator, Dennis Brown (probably one of Delawareâs weakest public officials) was recently heard on WILM radio suggesting that the proposed incinerator could get a Coastal Zone permit from his office (WILM did not call us for our views). Brown now tells us DNREC will seek an opinion from the Atty. Generals office about the definition of "incinerator." 

ACTION: Green Delaware opposes this project, which would plainly violate Senate Bill 98. Call Attorney General, Jane Brady (302.577.8400, 302.739.4211), your Senator and Representative, and the Governorâs office (302.577.3210, 302.739.4101) The message is simple: Senate Bill 98 prohibits all waste-burning facilities in the Delaware Coastal Zone, regardless of what they are called.

Chicken manure incineration?

(See Green Delaware Alert #30, for more information). More people now know, partly thanks to the Wilmington News Journal, that too much chicken waste is causing bad water pollution in Southern Delaware and nearby Virginia and Maryland. Manure disposal needs to be improved and various options are being discussed. Maryland has taken action, and the Federal EPA has proposed to take action. Delaware, per usual, has done little but run interference for the politically powerful chicken people. 

One option being heavily promoted is -- believe it or not -- incineration. Most parties, including even Fibrowatt, the British firm promoting incineration, agree that composting for use, as fertilizer is the best option. A key element in the decision, from the standpoint of the chicken people, is how best to transfer the costs to the taxpayers. Senators Roth and Biden introduced legislation to offer a 1.5-cent/kilowatt hour Federal subsidy to chicken power, and chicken people are pushing for state subsidies also. (The Federal subsidy bill died with the adjournment of Congress -- possibly our Alert had some effect on this.

Green Delaware showed up at a "private" meeting of Delmarva Poultry Industry (the industry lobby organization) in Georgetown, DE, to hear a presentation by Fibrowatt. The room was full of state officials, including DNREC Secy. Christophe Tulou, and politicians, as well as selected chicken people. I asked Rupert Fraser, from Fibrowatt, how much "NOx" (a major air pollutant) a chicken manure burner would put out. His response: "I'm the managing director, itâs not my job to know the answer to questions like that." Nobody else did either, and we still don't have the answer. William Satterfield, DPI head, then kicked us out of the meeting. We asked Phil Cherry, from the Governor's office, whether he felt comfortable attending a "private" meeting with special interests about a matter of major public concern. He said, "itâs their meeting." We later asked Secy. Tulou the same question and he said, "we do it all the time." We believe you, Christophe. State officials are planning a junket to England to see the manure burners.

Someone worth voting against?

Green Delaware people were leafleting at the Brandywine Arts Festival held near sites where the City of Wilmington, DE, dumps tens of millions of gallons per year of untreated sewage into a state park. We ran into Mike Battaglia, campaigning with family members. Battaglia, in his 20s, is the son of the head of the state Republican Party and wants to be reelected as Recorder of Deeds. We asked young Battaglia if he supported our efforts to stop the raw sewage dumping. He said his duties wouldn't include pollution control and he had no opinion. Battaglia referred us to Rep. Joe Dipinto, who represents the area and is one of Delawareâs most effective opponents of environmental protection. We wonder how smart one has to be to see a problem in rivers of raw sewage. 

Baptism in sewage?

Chaz Salkin, Director of the Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation, told us in a phone interview that he has no plans to get the sewage out of Brandywine Park--he doesn't feel it's his responsibility. He didn't seem sure about whether he would allow people to continue to be BAPTIZED in the sewage-filled Brandywine Creek. On reflection, this might be an appropriate ceremony for children being brought up in Delaware.

Public hearing on Star (now Motiva) Refinery Oct 22

Six o'clock. At the Grassdale Center near Delaware City. Should Motiva be allowed to increase its air emissions in order to produce cleaner gasoline? Motiva, until recently controlled by Texaco, is by far Delaware's worst single polluter. It legally emits about 450,000 pounds per day of health threatening air pollutants and is allowed to dump 38,000 pounds per day of oil and grease into the Delaware River. It is also Delaware's worst violator, causing hundreds of public complaints each year, and is more or less at war with state air regulators. Over the last few years Motiva has, time and again, gotten permission to increase it's emissions. At a public hearing a few months ago, refinery representatives mocked state officials, refusing to answer questions or produce experts. Div. of Air Quality Management official Ali Mirzhakalili said he was "shocked and outraged" by Motiva's behavior. Hearing Officer Rod Thompson, who has sometimes been rude to Green Delaware representatives, treated the defiant refinery officials with the deference their political power has bought them. Now, Motiva says that in order to produce "reformulated" gasoline to meet Federal clean air requirements, it needs to increase emissions yet again. This of course, is technical nonsense. It is political reality in Delaware that Motiva will get most of what it wants. We don't want to give the false impression that public hearings provide a real opportunity for the public to influence decisions, but they are a good opportunity to see how the "system" actually works. 

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

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Alan J. Muller, Exec. Director
P.O. Box 69
Port Penn, DE 19731
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This page was last updated on June 18, 2000.