Monthly Archives: July 2003

Alert 256: send comments to oppose reduced chemical release reporting

Green Delaware Alert #256

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Minner administration trying to reduce reporting of sulfur dioxide and
other chemical releases

Raw sewage releases by City of Wilmington not reported

Send comments by email today to Lisa.Vest@state.de.us

July 31, 2003. On June 25, 2003, Green Delaware reported on a scheme to
reduce reporting to the public of harmful chemical releases. See Alert
238: “Minner administration proposes reduced reporting of sulfur dioxide
releases,” Wednesday June 25, 2003
(http://www.greendel.org/item.site?name=alert_0238) for details.

A public hearing was held on June 25, 2003. Representatives of Green
Delaware, Common Cause, the League of Women Voters of Delaware, Clean Air
Council, and others, spoke out against the proposed changes. At our
request, the record was held open “at least to the end of July.” Now is
the time to send in comments.

Some things we learned at the hearing:

In addition to the proposal to change the “minimum reportable quantity of
sulfur dioxide (“SO2) from 100 pounds to 500 pounds, various other
“regulatory rollbacks” are proposed. Among these:

The reportable quantity of raw sewage would be 10,000 gallons. (DNREC says
this is mandated by Senate Bill 33 (McBride.)

Reporting of “flammables” would be reduced, even if these materials are
toxic or otherwise dangerous (such as anhydrous ammonia).

These changes were decided upon after meetings between Minner
administration officials and polluters near the end of 2002. After meeting
with polluters, Division of Air and Waste Management Director John Blevins
issued a unpublished “policy memorandum” agreeing with many of their
demands. Blevins was present at the hearing and we tried to question him,
but Hearing Officer Rod Thompson protected him from testifying.

(Blevins is known as “ballcaps” in environmental circles, because he sent
an email to Motiva (Shell) officials proposing to settle violations, and at
the same time asking for donations of ballcaps and tee shirts with Motiva
logos. He offered to sent a DNREC staffer to collect them.)

DNREC officials tried to portray the changes as “technical corrections” not
needing public attention. What this means, in most cases, is that they
wanted to make the reporting no better than minimum Federal requirements,
regardless of Delaware’s problems.

John Flaherty of Common Cause said “I can see no public benefit in these
changes. DNREC is supposed to be acting in the public interest, and these
changes are not in the public interest.”

ACTION:

Please send an email to Lisa Vest Lisa.Vest@…, with copies to
Green Delaware (greendel@…) and Governor Minner
(mark.brainard@…). Points to make:

  • Chemical reporting requirements should not be reduced in ANY
    cases. Delaware’s recent experiences show that the people need to know
    more, rather than less, about spills and leaks and releases of
    chemicals. For example, the sulfur dioxide reportable quantity should NOT
    be changed from 500 pounds to 100 pounds.
  • The reportable quantity of sewage should be changed from 10,000 gallons
    to 100 gallons. Wilmington regularly discharges raw sewage into rivers and
    streams, and directly into Brandywine Park. These “overflows” are seldom
    reported and pose a direct health threat, especially to children playing in
    the water in hot weather. The public interest requires reporting of raw
    sewage releases.
  • No evidence or testimony was offered at the public hearing that reduced
    reporting requirements is in the public interest.

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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. Do you want to continue receiving information from Green
Delaware? Please consider contributing or volunteering. Reach us at
302.834.3466, greendel@…, www.greendel.org, Box 69, Port Penn, DE,
USA, 19731-0069

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Alert 255: “Rally for Rights” event, Friday Aug 1, 2003, in front of the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNREC), 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE

Green Delaware Alert #255
(please post/forward)

Rally for Rights

August 1, 2003, Twelve Noon

In front of the Dept. of Natural Resources (DNREC), 89 Kings Highway, Dover, DE

Activist groups reject restrictions on public participation

“Delaware Public Hearing Bill of Rights” to be presented

Groups call for action by General Assembly

Governor Minner, Attorney General Brady, held responsible

All organizations and individuals in Delaware are asked to support public
participation

An organization that practices illegal hazardous waste dumping needs more,
not less, public input…..

We are coming together to let people know how much ground has been lost
since the spring of 2003 when many groups and citizens defended Delaware’s
environment, defeating Shell’s attempt to poison the Delaware River with
scrubber discharges containing mercury. The people came together and beat
Governor Minner, Shell, the US EPA, the Bush administration, and the
Attorney General of Delaware.

Apparently the polluters don’t want to lose any more battles.

Since then we have seen a hard stance taken against public
participation. DNREC decided no questions would be answered at public
hearings, period. Secretary John E. Hughes received much heat for this
extreme position. He backed off a little, held meetings with enviros to
talk about public hearings, and said “limited” questions would be answered
by DNREC staff.. He and his staff claim that hearings have become
“confrontational,” and “inefficient,” and accused advocates of disruptive
behavior, including shouting and cursing. These are lies. While acting
conciliatory in meetings with citizens, Hughes made clear in testimony
before legislative committees that he is determined to curtail public
participation. We think this policy comes from Governor Ruth Ann Minner,
Hughes’ boss.

Public hearings are getting less and less public

The next prominent public hearing was about permits for Sunoco to build a
“sulfur recovery plant” near Claymont. DNREC published restrictive
“ground rules” just before the hearing. These “ground rules” seemed
intended to prevent discussion of the most important issues at that
hearing. For example, “interstate issues” were not allowed to be discussed
although the proposes facility straddles the Pennsylvania/Delaware
line. Citizens were outraged and even Hughes described the hearing as a
“disaster.” “Obviously DNREC has not negotiated with us about public
hearings in good faith,” said Maryanne McGonegal of Common Cause.

Sunoco stonewalled almost all questions but got its Coastal Zone permit anyway.

Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board mocks public

Several groups appealed the grant of the permit to the Coastal Zone
Industrial Control Board, and a hearing was held. The members of the Board
were openly hostile and refused to accept the guidance of their own lawyer,
Deputy Attorney General Phoebe Young. They also seemed confused,
disorganized, and hopelessly ignorant of the Coastal Zone Act.

DNREC lawyers are indistinguishable from polluter’s lawyers

DNREC’s lawyer, Keith Trostle, sat at the same table with lawyers for
Sunoco and worked with them to obstruct the appeal. They claimed the
appellants had no “standing,” they accused us of “the unauthorized practice
of law,” they claimed we were “incompetent” to represent our
organizations. Trostle repeatedly claimed that the public has no rights at
public hearings other than to “observe.”

The Board dismissed the appeals of Common Cause, Green Delaware, and
Delaware Audubon because those organizations were not represented by
lawyers. It then dismissed the remaining (personal) appeal of John Kearney
without considering the arguments made.

An appeal to the Delaware courts is in progress but officials are not
cooperating.

At a July 21st hearing on an air pollution permit, long time DNREC Hearing
Officer Rod Thompson said “the law was reinterpreted” to exclude members of
the public from being considered “parties”at public hearings.

“DNREC public hearings were once known for their openness to public
participation; but all this is being lost,” said Alan Muller, Executive
Director of Green Delaware. “Governor Minner and Attorney General Brady,
who are elected by the people, must be held directly responsible.”

“This is a terrible time for the environment, for justice, and for
democracy. The forces of darkness are on the march. If ever there was a
time for concerned people to speak out, this is it,” said Muller.

“They are trying to rub us out,” said Matt Del Pizzo of Delaware Audubon
Society.

Visuals

The rally will feature banners and graphics, including silhouettes of
Governor Minner being lead around on a chain by lobbyists for Shell
(Motiva) and DuPont.

We expect some folks to show up with shovels and drums to make a statement
about DNREC’s “midnight dumping” scandal.

Contacts:

Participating organizations include Delaware Audubon, Green Delaware,
Common Cause, and Clean Air Council.

Matt Del Pizzo, Delaware Audubon, 302.218.3907

Alan Muller, Green Delaware, 302.834.3466, amuller@…

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