Green Delaware News #27

Action Alert:  Calls and EMAILS needed to oppose--and expose--another bogus "recycling forum." See Action Alerts below.

Success: "environmental injustice" coke pile permit denied

Port Penn, DE. April 19, 1999. In News #26 we asked for help in persuading State of Delaware regulators to deny a permit for a giant pile of coke waste in a cluster of neighborhoods. Green Delaware has received a letter stating that the permit has in fact been denied. Sincere thanks to all who responded to this plea for action. While our work was not the only factor in the permit denial we think it was important and possibly decisive. However, environmental injustice is far from dead in Delaware. Keep reading.

A Delaware-style "public forum"

Green Delaware promotes recycling and opposes incineration and other unsound waste management practices. In April 1998 a "waste symposium" was held at the University of Delaware under the sponsorship of the University (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering), the Dept of Natural Resources and the Delaware Solid Waste Authority.

The public was not allowed to speak. People from communities near waste facilities were not invited nor on the program. The views of "those people" were "irrelevant." This writer was followed around by University Police, who demanded to search his bag and threatened that he would be "incarcerated" if he displayed a banner, wore a mask, or in any way attempted to participate in the program. (University of Delaware president David Roselle later wrote us suggesting the University though we were carrying bombs.) The moderator of the meeting, Professor Ron Mersky of Wiedner University, opened the proceedings by saying he didn't believe in or practice recycling. He later boasted about having chaired the committee responsible for siting the infamous garbage burner in Chester City PA. He was heard to comment that the location was appropriate because poor people live in Chester. The meeting was organized by Shipley Associates, an advertising firm owned by Sam Shipley, former head of the Delaware Democratic Party.

All this may sound like a bad joke, but it's the way public business is done in Delaware. The members of Delaware's "official" "environmental community" accept and even participate in harassment of independent organizations. The press, with few exceptions, won't report about it. Life is interesting here. As usual we are asking our friends for help:

Action Alert:  Calls and EMAILS needed to oppose-and expose--another bogus "recycling forum."

Another bogus "forum," in the same place and with the same cast of characters, is to take place on April 21st. Governor Tom Carper of Delaware is the keynote speaker. Please call or email Governor Carper (302.577-3210, ssnyder@state.de.us), and David Roselle, President of the University of Delaware (302.831-2111, roselle@udel.edu) Tell them the University and the State shouldn't sponsor or participate in a forum at which the public is not allowed to speak, and from which the people most directly effected are excluded. Tell Carper that N.C. Vasuki, C.E.O. of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, must go. See the article below for more information.

Protest planned for morning of April 21st.

Members and friends of Green Delaware will vigil outside of Clayton Hall at the University of Delaware at 7:30 am on April 21st. The message is simple: concerned people should not participate in such insulting and bogus events. Delaware needs sensible and sustainable waste management. Please join us if you are able.


Misguided Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA) Embarrasses State, Harms Communities, Mismanages Our Trash.

By Alan Muller

Earth Week is a good time to think about recycling. Many readers already know that Delaware basically doesn't recycle (around 2-15 percent, depending on who's counting. The "Recycle Delaware"drop off centers will never get the job done, and DSWA knows this.). Many don't know just how the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA) avoids recycling and even harasses people who advocate it. The story of the DSWA is one of arrogant disregard for public opinion and common sense. As you read these examples, remember that the real problem lies with the Governors(s) who has appointed so many misguided and unqualified people to the Authority.

A DSWA Board of Directors Meeting

On March 2, 1998, a room full of people, many from New Jersey, attended a meeting of the Board of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA). They were worried about the DSWA's scheme: to burn Delaware garbage in Pennsville, NJ, just across the river from the failed garbage incinerator near Pigeon Point (New Castle), DE (Connectiv [Delaware's main electric utility] was also a party to this scheme.) Here is how the Board reacted:

They refused to hear from the public until AFTER voting on all the items on their agenda. Chair Richard Pryor, a former head of Catholic Charities, said comments should have been made at a meeting the week before in another county. The board then set a three minute limit to public comments. After objections, Pryor said the limit was aimed at a specific person, not the visitors from New Jersey. The board adjourned before seven o'clock, while people still had hands up asking to comment. Sharon Findlayson, Chair of the New Jersey Environmental Federation, tried to comment on behalf of the ninety thousand members of her organization. Findlayson has been to hundreds of public meetings and said she had never seen one run with such contempt for the public.

Board members denied any special interest in the NJ incinerator. Then, they admitted paying for nine staff and board members to attend a two day promotional meeting about it at a resort in Cape May. (I also attended.) They claimed to have a "fiduciary responsibility" to send garbage to the cheapest incinerator, although they say they won't use cheaper out-of-state LANDFILLs for environmental reasons. They blamed Green Delaware and others for the expensive, polluting failures of their incineration and composting projects. For instance, Pryor admitted that operations at Pigeon Point had "stunk people out of their homes," but blamed the community itself.

DSWA organizes a "Waste Forum"

On April 15, 1998, the DSWA held a "Waste Symposium," co-sponsored by the University of Delaware and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. No members of the communities directly effected by DSWA facilities and decisions were invited, and the event was structured to prevent public participation-all questions were screened. (Green Delaware wrote to the sponsors before the meeting, asking that communities be included. All refused, saying the views of "those people" were "not relevant.") The forum "moderator," Professor Ron Mersky of Wiedner University, began by saying he didn't believe in recycling and doesn't do it himself. He later boasted of having chaired the committee responsible for siting a giant garbage incinerator in Chester City, PA, contributing to a public health disaster in that city. (The DSWA has sent hundreds of thousands of tons of trash to Chester without inquiring into the effects on the community, or even seeking an environmental audit of the facility.) At the meeting, University of Delaware police followed this writer around, demanding to search my bag and threatening that I could be "incarcerated" if I attempted to participate in the meeting. An out-of-state visitor commented " In New Jersey, the public would have been allowed to speak."

Another bogus "waste forum," with the same cast of characters, is scheduled for April 21, 1999 at Clayton Hall in Newark, DE.

DSWA Censors "Public Comment"

On Nov. 19, 1998, the DSWA held a "workshop" to "take public comment" on revisions to its plans. I testified that no DSWA Board members represent communities impacted by DSWA facilities, and that some have conflicts of interest. Tom Houska, DSWA planning manager, said he would not allow this testimony and told the court reporter to stop recording. N.C. Vasuki, CEO of the DSWA, later defended Houska's actions, claiming such testimony was "personal and abusive."

Misinforming our Kids

For many years DSWA has pumped out misleading information. Thousands of school children have been given the impression that the maximum feasible recycling is already being done in Delaware and that incinerators aren't a health hazard. People are told that trash is "converted into electricity," although a moment's thought indicates that only nuclear reactions could begin to do this.

Delaware Can Do Better

These aren't just the antics of amusing cranks: the DSWA does real harm to peoples' health, pocketbooks, and quality of life. In 1997 a large delegation from Chester PA, where New Castle County garbage is burned, came to Wilmington to protest Delaware's contribution to their health problems. (Children have high blood levels, all ages have many respiratory problems, and so on.) They stuffed Gov. Carper's Wilmington office with green bags to show their appreciation for our contribution to their problems. After Salem County NJ banned the Pennsville incinerator (Delaware and New Jersey activists worked hard together on this) the DSWA began threatening to rebuild the one at Pigeon Point. Busy people then had to give time and energy to pass Senate Bill 98, banning incineration in Delaware's Coastal Zone. "It will never end with Vasuki at the helm.."

The DSWA cries out for reform: Scandal and absurdity will prevail until people with better judgement manage Delaware's garbage. The trash industry is "deregulating" following a Supreme Court decision that killed the DSWA's monopoly on handling Delaware municipal waste. In this new situation, the one obvious remaining role for the DSWA is to organize and support curbside recycling programs throughout Delaware. This seems to be the one think that Mr. Pryor and Mr. Vasuki refuse to do. They should be removed, and Delaware law should be changed to set mandatory, progressive goals for waste reduction and recycling, and to ban garbage incineration throughout the state. A recycling-oriented Solid Waste Authority could help Delaware build a sustainable future. Let your leaders know you want real recycling for a healthy future.

This is a Green Delaware newsletter, edited by Alan Muller. Responses, contributions, and letters are welcome (though publication is not guaranteed.) To get on or off our distribution list send email. To help: make a call, write a letter, join us, send money......

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 May 2, 1999.