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issued a unpublished “policy memorandum” agreeing with many of their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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