Green Delaware Alert #255
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
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,
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
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
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.
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@…