So far, Markell disappoints on environment

Green Delaware Alert 644
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So far, Markell disappoints on environment
DNREC seeks to block appeal of NRG coal ash dump decision
ACTION steps for you to take…

When Jack Markell was running for governor, he raised many expectations that he would crack down on polluters, listen to the public, and pursue more sustainable energy policies.

What’s his track record so far?

Shortly before Markell took over, DNREC approved leaving the infamous DuPont Dioxin Pile near the banks of the Delaware River on the edge of the City of Wilmington. I suspected this decision was taken to curry favor with Markell by letting him off the hook for rolling over to DuPont. Markell’s spokesperson Joe Rogalsky told Green Delaware “People should remember this was an action of the previous administration.” Right.

No new leadership for the DNREC

Over two months into his administration, Markell has yet to make an appointment, and has left Dave Small in office as Acting Secretary. Few people regard Small, who entered DNREC as a PR person, as an advocate for the environment. Shortly after Markell’s inauguration, we asked Small if Markell had issued any changes of direction to DNREC and heard “no.”

A recent–very offensive–News Journal article suggested that Markell wants a new DNREC secretary who will see the agency primarily as a tool for economic development. It mentioned that Markell had consulted with the head of DuPont–one of the world’s most infamous environmental offenders–regarding his choice to head the DNREC. No mention of consulting with any environment interests.

(Markell looks ahead to ‘green is gold’ future , Feb 15, 2009.)

No progress on Claymont Steel

People working to clean up Claymont Steel are outraged because some DNREC managers have opposed continued funding for independent monitoring. The community wants to keep on monitoring until the pollution-belching stops.

More incinerator scams?

The DNREC appears to be conniving with the City of Wilmington over schemes for sewage sludge incinerators and other environmental nightmares. See: Sludge to electricity?

The Energy Office, part of the DNREC, seems to be conniving with the usual retinue of utility interests and brownnoser “consultants,” leaving the public out of the loop-in spite of token solicitation of “public comment.”

Public Service Commission staff out of control

The staff of the Public Service Commission has been behaving outrageously, limiting access to transcripts, ignoring intervenors on behalf of the public interest, leaving little doubt that Delmarva Power is in charge. (The PSC doesn’t report directly to Markell, but he appoints the members….) See, for example: Delaware’s Public Service Commission staff: Dancing to the tune of the utilities they are supposed to regulate?.

Public Advocate mocking public

The so-called Office (or Division) of the Public Advocate, under Markell’s jurisdiction, is also ignoring its responsibilities to the public. We think OPA should not only speak up for the public interest, but should support public participation by others. That’s not happening. For example, as noted above, there’s an argument going on as to whether Integrated Resource Planning should consider health and environmental issues. On one side are Clean Air Council, Green Delaware, and Jeremy Firestone. On the other are Delmarva Power, the PSC Staff, and now the Public Advocate. The Public Advocate lined up with Delmarva and Staff in a letter dated February 13th, saying “The Public Advocate adopts by reference the Answer of the Delaware Public Service Commission Staff … [and] urges the Commission to deny the Petition.” See Delaware’s “Public Advocate” lines up with Delmarva Power for details.

DNREC lines up with NRG and coal ash pollution

On September 24, 2008, the DNREC gave NRG a permit for an expanded coal ash dump near it’s infamous Indian River Power Plant. Decades of irresponsible ash dumping from that plant (it used to belong to Delmarva Power) have contaminated the land, ground and surface waters, and fish and other marine life in the area. Citizens for Clean Power, the Citizens Advisory Committee of the Center for the Inland Bays, and others, don’t want any more ash dumping in the area. (This position is problematic for Green Delaware, because by advocating “no dumping in the area,” they may want the ash dumped somewhere else….).

Bill Zak, one of the founders of Citizens for Clean Power, has appealed the decision to allow an expanded ash dump. Markell’s DNREC is trying to stop the appeal from being heard. DNREC–in concert with NRG–argues “… Mr. Zak lacks standing to pursue this appeal since he does not allege that he has been injured in a personal and individual manner by the Secretary’s decision … The term “substantially affected” does not include the interests of Delaware citizens in the preservation of publicly owned resources.” Read more and access the documents.

The sad reality is that Delaware’s courts have made some bad, anti-public decisions. This is hardly surprising with Mike Parkowski picking the judges. But for the DNREC to invoke these utility arguments against parties appealing decisions is hypocritical and dishonorable.

Zak’s supporters have produced an action alert: “Take Action on the Ash Pile at Indian River Power Plant”

The Environmental Appeals Board hearing is scheduled for March 10 at 9:00 in the DNREC Auditorium at 89 Kings Highway in Dover.

What’s going on?

Green Delaware didn’t formally endorse Jack Markell over John Carney, but we did write enough about the race to make a preference clear. Was that a mistake? A fair question at this point, although it’s early for firm conclusions.

Markell indicated he would clamp down on polluters. So far, he’s done the opposite. The pattern is eerily similar to the first months of Governor Tom Carper’s administration, when I was beginning my career in environmental advocacy — the new administration’s betrayal of trust; servile silence from “environmental” orgs; and little but blather in Delaware’s mainstream media.

Markell seems serious about reacting to climate change (From Markell: “Delaware Becomes National Leader in Climate Prosperity Strategies” )

but talking about these issues in generalities is easy.

Martha Keller of Fenwick Island, in a Feb 17, 2009 letter to Markell, wrote:
“I strongly agree with your Sunday 2/15 News Journal Article quote which supports “creating a climate where a green economy” benefits our environment, our health and Delaware’s job market. However, before Delawareans can benefit from a new green economy, I believe they must be protected from the old.” [emphasis added.] (

Barbara Finnan wrote on Feb 23, 2009:
“Delaware needs all the jobs we can get/save, but do we really need to also increase business for the selected few, like doctors and undertakers? [emphasis added.] This constant pollution during which time it’s impossible to open windows has been happening ever since I’ve lived here – since 1991. I’m sure it’s been going on long before that. The modus operandi, so to speak, is when the fines and pressure finally get serious, the plants are sold and the new owners get a “bye” for a period of time – during which a lot of hoo-ha occurs about how the new owners are trying to correct old problems, blah, blah, blah. And here we are today – no change or improvement.” (

Longtime Delaware environmental observer June MacArtor once said to me that there is a pattern with Delaware’s governors: They come in pumped full of the industry line and (sometimes) gradually learn better.

I suppose in retrospect that it makes little real difference, at least on theses issues, who is Governor. The bottom line, as we wrote in
Alert 622: Squeaky wheels get greased, silent citizens get screwed….Alert 622: Squeaky wheels get greased, silent citizens get screwed….


At the least, contact Markell and ask him to order the DNREC to withdraw it’s Motion to Dismiss Bill Zak’s appeal:

Governor’s Office:

Dover: 302.744.4101, FAX 302.739.2775

Wilmington: 302.577.3210, FAX 302.577.3118

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