Green Delaware News #24

Port Penn, DE. November 2, 1998. We want to thank readers for the many encouraging words about Green Delaware News. We see we are being read beyond Delaware and nearby states, and will try to include enough context for our stuff to make sense without local knowledge. Our agenda in belaboring our readers is up-front: If you find our information interesting or compelling:  We want YOU (>>YOU<<) to DO SOMETHING with it. Send an email, or make a phone call, to a politician. Send a letter to the editor. Call up a radio talk show. Forward our stuff to friends. If you support or belong to the organizations we write about, let then know of your concerns. Act. (We apologize for some of the strange formatting email readers have apparently seen. Different computer systems do different things with text. We are working on it. (Feedback and suggestions appreciated.)

Freedom of speech in the First State:
University of Delaware arrests Green Delaware

On Saturday, October 31st, the University of Delaware had a home football game. Gathered in front of the stadium entrance were people taking advantage of the crowd to promote their causes. Auditor Tom Wagner, Attorney General M. Jane Brady, and Recorder of Deeds Mike Battaglia were handing out materials, trying to get re-elected. Other candidates such as Jack Markell, candidate for state Treasurer, were trying to get elected for the first time. Two Green Delaware reps were there too, chatting with the pols and offering their own message: "Stop Dumping of Raw Sewage by City of Wilmington...." The atmosphere was pleasant. A campaign worker for long-time U.S. Representative Mike Castle stuck a "Castle for Congress" sticker on our "Wilmington Poops in River" sign (we took it off, Castle's not so good on our issues.). 

Gary R. Summerville, Associate Director of "Public Safety" for the University of Delaware, approached this writer in a loud and hostile manner, demanded we leave, and then had him searched and arrested for Criminal Trespass. (The University of Delaware has a long history of civil rights, freedom of expression, and labor law violations against students, faculty, employees, and visitors. The tentacles of the University are so pervasive among Delaware's bar, judiciary, and political establishment that it often seems above the law.) We were amused (if that is the proper term) at the sight of Attorney General Jane Brady, Delaware's chief legal officer, watching contentedly as a citizen was arrested for doing what she and her people were doing. Tom Wagner, Auditor, later said "If I can stand there and hand out material, why can't you?" "I don't understand their logic." Univ. of Delaware Vice President for Administration Maxine Colm said the University Athletics Department "works with" politicians, who are given blanket permission to campaign at the stadium. In defense of the action against Green Delaware, she cited an instance in which a union attempting to distribute materials was driven away. This made us feel better. Asked for details, Colm hung up. (We expect Delaware's media to black out this event.)

ACTION: Call David Roselle, President of the University of Delaware, 302.831.2111, or send email to roselle@udel.edu. Tell him how you feel about a university that suppresses free speech, and how much financial support such a university deserves.

Election Day in Delaware

Commentators have long noted that Delaware's political system avoids contested elections, discussion of issues, or other annoying manifestations of democracy. Peddlers of these subversive concepts may be ignored, ridiculed or arrested. 

The following information was taken largely from a "Voters Guide" published by our good friends at the Wilmington News Journal, owned by Gannett. Of 79 elected positions to be filled in Delaware. 43 are contested, while 36 (46 percent) are uncontested. Of the "contested" elections, five incumbents are opposed only by candidates from the Libertarian or Natural Law parties. These people, whatever their merits, probably have no chance of victory. This leaves 42 races (53%) practically uncontested. Many of the remaining races involve entrenched incumbents who almost always win in Delaware.

Why do Delaware incumbents almost always win?

An example of one class of reason is the "Suburban Street Fund Program," in which each state legislator doles out $300,000 per year for road repairs and improvements at his or her own discretion. Dept. of Transportation "Legislative Project Manager" Glen Stevenson told us citizens not in personal favor with their politicians do have other ways to get services, but "it takes longer." In little Delaware, with about 300,000 potential voters (most don't bother) people tend to know politicians personally and react to personalities rather than issues. Delaware's press helps candidates avoid issues and tends to ignore those who try to raise them. For example, here is the Voters Guide "Where he stands" section for Representative Joe DiPinto: "Believes in his longevity and track record in the General Assembly." DiPinto's opponent, Jacqueline Kossoff of the Natural Law Party, "Supports prevention-oriented government through conflict-free politics." Delaware citizen organizations seldom try to tell their members about what officeholders have actually done (Planned Parenthood in an exception), so candidates don't have to run on their records.

So, maybe we should not be surprised that the current crop of candidates is saying little that is meaningful about controlling runaway "development," curbing pollution, or protecting the Coastal Zone. Nor, for that matter, are they talking about health care reform, economic justice, or any of the issues truly confronting Delaware in 1998.

A few comments on a few candidates

Atty. General M. Jane Brady did not get back to us with her positions on enforcement of environmental laws. She does seem to follow the Carper Administration/Industry line that such laws are best left unenforced. On the other hand, she promised the death penalty for two teenagers who killed their baby, refuses to sue the tobacco industry (Delaware public health officials blame smoking for the state's high cancer rate) and doesn't support prison anti-drug programs (Delaware has one of the worlds highest incarceration rates, mostly due to "drugs."). Brady's opponent, John Dorsey, didn't respond to our calls and has said nothing about enforcing environmental laws. Still, he says he supports action against the tobacco industry and supports drug prevention programs. From a policy point of view, he could hardly be a worse choice than Brady.

Kim Bemis is the Natural Law candidate for US Congress. A Green Delaware Steering Comm. member who heard a debate among the candidates found Bemis by far the most thoughtful.

Senator Donna Reed is running against challenger Tony DeLuca in the 11th Senate District. Reed twice voted against banning garbage incineration in the Coastal Zone, although her constituents would be directly threatened. DeLuca is a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Such construction trades unions have been strong promoters of incinerators and other environmentally harmful projects, which nonetheless create work for their members.

In Pennsville, New Jersey

Jim Meranti, Candidate for Pennsville Township Committee, was a leader in the fight against the building of a giant garbage incinerator in the middle of Pennsville, intended to burn Delaware garbage. His opponent was a leader of the effort to bring in the incinerator. The township committee has also sought to bring a NUCLEAR WASTE DUMP to Pennsville. We think some new leadership would benefit Pennsville and wish Jim well on Election Day. 

A bright spot in the grim world of Delaware journalism

The BRANDYWINE VALLEY WEEKLY is a fifteen-month-old freebie weekly serving Northern Delaware and nearby counties in Pennsylvania. Managing Editor James Zeleniak and staff have consistently run interesting and stimulating articles, including some bearing on Green Delaware concerns such as recycling. The BVW has been bought by the Gannett chain, owner of the Wilmington News Journal and often regarded as a sort of Evil Empire of US journalism. BVW Publisher Rich Ritacco said not to worry: "They have left us very much on our own....I see no [editorial] influence at all . . . they have been very supportive in every way." 

Fire safety flaws at Salem nuclear plants

The Salem I and II nuclear plants on the New Jersey side of the Delaware River have consistently been ranked as among the most troubled and unsafe nukes in the US. Most of the people living within ten miles of Salem, and thus most directly threatened, are in Delaware. With the unfortunate suburban sprawl engulfing Delaware, this proportion is surely increasing. Green Delaware belongs to the "Unplug Salem" coalition, which seeks to persuade local governments and others not to buy nuclear electricity, with the long-term goal of shutting down the Salem plants. Here is an example of why (this information is slightly adapted from an email from Norman Cohen, Unplug Salem leader): 

About a month ago, Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G), owners of Salem, announced they had "discovered" that the firewrap insulation on their safe shutdown cables at both Salem I and II did not meet Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) specs. In fact, the wraps, which were supposed to protect the cables from fire for at least 1 hour without sprinklers and smoke detectors, and were rated by the manufacturer at 3 hours, lasted less than 5 minutes. If safe shutdown cables burn, the nuke plants can only be manually shutdown in case of a fire emergency. The worst fire at a US nuke plant, in 1975, at Browns Ferry, Ala, caused 13 deaths and 100 million in damages.

PSE&G voluntarily instituted 24 hour round the clock roving firewatches, human beings who walk up and down these cables looking for fires. On September 23rd, at NRC HQ in Rockville, Maryland, NRC OK'd the firewatches and gave PSE&G until 2002 to fix the problem. This is another fire safety hazard on top of through-wall fire seals that CATCH FIRE; and cable separation problems (cables too close together, violating fire codes and eliminating redundancy).

Most troubling is the appearance of cover-up. PSE&G's spokesperson, Patricia Dubois, quoted in the Wilmington news Journal, said that PSE&G "found" the inadequate firewrap on routine inspection. PSE&G installed the wraps in 1981. How could they "lose" them until 1998? 

Both Salem plants recently restarted after long shutdowns. The owners and the NRC repeatedly claimed at those times that the plants' admittedly numerous problems had been corrected. 

If you or your organization would like to join Unplug Salem, please contact Norm Cohen at norco@bellatlantic.net, or Green Delaware at Greendel@dca.net.

Delaware public hearings become a farce

Notes from an October 22nd public hearing on an increased-pollution permit for Motiva refinery (Motiva, formerly Star, is a venture of Texaco, Shell, and the Saudi Arabian government. The refinery belches out about 450,000 pounds per day of air pollutants.):

The first ninety minutes consisted of interchanges between Motiva and state officials, in which the public was not allowed to participate. Much of this discussion involved fine points, and even typographical errors in the application. Hearing Officer Rod Thompson then allowed public questioning of the parties, and Green Delaware tried to ask questions. Thompson immediately began interrupting. He objected to our question (asked for clarification) about just what legal issues the hearing had been called to resolve. He ruled inadmissable our question about the total emissions of Motiva (asked to put the proposed increase in refinery emissions in context). He objected to other questions and said we "always" try to broaden the discussion at public hearings and that he did not intend to allow it. (We typically DO try to put a permit in context, and Thompson typically tries to limit the scope to narrow issues not easily understood.) After about five minutes, we gave up trying to participate in the "public hearing." During the last several years Thompson has shown an increasing bias in favor of polluters and hostility towards the public. Appeals to Thompson and his bosses have proven futile. We have reluctantly concluded that he is unfit for the job of Hearing Officer.

ACTION: Call Governor Carper of Delaware (302.577.3210) or send an email to ssnyder@state.de.us. Say the Dept. of Natural Resources needs a different Hearing Officer.

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

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Alan J. Muller, Coordinator
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Port Penn, DE 19731
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This page was last updated on March 28, 1999.