The Committee of Chronic Violators ….

Note:  This post dates from 2002.  This update is inserted 12 years later, on Nov. 24, 2014. 

Some of the organizations who behaved so badly in this episode might be represented by better people these days, notably Audubon and Sierra, but the general pattern of servility to industrial interests, and wanting to be accepted insiders at any costs, hasn’t changed much if at all.  The Mid-Atlantic Environmental Law Center is no more, Lyman Welch, an honorable guy, is working in Chicago, and Bob Whetzel is representing the “Peninsula Composting” appeal of the shutdown order.  Dave McBride still chairs the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Control committee.  John Carney, then representing “Clean Air Council” was fired by them and is long gone from Delaware.  The membership of the committee was engineered by Dave Small.  This is the sort of thing that qualified him, in Governor Markell’s eyes, to head up the DNREC.

Here is a link to the (official) minutes of the June 10, 2002, Committee of Chronic Violators.  For your amusement and enlightenment.  See also this:  http://www.members.dca.net/greendel/alerts/alert90.html

 Green Delaware Alert # 142
(please post/forward)

Why Delaware stays polluted:
In “The Chemical Capital of the World,” polluters write the environmental
regulations…..

The committee of chronic violators

Calls, emails needed….

May 21, 2002. Why does Delaware stay so polluted and unhealthy, with
nothing really changing, in spite of one pollution scandal after
another?

To understand, one has to look at not only the notorious polluters themselves but the other elements of Delaware that empower the status quo. Green Delaware has often created discomfort by writing about some of these: the University of Delaware, WHYY (“unpublic broadcasting”), the News (“stooge”) Journal, Delaware’s “environmental community,” the
so-called department of “Natural Resources and Environmental Control,” (DNREC) and so on. But, there is little possibility of changing reality if we don’t face up to it, however uncomfortable that reality may be.

Consider Senate Bill 33, sponsored by Sen. Dave McBride and others, and presented as the fulfillment of Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s campaign pledges related to “the environment.” (Read the whole bill at http://www.legis.state.de.us/Legislature.nsf/fsLIS?openframeset&Frame=Main&S
rc=/LIS/LIS141.NSF/Home!Openform.)

We wrote about SB 33 in Green Delaware News # 32 (http://www.greendel.org/item.site?name=newsletter_0032) and Alert #90 (http://www.greendel.org/item.site?name=alert_0090). Green Delaware also testified at hearings about it. We said the bill would probably make little difference and would not be implemented in good faith
by DNREC..

How have things turned out so far? (Here, we address only the chronic violators part of the bill.)

The bill states”

“The Secretary [of Natural Resources], in conjunction with a committee of stakeholders including an equal number of representatives of Delaware environmental organizations and industry to be appointed by the Secretary, shall define criteria and establish a process for determining when a facility or regulated party should be declared a chronic violator by
virtue of its inability to maintain compliance with the State’s environmental permits, laws, or regulations.”

Green Delaware has attended some meetings of the “Chronic Violators Regulatory Development Committee.” Here is what we found at the first meeting we attended: The Committee was loaded with heavy-hitter polluters’ lawyers such as Pam Meitner of DuPont and the Chemical Industry Council, and Robert Whetzel, of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce. There sat Sid Sharma, representing the City of Wilmington, the only officially
designated “significant chronic violator” of the Clean Water Act in Delaware in recent years. (Sharma was replaced by Marylin O’Neal, who works for Perdue Farms). There sat Gary Patterson of the Petroleum Council, who was a “co-chair” of the Minner inauguration. And so on. And on the “environment” side? A representative of the Delaware Audubon Society, Andy Urquhart, who is a retiree from General Electric and other polluters. A representative of the Sierra Club, Ken Mulholland, who is a retiree from DuPont. A representative of the “Delaware Nature Society,” Dick Fleming, who is a DuPont retiree. (Fleming would not answer when we
asked him if he had a conflict of interest, and did not respond to subsequent phone calls.) A representative of the League of Women Voters (not an environmental organization), Margaret Prouse, who would not talk to us but snarled with hostility. DNREC tried to involve Common Cause but a DNREC official had the integrity to note that “Common Cause is not an
environmental organization.” (Source: an email secured by Freedom of Information Act request.) Of course, association with the chemical industry does not mean a person lacks a genuine concern for the environment, but can anyone believe that a committee loaded with industry retirees is a genuine attempt at “balance?” The only real stand-out member of the committee is Lyman Welch of the Mid-Atlantic Environmental Law Center, who has worked
hard to represent environmental interests, but is obviously outnumbered.

The committee made rules saying no one could record the discussions or take pictures. Visitors had to wear name tags. The ever-malevolent Whetzel tried to prevent any significant public comment. What happened when Green Delaware had something to say? On one occasion Chair Marjorie Crofts was so rude she felt impelled to call later and apologize. All this, of course, mocks the Freedom of Information Act.

DNREC has a longstanding policy of excluding truly independent voices from its proceedings. Sen. Dave McBride and Rep. George Quillen (chairs of the Senate and House environmental committees) are members of the committee. Neither have made any obvious effort to secure a more balanced committee, or to ensure that the public is entitled to participate. We asked Sen. McBride if he felt the committee was balanced. He responded:
“Who else would you have on it?” McBride, who shows more interest in the environment than the average Delaware legislator, seems to be a big fan of Delaware’s industry-influenced “environmental community” and is not very friendly to Green Delaware.

Theoretically, the committee members are supposed to consult with their “constituencies.” The polluter interests do indeed seem to coordinate smoothly. But, it would never occur for people from the Delaware Nature Society or Delaware Audubon to consult with Green Delaware. That, of course, is why they are on the committee. Note Fleming’s behavior as above.

What is the result of all this? The committee, dominated by polluters, has discussed the same issues over and over and over again. For example, the polluter want the term “willful” included in criteria for being determined a chronic violator. Why? Intent is hard to prove. There are other issues, but since DNREC already has much more enforcement power than is
uses, the whole business probably means little anyway.

The next meeting of the committee is scheduled for May 22, 2002, from 1000 AM to 330 PM at DNREC’s Lukens Drive office near New Castle. For directions call 302.395.2600

ACTION: Contact Governor Minner, Sen. McBride, and Rep. Quillen. Ask that the present committee be dissolved and a new one with real public participation be created:

Minner: 302.577.3210 (Wilmington), 302.577.3118 (Wilmington FAX),
302.739.4101 (Dover)
302.744.2775 (Dover FAX), Email: lwalling@state.de.us

Sen. McBride: home: 3226100 office: 7444167, email: dmcbride@legis.state.de.us
Rep. Quillen: home: 3988400 office: 7444083, email: none known

Also: Sen. Dorinda Connor: home: 3288944 office: 7444164, email:
doriconnor@legis.state.de.us (we are not sure if this email works)

Green Delaware is a community based organization working on environment and public health issues. We try to provide “information you can use.” Please use it. Reach us at 302.834.3466, greendel@dca.net

Please consider contributing to Green Delaware. We need resources to do out work.

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