Green Delaware News #26

Action Alert:  DNREC proposes to deny environmental injustice permit. Calls and EMAILS needed to support this decision.

Port Penn, DE. March 16, 1999. In News #25 we reported on the proposal by Port Contractors, Inc. (PCI), a contractor for Motiva oil refinery (owned by Shell, Texaco, and Saudi-Aramco) to store 140,000 tons of petroleum coke waste in a pile near a group of neighborhoods south of Wilmington, DE. This proposal is a result of a Motiva project funded with tax-exempt bonds issued by an arm of the Del. Economic Div. Office (DEDO). The Director of DEDO, Darrell J. Minott, didn't much want to talk to us much about DEDO's responsibility for funding an environmental injustice.

Unusually, DNREC staff have recommended that a permit be denied. The following is from Hearing Officer Steven Karlson's report to Mary McKenzie, Acting Secretary of DNREC: "The public hearing was attended by over 150 citizens, including representatives from local businesses as well as elected officials.... Twenty-two attendees offered comments opposing this project...residents from neighboring communities were concerned that fugitive dust emissions...would adversely impact the health and quality of life of residents.... Local business representatives were concerned that the proposed coke storage pile would adversely impact their businesses.... State Rep. Arthur Scott was concerned that more air permits have been issued in this geographical area that anywhere else in the state....[The DNREC Div. of Air Quality Management] identified several issues in the ...[application] that were not supported by meaningful engineering analysis.... On cross-examination by Green Delaware, PCI was specifically asked whether it could testify that petroleum coke does not pose a health hazard to the community... PCI's expert regarding health effects specifically answered this question in the negative...it is AQM's past experience that handling of petroleum coke from past operations at the Port of Wilmington results in numerous citizen complaints.... PCI has failed to meet its burden of proof....the Hearing Officer strongly recommends that the Secretary deny PCI's application...." The Secretary of DNREC must now make a decision.

Please send comments to Mary McKenzie, Acting Secretary, at MMCKENZIE@state.de.us, or call her at 302.739.4403. Ask her to sign the draft order denying the application. Comments are due by the end of Monday, March 22. Please also send an email to Governor Carper of Delaware (ssnyder@state.de.us) saying the PCI permit should be denied.

Electric deregulation-the nightmare returns

Last year we reported on a "nightmare electricity deregulation bill" that disregarded the economic and environmental consequences of electricity generation. The bill, back as House Bill 10, has been passed by the Delaware House of Reps. (22-0, with 11 declaring a conflict of interest) and may be passed by the Senate on March 25th. This time around the bill has a few more protections for ratepayers but remains a disaster in other respects. What's at stake? Around a billion dollars/year of electricity is sold in Delaware, and the generation of this power is a major source of avoidable health and environmental damage. (Connectiv, Delaware's main utility, dumps about 120 million pounds per year of health-threatening air pollutants into Delaware air.) The section "Standards for Electric Utility Restructuring," doesn't even mention health and environment and the sole relevant provision is the establishment of an $800.000/year "environmental incentive fund" (to be administered by the Development Office, that most anti-environment of all state agencies). Sen. Harris McDowell, Chair of the Senate Energy and Transit Comm. and prime sponsor of HB10, told us he agrees the bill has many shortcomings and agrees with most of Green Delaware's suggestions for improvements. Whether our proposals will be considered seriously remains to be seen. ACTION: Call your senator and ask that HB 10 not be passed at this time.

Delaware's future?

What will the next century look like for the world or for Delaware's little 1.2 million acre piece of it? Plenty of information is available about what the future may look like. Two excellent sources are the

Worldwatch Institute at 1776 Massachusetts Ave NW ,Washington, DC 20036, 202-452-1999, worldwatch@worldwatch.org; or check out their website at http:\\www.worldwatch.org.

Environmental Research Foundation at P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403, erf@rachel.org; or check their website at http://www.rachel.org. We can highly recommend RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY from ERF. Email subscriptions are available.)

The news isn't good. Projecting present trends of population growth, depletion of natural resources (such as water, and topsoil needed for growing food), accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, accumulation of persistent toxic materials throughout our food chain, decline of genetic diversity through species extinction, paving of the landscape, and so on, we are looking at planet-wide disaster. On the other hand, some point to previous forecasts of disaster (such as Malthus'19th century predictions of famine, or the many forecasts through this century of "running out of oil") and suppose all this is just more "crying wolf." Technology will always bail us out. Doubtful.

The decline of many previous civilizations (such as the Maya of Central America, and those of Mesopotamia (the valley of the Tigris-Euphrates) was associated with pollution, over-population and depletion of natural resources.. It's pure arrogance to think we are exempt. Previous human-caused declines were regional in nature. New societies could arise elsewhere. Now, humans are degrading the whole planet, and the recovery time could be too long to be of much interest to our species.

How do Delaware and our region fit into the picture? We are subject to all the usual pressures of growth and development, amplified by our location in the "Northeast Corridor" and on the Atlantic Coast (population in the US generally is shifting towards coastal areas). Any resident can see that we are losing our farms and our wetlands and that out quality of life is declining due to congestion. As a low-lying coastal state Delaware is especially vulnerable to the effects of global climate change, as are many of our industries such as farming and tourism. Delaware is not a healthy place to live, with high rates of cancer death, asthma, and other pollution-related diseases. Given this picture, we should be giving high priority to stabilizing our population, protecting our natural resources, and improving out health. (We should of course be concerned to maintain economic prosperity and to distribute that prosperity more equally.) In other words, what Delaware needs is not "growth" but "sustainability."

We are doing the opposite: Our political system, press, and "environmental community," are almost entirely in the hands of commercial interests wanting growth at any cost. They get their way. Some examples:

Governor Thomas Carper, the State Chamber of Commerce, organized labor, and others are trying to bring the semi-conductor industry to Delaware, and to locate it in areas, such as southern New Castle County, already unable to handle present growth. This industry is notorious for causing environmental problems, and a present example of it in Delaware-Rodel, Inc-has a record of emitting dangerous air pollutants in violation of our own weak regulations.

Various interests-including, seemingly, the Delaware Audubon Society-are promoting incineration to dispose of chicken manure. Even Rupert Fraser, head of Fibrowatt, purveyors of the technology, admits that composting is a better alternative. The most modern Fibrowatt plant, in Thetford, England, is allowed to put 5.7 million pounds per year of health-threatening air pollutants up a 360 foot smokestack. (Look for a separate piece from Green Delaware on poop incineration.)

Endless efforts go on to get more funding to build more roads to support more development to create more traffic to create more demand to build more roads (go back to beginning). DELDOT officials indicated to Green Delaware that capital funds for transportation in Delaware have increased around ten percent, to a total for FY 1999 of about $247 million. They were not able to tell us how much of that was for non-road-building or "transit" improvements, but the Federal share for transit is about 5 million against 103 million for road building. If this continues, eventually much of all the land in Delaware will be under pavement.

A few bright spots

After many years of delays and excuses, rail passenger service was finally restored to Newark, DE. Ridership almost immediately exceeded projections by 50 percent. Hopefully this will lead to further restoration of rail service in Delaware. Delaware also began to develop "Total Maximum Daily Loads" of pollutants for waterways. This means making a determination of how much pollutants can be tolerated in a waterway without exceeding "water quality standards." (By these (weak) standards more than 80 percent of Delaware's waters are polluted.) This process, supposed to have been done many years ago, could (but will not necessarily) lead to progress in cleaning up our waters. Some parcels of Delaware's most valuable lands are being preserved through the Open Space program of DNREC and the efforts of private organizations like Delaware Wild Lands.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC):  Good with the bad

We have reported many horrible examples of how this agency has worked during the administration of Gov. Tom Carper, and have mentioned offenders by name, including former Water Resources director Jerry Esposito and Hearing Officer Rod Thompson. This might give the impression that nobody in DNREC is any good or that Green Delaware has a horrible relationship with all of DNREC. Not so. Most--not all--DNREC people are at least reasonably polite and cooperative. DNREC has hacks and time-servers, but also people who do outstanding work and would be a credit to any organization. Some could rather easily get higher-paying jobs with private industry, selling out their regulatory experience to firms wanting the loosest permits.

A few impressive people we have come in contact with (there are many more): Lee Randolph, after a career in the chemical industry, worked for DNREC's Division of Air Quality Management before retiring in 1998. Lee, who managed a group before retiring, was well respected for his leadership abilities and was always willing to share with us his extensive knowledge of the oil refining business. Rick Green of Water Resources has spearheaded studies demonstrating toxic contamination of fish in Delaware waters and advocated for official "advisories" urging people not to endanger their health by eating such fish. He was a leader of a recent study showing that PCB's, a persistent toxic pollutant, are still entering our rivers in harmful amounts. Ravi Rangan, of the Div. Of Air Quality Management, is assigned full time to Motiva (formerly Star) refinery. Motiva is Delaware's largest industrial polluter (putting out 450,000 pounds per day of air pollutants alone) and is often uncooperative with DNREC. Motiva has around 75 permits, many of which it violates routinely. Rangan has effectively focused his considerable energy and technical smarts on Motiva, and nearby residents have seen some improvements. (Rangan's spouse, Rashmi, has also earned wide respect for her work as a watchdog of the community reinvestment responsibilities of Delaware's banking industry). We have enjoyed working with Ron Vickers, Cara Blume, Mike Miller, and others of the Division of Parks and Recreation (Green Delaware's office is located in a historic building preserved will help from DNREC.).

Nicholas A. DiPasquale to become Secretary of DNREC

Nick DiPasquale, director of the Division of Air and Waste Management, has been nominated by Governor Carper to replace the resigned and unlamented Christophe Tulou. Green Delaware has had many encounters with Nick DiPasquale, and sees him as a mixed bag. He has often made a real effort, at least by Delaware standards, to enforce regulations. On the other hand he has been involved in numerous sellouts of environmental concerns, such as the "performance partnership" agreements with the US Environmental Protection Agency which have resulted in the Federal environmental agency further neglecting its responsibilities in Delaware. The disgraceful Site Investigations and Remediation Branch ("state superfund") has been under his charge. DiPasquale and his staff connived with the Delaware Solid Waste Authority to put on a "forum" at which public participation was forbidden and Green Delaware was harassed by University of Delaware police. Other candidates reportedly included John Wik, who is closely tied to the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, Delaware's most effective anti-environment lobby; John Hughes, head of DNREC's in-house dredging company; and Vince Deanna, whose talents include chewing gum. On balance, DiPasquale seemed the best of the lot.. We wish him well and hope he will grow in his job.

Lobotomedia: Brandywine Valley Weekly shut down by Gannett

In News #24 we wrote about the BVW, calling it "A Bright Spot in the Grim World of Delaware Journalism," reported that Gannett had bought it, and worried about its fate. Gannett promptly shut it down, laying off the staff with little notice. Responding to our inquiry, News Journal Marketing Dept. spokesperson Joni Silversteen indicated Gannett really bought Community Publishing to get the Shopper's Guide and Auto Plus. In a November 19, 1998 article, Philadelphia City Paper writer Frank Lewis quoted Curtis Riddle, publisher of the Gannett-owned Wilmington News Journal: "We didn't buy it to close it...Editorially I think it's a very good publication ... but if it doesn't pay its way, I can't afford to have it on the streets just because it looks good and it reads well." Funny how it paid it's way until Gannett bought it. In a telephone interview with Green Delaware Riddle said " I have no idea whether the shutdown of the BVW reduced the diversity of media in this market." He didn't want to comment on whether Gannett felt a responsibility to consider this. RIP.

Lobotomedia: Bad News

At a March 17th hearing on electric deregulation the only independent voices were two representatives from Green Delaware. Afterwards only WILM radio interviewed us. The "Stooge" Journal, WDEL radio, and others were content to interview officeholders and utility people. Ignoring independent voices is common procedure in Delaware and goes a long way to keep the public in the dark. Many former Delaware journalists and politicos flack for Connectiv.

Upcoming events

Saturday, March 27th, 1-3 PM. Big "Unplug Salem" Campaign Rally to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Three Mile Island accident that began the decline of nuclear power in the United States. The Salem I and II plants on Artificial Island are among the most expensive and unsafe in the world and have recently had problems similar to those which, as part of a chain of events, led to "three mile island." There will be speakers, including some from Green Delaware.

There will be music. Put it on your calendar! For info or directions contact norco@bellatlantic.net, 609-886-8667, or contact Green Delaware.

Monday, March 29, 7-9 PM. Deepening the Delaware: Projected Effects on Regional Ports and the Delaware River and Bay Environments. The George Read School, 318 Basin Road, New Castle, DE. This meeting has been organized by the "Dump the Delaware River Deepening" coalition, in response to a proposal to deepen the shipping channel of the Delaware River from 40 to 45 feet. (Green Delaware isn't part of this coalition, but we have looked into the matter-article on the way-and agree that deepening the river isn't a good idea.)

Coming soon:   Various incinerator scams in the region. DNREC plans to ignore law, permit an incinerator in the Coastal Zone. Paranoia (maybe) in the Sierra Club. More on electric dereg. Dredging the Delaware River deeper. MBNA censors Earth Day. Initiative and Referendum. "How Civic is the League," More Lobotomedia.....

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

Let us know what you think.

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

This page was last updated on March 28, 1999.