Letter sent to Del. Gov. Jack Markell on Jan 26, 2010

We’ll report on the response to this letter.

(Update: So far, Gov. Markell hasn’t answered this leter.  Ask him to, 1.800292.9570)

Green Delaware
Box 69, One Stewart Street
Port Penn, DE 19731 USA
cell 302.299.6783

January 26, 2010

Hon. Jack Markell

Governor of Delaware

Dear Governor Markell:

Green Delaware is concerned by reports from multiple sources that The Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) and Tom McGonigle of your office are actively promoting a “biomass” burner at the BASF plant in Newport, Delaware.

I have not been able to confirm this directly as Mr. Levin has not returned my call.

Several aspects of this are disturbing, including:

1.                  Neither BASF nor the presumed burner contractor, Intrinergy, have provided any sort of detailed or binding information.  Rather, they are peddling “a pig in a poke.”

2.                  DEDO and Mr. McGonigle reportedly are pushing for the promoters to be allowed to pitch their plans to the public without other perspectives being equally represented.

3.                  There is no possibility of such a plant being able to operate without degrading environmental quality, due to (1) stack emissions, (2) increased heavy vehicle traffic, and (3) dust, odors, and noise from operations.

4.                  Even plain wood chips, often represented as “clean” biomass, have very high “emission factors.”  The reasons for this include the chemical complexity of wood as a fuel and the low thermal efficiency of wood-burning generating units-on the order of one-half that of a modern coal unit and one-third that of a combined cycle gas unit.

5.                  In spite of vague suggestions, the fuel source for such a facility is indeterminate.  We have hard from managers of the new composting facility in Wilmington, expressing concern that such a burner would deplete the supply of woody material required for their process.

6.                  We have examined actual permit data for several “biomass” burners, and emissions are high in absolute terms, and per unit of electricity generated are typically higher than for coal.

I attach a few “PowerPoint” slides describing the expected emissions from a 23 (+/-) wood burner proposed in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 2007.  This facility had been described to the community as “clean” and “green” and so forth.  Fortunately, air permitting data were available and my contribution was to pull this information out of hundreds of pages of hard-to-understand technical documentation.   When the community became aware of this information-about one million pounds per year of health-damaging emissions–the project was defeated, and has since been rejected in other Minnesota communities.  Other projects I’ve looked at have shown similar numbers.

Ecolaw in Mass.(attached) compared emissions/MW for representative coal and “biomass” units:

Biomass increase over coal (per MW)

NOx                            +31%

Particulate Matter         +186 %

Carbon Dioxide            +39%

Biomass increase over “natural gas”      (per MW)

NOx                            +1596%

Particulate Matter         +1309%

Carbon Dioxide            +304%

Aside from the unpleasant environmental and health implications, other aspects deserve your consideration:

1.                  Many environmentally-concerned people supported you with the expectation that this old-style support-polluting-industry-at-any-cost pattern would change.

2.                  The failure of “economic development” officials to carry out due diligence, know what they are talking about, and respect democratic processes is longstanding and typical, but many had hoped for better from your administration.

3.                  Delaware has among the strongest anti-burner laws in the US.  These laws have protected the health of thousands of Delawareans.  The present BASF proposal constitutes an attack on those laws, either by means of weakening legislation or distorted interpretations of existing law.

4.                  Widespread “biomass” burning implies the liquidation of large amounts of forest land and this has very bad implications for us all.

5.                  “Biomass” projects typically have poor economics, and become viable only with an array of preferences and subsidies better targeted to clean, not dirty developments.


There are many opportunities to improve the competitiveness and energy efficiency of Delaware enterprises public and private.  “Biomass” burning is not among them.

It is useful to be able to distinguish good ideas from bad ones.

We request a meeting with you to discuss this further.

Yours very truly,

Alan Muller

Executive Director


Senator Peterson

Senator Sokola

Senator McBride

Senator Bunting

Senator McDowell

Sen. Ennis

Sen. Connor

Rep. Gilligan

Rep. Cathcart

Rep. Mulrooney

Rep. Kowalko

Rep. Oberle

Secy. O’Mara


Ecolaw letter

Predicted emissions from a proposed burner in Minnesota

Muller presentation in re “Midtown Eco Energy” project

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