Update: Delaware Public Service Commisison admits Kowalko as intervenor

Here is an email from Rep. John Kowalko:

In a victory for the ratepayers (in my estimation) the Public Service Commission unanimously voted against the Delaware Public Advocate’s objection to my intervention status request in the matter of PSC Docket No. 13-384. It’s not the first time the DPA has objected to an intervention petition on the weak grounds that they are tasked, solely, with representing the ratepayers (by law). I pointed out to the commission that this was absolutely not the case and more advocates on behalf of the economically challenged ratepayer class, especially at the cost (free) would complement any efforts they might make not undermine them as Mr. Bonar alleged. Dave Bonar said in testimony today that interveners such as myself could take the podium at the public hearing for comment or submit written comments on these dockets. That is a ridiculous argument to make considering the complexity of the issues and the finite access to the nuances of these rate requests that would not be available to the non-intervener and/or public. I made that point and happily the PSC commissioners agreed with me.  [...]Regards,
John Kowalko

Urgent Action Alert: Preserve public access to the “Public Service Commission”

Most people know that Delmarva Power and other utilities are reaching deeper and deeper into our pockets with less and less justification.  Heat and electricity are becoming less and less affordable, though wholesale costs are low.  Of course, the main goal of the management of Delmarva Power is to maximize profits for stockholders.

Standing against this are Representatives John Kowalko and Ed Osienski. Continue reading

Black Hat Jack is at it again….this time it’s keeping the “public” out of the “Public Service Commission”

Delaware’s so-called “Public Advocate,” Dave Bonar, is seeking to keep Reps. John Kowalko and Edward Osienski from “intervening” in an important Delmarva Power ripoff “docket” now happening in the Delaware Public Service Commission (PSC).

Green Delaware’s comments to the PSC on this are here.

So what’s really going on?  Utility regulatory matters aren’t always easy to understand and a little background may help. Continue reading

Transcript of hearing on the Markell administration’s proposed (non) cleanup of the former Vlasic/Pinnacle pickle packing plant in Millsboro, DE

On December 17, 2013, a public hearing was held in Millsboro.

Here’s the official transcript of the hearing.

Delaware was once known for the high quality of its environmental public hearings.   It’s really sad to see what a joke they have become. Continue reading

Delaware’s courts–the ongoing horror show. Family Court starring in this episode.

Note:  Revised 12/24/2013

It should not be a secret that Delaware’s court system is bad.  Nor should the reason be obscure.  I once sat in the chamber of the Delaware House of Representatives and listened to the Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court boast of the role Delaware’s courts play as a tool for “economic development.”  Meaning, of course, that businesses will incorporate in Delaware because they know the courts will side with them against employees, customers, the environment, etc.

It should be obvious that courts dedicated to serving special interests are unlikely to offer justice to the people with any reliability.  It was not obvious to the Delaware senators and representatives in the House chamber that day, who rose in loud applause.

These problems exist at every level of Delaware’s court system, from the Justice of Peace (“Magistrate”) courts to the Supreme Court.

Some very dedicated people have worked persistently for many years to open up the “Family Court” of Delaware, which operates behind closed doors in flagrant violation of the Delaware Constitution.  (Article 1, Bill of Rights, Section 9. “All courts shall be open”  I don’t see any fuzziness there.)

The “official” argument on this point is that because the Family Court is established by statute and is not mentioned in the Constitution, the constitutional provision that “all courts” be open does not apply.  This argument is convenient, but appears to me to be nonsense.

It is easy to see why the Chancery Court or the Supreme Court would favor big businesses over humans, but one might wonder why the Family Court, which generally doesn’t deal with business matters, would be such a scandal–the tales of evil and injustice meted out in this “court” go back decades.

My theory–please comment if you have a different one–is that the Family Court is run not by the judges, but by the lawyers practicing before it–effectively, the Family Law Section of the Delaware State Bar Association.  These lawyers operate the Court as a profit center for themselves:  The more matters can be dragged out, the more misery inflicted, the bigger slices of peoples’ assets end up in the pockets of the lawyers themselves.

To put it another way, it is in the interest of people going through a divorce, say, to get things resolved and get on with their lives.  The lawyers have a financial interest in prolonging the pain.

The Family Court has been investigated over and over again and the complaints are always similar, but little has changed.

Delaware has a permanent Family Law Commission that never seems to do much.

The lawyers and others opposing obedience to the Constitution typically claim that the tender sensibilities of children and others will be affronted by public proceedings.  They, of course, are trained advocates who know how to get their way, and are treated with excessive deference by the General Assembly.

For another piece of the puzzle, see this post from January 2009: “… Governor Jack Markell needs to reform Delaware’s judicial selection process”  Need we say:  he didn’t.

Some people–I’m one of them–suspect that work done by Common Cause of Delaware on opening up the Family Court , lead by John Flaherty,  generated pushback that contributed to the shutdown of Common Cause in Delaware.  (Since reborn more-or-less as a brownnoser org.)

This post is timely because a “Task Force” on the openness of the Delaware Family Court, operating under a Senate Concurrent Resolution,  has recently held meetings and heard testimony.  The Associated Press has reported:   “Task force recommends to open more Family Court hearings.”  A report to the legislature is due by Feb 15, 2014.  However, this sort of thing has happened before and little has changed.  Still we have heard from some people who think that this time around some good will emerge.  So this could be a good time to submit comments.

The Task Force has two more meetings scheduled:

Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 7, from 2:00 to 4:00 with a public comment session from 1:00 until 2:00;

Thursday morning, Jan. 23, from 10:00 until 12:00 with a public comment period from 9:00 until 10:00.

Both meetings will be held in the Senate hearing room on the second floor of Leg Hall.

Comments can be emailed to  Dick.Carter@state.de.us .

In my opinion this would be needed to force real change:  A very clearly worded law, stating that all Family Court proceedings be open, unless a judge makes a detailed written finding, specific to that proceeding at that time and place, as to why the Constitution of Delaware should not apply. Mandatory criminal penalties should apply to violations.

Here is a batch of moving commentary and testimony, linked from Nancy Willing’s Delaware Way blog.

Note this curious document, “Privacy of Proceedings in Family Court,” which seems to say that the Constitution of Delaware, supposedly the supreme law of the state, applies in only one of the fifteen “case types” called out.   Appears to me that the Judges running the Family Court need some basic legal education.

See the site of the Delaware Court Reform Initiative.

If you live in Newark, DE, go and vote for Amy Roe on Nov. 26th

The City of Newark, DE (not to be confused with Newark, NJ), is in the midst of an ethical and political crisis.

The essence of it is that city officials have connived with the University of Delaware, the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO), Gov. Jack Markell, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Control (DNREC), and others to bring a large (279 megawatt) power plant into Newark under false pretenses.  The same officials apparently concealed this from city residents as long as they could.  The most visible perp is Newark City Manager Carol S. Houck.

This scheme upset lots of people, especially those living near the proposed power plant.   The controversy seems to be getting more intense, with various unions whipped up with the notion that thousands of jobs will be available if “The Data Center” power plant scheme goes ahead.  Many capable people looking into the scheme are finding much misrepresentation and little substance.

At the same time, Newark is having a special election for mayor on November 26th, to replace resigned Mayor Vance Funk.  Seven people are running, or at least have filed.

Newark has a city-manager form of government and the Mayor is supposed to be many a titular position.  However, the Mayor, if inclined and capable, can exercise a lot of moral authority.

The most interesting candidate is Amy Roe, Conservation Chair of the Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club.  I have a personal interest in this because back in the 1990s I held the same position before being kicked out for opposing Delmarva Power and committing other offences.  Since then the Delaware Chapter has mostly been a public nuisance–the very model of an industrial-stooge “environmental org.  Roe is different–someone who actually seems to want to fight for the environment.  She’s been a leader in investigating the “Data Center” power plant.  It’s nice to see, for once, a leader of the Delaware Chapter actually doing the job.  Roe appears to be a person of considerable ability and substance.

On the other hand, ever-disgraceful Jim Black, former Delaware Sierra, and “Clean Air Council” leader, is flacking for the power plant.  He’s previously promoted a garbage incineration in the City of Wilmington and a “biomass” incinerator in the Town of Newport, DE.  A guy who epitomizes all the worst of the US “environmental movement.”  A statement from Delaware Sierra is here.

It is not entirely clear where all seven candidates stand on the power plant and other issues.  The Delaware Chapter of Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) sent a questionnaire to the candidates and the responses are here.  The ADA also has links to other candidate stories and profiles.

Stories about candidate Polly Sierer illustrate how sick the US political system has become.

She may be the chosen candidate of the Corporate/Union establishment–especially those promoting the “Data Center” power plant.  I say that because:

o       Her campaign materials look like professionally produced political drivel;

o       A PAC supporting her called I Like Polly’s Plan is raking in money although she has offered no plan.

o       Sierer seems to be denouncing the same PAC that is the essence of her campaign.

The Newark Post has an interesting story on this:

Polly’s Plan’ PAC funded by group supporting data center, documents show

OK, enough.  Again:  If you live in Newark, DE, go and vote for Amy Roe on Tuesday.  Get your friends to do the same.  This is an election that matters.

Alan Muller

DNREC “workshop” held, but information withheld…..

(This includes a statement sent to be read out at the “workshop.”  I don’t know if anybody did so.  am)
Bad air

Today, and the next few days, are Code Yellow bad air days in Delaware.  Particle pollution is high.  At this time of year the particles aren’t so dangerously combined with heat, humidity, pollen, and ozone.  But the health threat is still real.  Please take care.

Workshop in Millsboro related to proposed Allen-Harim chicken slaughtering plant

Green Delaware has received lots of feedback about the proposed Allen-Harim chicken plant, combined with the “cleanup” of the proposed site, the former Vlasic/Pinnacle pickle plant near Millsboro.
(Note that our original email on the chicken plant had errors in some of the numbers.  A corrected version is posted here.)

Tonight, November 21st, our friends at the Delaware Department of Natural Resources are holding a “workshop” in Milford.  We sent this statement:

Statement from Green Delaware for the Nov 21, 2013 DNREC “workshop” on the Vlasic/Pinnacle/Allen-Harim site near Millsboro 

I am out-of-state at the moment and regret that I can’t be here in person.

Unfortunately Green Delaware can’t offer any direct comments on the DNREC “brownfield” cleanup plan because DNREC has refused to provide a copy, rejecting my Freedom of Information Act request of a few days ago.

DNREC has claimed that because the document is in draft it is exempt from the Delaware Freedom of Information Act.  This is not true; there is no exemption for “draft” documents in the law.

So why is DNREC violating the FOIA and operating in illegal secrecy?  It’s hard to be sure about motives, but it appears to me that the DNREC did not want citizens to come to this “workshop” armed with solid information.  DNREC wants you to have to rely on what the agency tells you.

Most of you know that there is a “public hearing” coming up on December 4th.  It’s important to understand the differences between a “workshop” and a “public hearing.”   This workshop has no legal significance.  There will most likely be no official record kept.  DNREC doesn’t have to pay attention to anything you say tonight.  On the other hand the “public hearing” is a legal proceeding with a hearing officer, a court reporter, and all that.  The agency has some obligation to consider and respond to what you say.

It is strange that DNREC has scheduled a public hearing on a plant that hasn’t yet been released.  I have been told that DNREC plans to release the cleanup plan before the hearing.  We shall see.

This may seem cynical to some, but I have been dealing with DNREC for a lot of years and I think DNREC holds workshops hoping people will “vent” at them and skip the public hearing.  Please don’t make that mistake.

Now, many people are wondering about this “Community Involvement Advisory Council.”  Why is this group, which you have most likely never heard of before, being put out front in this way?  Has the “Community” council developed any of the information being presented?   No.  Does the council have any substantive role in brownfields cleanup activities?  No.   This council came out of “environmental justice” activities, but like most things in Delaware it is dominated by industrial interests.

That is, in theory, it is supposed to be a tool for empowering people and communities.  Especially communities that have been “disproportionately impacted” by pollution and other environmental problems.  It’s the opposite.  DNREC uses this group to manipulate and deceive community based organizations.  But I am sure most of the people in this room already have a pretty good idea of who they can trust and who they can’t.

Here’s a thought:  If this “community council” was acting in good faith, wouldn’t there be people on its panel tonight who could tell the other side of the story?  “Community people, dare we say?

What about the site cleanup?  Again, Green Delaware doesn’t know any details.  But we have looked at many other “brownfields” cleanup plans over the years.  With few exceptions, they are NON cleanup plants.  The basic approach to groundwater and soil pollution has been along the lines of “cover it up, tell people not to dig there, and forget about it.”  So this is what we expect the DNREC to propose for the Vlasic site.  It would be nice to be wrong.

The sad reality is that people all over Sussex county have been, and probably still are, drinking water polluted with nitrates, pesticides and herbicides, and cancer-causing chemicals.  And they have been breathing polluted air.  Sometimes they get sick and die from these pollutants.  This needs to stop!

Protection of drinking water is not, mostly, a DNREC responsibility.  The Office of Drinking Water lies in the Division of Public Health, in the Department of Health and Social Services.  It’s far down the bureaucratic pecking order.

If fairness to the DNREC employees who are here tonight, deals like the Allen-Harim chicken plant deal are cut a much higher levels. The levels of Jack Markell, Tom Carper, and so on.  I say:  hold THEM responsible.  The worker bees in DNREC really don’t have any choice about cooking up the technical details and excuses.

Thanks for listening.

Alan Muller
Executive Director
Green Delaware

Passing of Betty Kreshtool

Elisabeth “Betty” Kreshtool passed on Friday, Nov 15, and this obit appeared in the Sunday News Journal.

Elizabeth “Betty” Kreshtool AGE: 90 � Wilmington Elizabeth “Betty” Kreshtool passed away at home in her husband’s arms on Friday, November 15, 2013. Born in Easton, PA, she received her B.A. from Penn State University, where she was a basketball player and champion dancer. Betty was an expert sailor, a passionate environmentalist, and a talented office designer. She was very active in politics, and her campaign for State Representative made international headlines.Mrs. Kreshtool is survived by her husband, Jacob; her children, Laurie and Ken; and her sister, Thelma Deitcher. Family and friends are invited to a short graveside service, 11:00 am, Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at the Jewish Community Cemetery, 401 Foulk Road, Wilmington. Shiva will be observed Wednesday through Friday mornings at 7:00 am at Adas Kodesch Shel Emeth Synagogue, 4412 Washington Boulevard, Wilmington.In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the Natural Resources Defense Council. SCHOENBERG MEMORIAL CHAPEL -

Betty was active in Jewish community affairs, active in Democratic Party affairs, was at least once a candidate for public office, an environmentalist, a philanthropist, a Mom, and more.   She was a strong supporter of Green Delaware.  And not the least, she supported her husband Jake Kreshtool’s career as an environmental litigator and activist.

She was one of those people, mostly operating behind the scenes, who keep our culture and civilization glued together.

R.I.P.

The Newark, DE “Data Center” scheme

Lots of activity on this also.   Many capable people have been digging and it’s becoming pretty clear to all that this is a essentially a power plant scheme, as we have previously written, not a “data center” at all, and that the proposers aren’t a substantial operation.  See “The Data Center,” part #1

The bigger picture

These days we have the Markell administration promoting three incinerators, a chicken slaughtering plant, a big new power plant in Newark pretending to be a Data Center, and who knows how many other schemes that have not yet come to public notice.  All of these have in common a massive indifference to the real effects on air and water quality, climate change, property values and quality of life of the neighbors.  In every case information is being and has been withheld from the public.  Are all these schemes and scams truly benefiting Delaware?

Just how disgusting can the Markell administration get? Is there any bottom?

[CORRECTION:  We screwed up the numbers on expansion of the poultry industry in Delaware implies by the proposed new Allen Harim chicken plant in Millsboro.  See below for corrected text.]

Recently Green Delaware reported that we are following a number of dubious schemes in Delaware including three incinerators and “The Data Center.”  Add one more:

A proposed new chicken processing plant in Millsboro, at the contaminated former Vlasic/Pinnacle pickle packing plant.

This is being actively promoted by the usual set of part-of-the-problem Delaware pols and state agencies, and opposed by activated citizens organized as Protecting our Indian River (Stop the Allen Harim Chicken Plant from Further Contaminating Our Environment). Continue reading

“The Data Center,” part #1

[The emailed version of this had typos.  Corrections and a few minor editorial changes made here.]

All sorts of schemes and scams pop up everywhere.  Some fly, some don’t.  Some make sense, some don’t.

Over the years, a long list of schemes and projects have engaged the attention of Green Delaware and other advocacy orgs.  Indeed, one of our key functions is to analyze proposals and share our opinions. Continue reading