Green Delaware News #35

    The important month of June:
     Come to Dover on June 5th
    House Bill 195–ban on raw sewage dumping
    “WHYY pay more”–oppose the $618,000 giveaway
    House Bill 39 and the future of Sussex County
     Is Muller or the City of Wilmington the criminal?
    Is the water at Delaware’s beaches healthy?
      Delaware River dredging “workshop”– should DNREC be there?
    Media:  John Rago and the revolving door

    The coming month.....

    June is a crucial time for legislation–only about 13 “legislative days” 
    remain before the 141st General Assembly adjourns on June 30th, and the 
    General Assembly is somewhat distracted by reapportionment–which happens 
    only every ten years..  Of course, Green Delaware’s main priority is HB 
    195, to stop raw sewage dumping.  Volunteers have donated hundreds of hours 
    over a period of several years handing out flyers, taking pictures, 
    researching obscure files, questioning officials, and otherwise laying the 
    groundwork for HB 195.  Now, they need your help.  Please call and email 
    your legislators, send a letter to the editor, call a radio talk show, come 
    to Dover  But many other bills, if passed, could improve life in Delaware 
    and provide some small protection to our threatened environment.  One of 
    these is HB 39, below..  Green Delaware will be sending out a higher than 
    usual volume of emails in June.  Please bear with us and do what you can.......

    Tuesday, June 5th:  three reasons to come to Legislative Hall in Dover 
    .....Let them know where YOU stand!

    •         Support House Bill 195, to stop raw sewage dumping in Delaware;
    •         Oppose a $618,000 taxpayer giveaway to WHYY;
    •         Support House bill 39, to protect Eastern Sussex County.

    Your presence any time can be helpful.  Volunteers will gather with signs 
    around 1:00 to give a message about the sewers.  WHYY is having a reception 
    at 4:00 or so to lobby legislators.  We’ll be there at 3:30 or so with our 
    own message.   Call Green Delaware for more information.
    HB 195–banning raw sewage dumping.   Where do “they” stand?

    HB 195 has strong support among legislators and the public.  It’s opposed 
    by the City of Wilmington and (behind the scenes) by Delaware regulators 
    (DNREC), and by the US Environmental Protection Agency.   Gov.  Minner is 
    taking no public position.  Wilmington’s position is easy to see: The City 
    operates its water and sewer systems as “cash cows,” taking money out for 
    other purposes and refusing to invest in improvements.  This will go on as 
    long as the City can get away with it.

    The negative attitude of environmental regulators might seem more 
    puzzling.  Why would those charged with cleaning up our environment oppose 
    a bill that would help do that?  Consider: The Clean Water Act is in the 
    hands of those same regulators.  By the its terms, our waters were to have 
    been “fishable and swimmable” many years ago.  Obviously, they are not, 
    because regulators have not been able to carry out their responsibilities.  
    Sad to say, their main activity often seems to be issuing permits for 
    continuing pollution.  Certainly this is true of  DNREC’s Surface Water 
    discharges Section, probably the worst regulatory body Green Delaware 
    has ever encountered.  In fairness, we suppose that a secret poll of all 
    DNREC staff would show overwhelming support for HB 195.  
    The problem lies with upper management, who are political appointees 
    reporting to Governor Minner, and are also influenced by the General 
    Assembly.   The League of Women Voters of Delaware is supporting HB 195.

    “WHYY pay more?”  opposing the $618,000 giveaway

    WHYY Channel 12 TV is licensed “to” Wilmington, DE.  WHYY FM is licensed 
    “to” Philadelphia, PA.  Revelations of the high salaries paid to WHYY top 
    managers, their lack of responsiveness to Delaware needs, and their 
    servility to corporate/development interests, have produced a strong 
    response.  But, “deregulation” of the telecommunications industry over the 
    last 20 years has gradually eliminated many of the former legal 
    requirements for fairness and community service.  The opportunity to object 
    to taxpayer funding of WHYY is one of the few real opportunities citizens 
    have to influence WHYY.   If you are concerned about this (1) contact 
    legislators and Gov.  Minner (gminner@state.de.us), and (2) come to Dover 
    for the WHYY “reception” on June 5th.  WHYY has one annual board meeting in 
    Delaware.  This year’s is on June 12 at 8:00 am (!) at the WHYY studios at 
    625 Orange Street.  ACTION: Try to be there!

    House Bill 39 and the future of Eastern Sussex County

    This bill would set up some rather mild planning requirements for big 
    developments, in the most rapidly growing and perhaps most ecologically 
    vulnerable part of Delaware.  See previous Alerts and News for details.  As 
    is usual for any bill that would constrain “development” in any way, 
    opposition is harsh and unscrupulous.  The lead sponsor, Rep.  Shirley 
    Price, has been taking a lot of heat.  The bill is scheduled to be debated 
    and voted on in the house next Tuesday, June 5, at 4  p.m., although this 
    could change.  Here are some excerpts of an email that came out way, 
    apparently from the “Positive Growth Alliance:”  “HB 39 is a serious threat 
    to our freedoms and free enterprise ... If this bill passes, IT WILL CREATE 
    A BUREAUCRATIC NIGHTMARE. It is a dagger in the heart of our free 
    enterprise system, destroys the concept of local  government control 
    (replacing it with state control), and will destroy property rights and the 
    economy of Sussex County.  On Tuesday, June 5, we have chartered a bus to 
    go Legislative Hall to lobby against HB 39. We will leave at noon from the 
    K-Mart parking lot on Route One between Lewes and Rehoboth. We are making 
    this trip on an emergency basis because right now HB 39 looks like a 
    serious threat to pass the House....”  Green Delaware has testified in 
    favor of this bill two years in a row.  It deserves the support of every 
    Delawarean who cares about the future of our state.  Please let YOUR 
    legislator know you support HB39.

    Arrest News–is Muller the criminal, or City of Wilmington?

    Many people have asked for news about the arrest of Green Delaware 
    Executive Director Alan Muller for stenciling “danger raw sewage” on 
    Wilmington’s Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO)  #26 in Brandywine (State) 
    Park.  Two highly competent lawyers, David Finger and Dirk Durstein, have 
    given pro-bono assistance.  Finger came down to the police station to 
    advise us after the arrest, and Durstein will represent us in court.  Trial 
    is scheduled for June 27th at 1:30 p.m. in Justice of the Peace Court #20 
    in Wilmington, but this could be rescheduled.  Facts: the City of 
    Wilmington is required by EPA guidelines to label its sewer overflows, but 
    hasn’t done so, and show’s no sign doing it.  DNREC’s Peder Hansen says 
    DNREC considers the City to be “in compliance” but admitted DNREC had never 
    inspected the CSOs.  DNREC videotaped the stenciling but has refused a 
    Freedom of Information Act request for the tapes.  Mayor James Baker of 
    Wilmington can be contacted at 302.571.4160, pbrooks@ci.wilmington.de.us.

    Are Delaware beaches healthy?  Opinions vary...

    Port Penn, DE, May 28, 2001.  Bruce Schimmel of radio station WSCL 
    (www.citypaper.net/bruce/–readers equipped to download and play MP3 files 
    can listen to Schimmel’s story.), and the Surfrider Foundation 
    (www.surfrider.org/stateofthebeach/main_pages.htm) have raised doubts.  A 
    Delaware’s standard for the amount of enterococcus bacteria allowed in the 
    water before beaches will be closed is about 22 times the recommended 
    Federal standard.  Delaware allows 2212 colonies/100 milliliters of 
    water.  Jack Pingree, who has run Delaware’s beach testing program for many 
    years, says the Federal guidelines aren’t appropriate for Delaware because 
    they were based on waters contaminated with human sewage, which Pingree 
    says Delaware’s beaches aren’t.  Delaware will have to use the Federal 
    standards next year, which are supposedly based on the assumption that 19 
    people per thousand should be allowed to be sickened by going in the 
    water.  This may mean more beach closings.

    On the other hand, the Surfriders note that: “Delaware is the first state 
    in the nation with rainfall advisory standards.  Delaware has a preemptive 
    advisory that will close a beach for at least 12 hours when rainfall 
    exceeds a certain level.”  This makes sense because heavy rain greatly 
    increases the amount of runoff delivering pollutants to beach waters.

    On May 18th the “Clean Beaches Council” (www.cleanbeaches.org) released its 
    “official list of beaches which have been certified for public safety and 
    environmental quality.”   Among the 62 beaches are five in Delaware: South 
    Bethany Beach, Dewey Beach, Fenwick Island Beach, Lewes Beach, and Rehoboth 
    Beach.  Repeated calls to the Clean Beaches Council yielded no explanations.

    More information on beach pollution is available from the US Environmental 
    Protection Agency (www.epa.gov/ost/beaches/)

    Delaware River dredging “workshop” June 6th should DNREC be there?

    The US Army Corp of Engineers has been trying for many years to dredge the 
    “main channel” of the Delaware River five feet deeper--from 40 feet to 45 
    feet.  This seems to have little economic justification and poses serious 
    environmental concerns.  It’s opposed by a wide range or organizations 
    including Green Delaware, the Dump the Delaware Deepening Coalition, and 
    the City of New Castle.   After a controversy, the Corp agreed it needed to 
    get permits from the State of Delaware (DNREC) and we presume these permits 
    will eventually be issued for political reasons.  (Former Gov.  Tom Carper 
    supported the dredging, and the state voted money to help pay for 
    it.  Gov.  Minner has so far been non-committal, but we understand the 
    funding hasn’t been withdrawn.)

    The Corp has hired Windsor Associates, a Pennsylvania firm of 
    “facilitators,” to put on a “workshop.”  The intent is to move people away 
    from categorical opposition to the project and get them arguing about the 
    details.  These “workshops” are highly effective because experienced 
    professional manipulators can usually control a meeting of concerned 
    citizens.  Green Delaware sought information about Windsor Assoc. and got 
    lots of responses ranging from “They are nice folks, but you have to 
    remember who hired them,” to “I have no doubt they could lead an uninformed 
    group toward any specified result,” to “I know the Windsors from many 
    environmental projects and you will find them more biased than you are 
    guessing. They have been really active in Phila, and they are definitely on 
    the side of power,” to “a fair-minded and talented mediator,’ to “strongly 
    negative feelings,” to “Windsor Associates provided anything but a 
    democratic process.” We talked to Windsor, objecting to the proposed format 
    of the workshop and seeking equal time for opponents or the dredging.  They 
    conceded some of our points.

    From, a DNREC press release: “The workshop will be held in two phases at 
    the Martin Luther King Auditorium, Delaware State University, 1200 N. 
    DuPont Highway, Dover, Del. In the first phase, which will begin at 5 p.m., 
    displays on different environmental and economic components of the project 
    will be set up with Corps representatives available to discuss the project 
    on a one-to-one basis. The meeting portion of the workshop will begin at 
    630 p.m.”

    ACTION:  DNREC has to decide whether to issue the permit.  It’s role is 
    quasi-judicial, and it shouldn’t participate in a “workshop” put on by the 
    applicant to promote its project.  This shows bias.  Call the Governor’s 
    office:  gminner@state.de.us, 302.577.3210, 302.739.4101
    QUESTION: Windsor Assoc. offered Green Delaware 5 minutes to make a 
    presentation.  Do you think Green Delaware should participate in this workshop?

    John Rago and the revolving door...

    John Rago, as talk show host of radio station WDEL, was nice to Green 
    Delaware.  He had us on his show from time to time, and personally 
    supported cleaning up the sewers.  He used to say–on the air--that he got 
    some complaints when we got air time.  This isn’t surprising, because 
    pressure on Delaware media not to report independent points of view is 
    constant and effective.  Now it’s coming from Rago, who quit WDEL and went 
    to work as “communications director” for the City of Wilmington.  He’s on 
    the other side now.  For example, when we asked Rago for the City position 
    on HB 195 he said he would get back to us, but didn’t.  Then, the City sent 
    a delegation to Dover to oppose the bill, contrary to Mayor Baker’s 
    assertions–which he and Rago have demanded we take on faith–that he wants 
    the sewers cleaned up.  Why is there so little coverage of HB 195?  Rago’s 
    replacement on WDEL so far seems neither well-informed nor supportive.


Let us know what you think.

Email us at


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

This page was last updated on June 16, 2001.



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