Coastal Zone Act bill update from the “environmental fringe”

TODAY! Please get on the phone to “your” legislators about protecting the Delaware Coastal Zone Act.

If you can’t go, CALL “your” legislators, especially, at this point your Representative.

Home and Leg Hall phone numbers are listed here.  Home numbers are OK to use.

If you don’t know who you representative or senator is, go to “Who is my legislator?” (Upper right of page.)


HB 190, the “Gut the Coastal Zone Act” bill, is scheduled for floor debate and vote in the Delaware House of Representatives this afternoon (Tuesday, June 20, 2017.  (This could change.)

The bill was passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee on June 7th.  8 members voted for it and only Rep. John Kowalko voted “no.”  So now it goes to the full House.

A powerful Dark Side coalition is behind HB 190, and most legislators, whatever their personal feelings, seem reluctant to oppose the bill.  The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce carries a big stick.

The action item, per usual. is to contact legislators.

Bill proponents claim that redevelopment of abandoned or underutilized heavy industrial sites in the Coastal Zone will result from the ability of the DNREC to issue “conversion permits.”  This has been pretty thoroughly debunked by various commentators.

Another key concern is what amounts to an across-the-board opening for “bulk transfer” facilities.  This could mean increases in “bomb train” traffic carrying volatile ethanol, crude oil, and “natural gas liquids,” etc, as well as more river traffic, more leaks from groundings and collisions, more site contamination ….

Many are seeing this as yet another undeserved giveaway to the Delaware City Refinery.

Point is, the original Coastal Zone Act was on very solid ground in prohibiting “new heavy industry” and “new bulk transfer facilities.”  The wisdom of this is even more obvious now than it was in 1971.

Additional factors, and more experience, call for strengthening, not gutting, the CZA.

Economic growth in Delaware is unlikely, for the most part, to take the form of “heavy industry,” defined rather narrowly in the Act  When it does, the results are not likely to be good.  Example:

In 1918, a steel plant was started up in Claymont, Delaware.  The discharges of dusts and fumes from the plant soon made the area undesirable, and many people who could leave, left.

In the 1980s, after various changes of ownership, the facility closed down in a bankruptcy.

Under the Delaware Coastal Zone Act that should have been the end of steelmaking in Claymont.  But in 1988, the Delaware General Assembly gave a special exemption to allow the plant to reopen as CitiSteel, a Chinese-government owned operation.

CitiSteel refused to recognize a union of the workers, and pollutants belched out unabated under the new ownership and successors.  Large amounts of mercury were emitted, along other toxins. How large?  Mercury compound emissions in the period 2005 to 2008 averaged 300 pounds per year.  During the same period emissions of “dioxins” averaged about 15 pounds per year.  This is a very large amount of these mega-toxic compounds.

Eventually, the plant came under control of a Russian-owned steel company, Evraz, which shut it down in 2013,  Most people think this was the end-of-the-line for steelmaking in Claymont,

The site looks like a 19th century dystopian industrial nightmare.  Prospects for a real cleanup are probably dim.

For more detail see the Wilmington News Journal’s 2014 Claymont Steel Timeline, including this:

For a time, the Claymont plant ranked among the nation’s top sources of airborne mercury releases because of untracked releases from mercury-based switches in scrap autos recycled by the plant.

The $400,000 DNREC cleanup investigation, launched on what state officials said was “not necessarily on an amicable basis,” was initially to be paid for out of a state hazardous substance cleanup reserve.

Nearby residents had long complained as well about metallic soot raining down on neighborhoods, bringing lawsuits and state demands for other emission controls.

Note the role of the Coastal Zone Act exemption in creating this situation.  Note the problems created by the sneak reopening of the Delaware City Refinery and failure to enforce the CZA in and around the Refinery.  Do we want similar messes, similar scandals, at the other sites?

We could, we should, think about Metachem/Standard Chlorine, Oxychem, DuPont Edge–Moor, and other “heavy industry” sites.

On a longer-term, more strategic level, everyone who thinks reasonably about climate change and Delaware’s exceptional vulnerability to sea level rise knows that hydrocarbon fuel use needs to be reduced, not increased.

For some more thoughts on Delaware’s leadership then vs now, see this.

OK, enough.  Please get on the phone to “your” legislators.  They don’t seem to be as smart, or as responsible, as their predecessors in the 1970s, but they are what we have.

If you can’t go, CALL “your” legislators, especially, at this point your Representative.

Home and Leg Hall phone numbers are listed here.  Home numbers are OK to use.

If you don’t know who you representative or senator is, go to “Who is my legislator?” (Upper right of page.)


Alan Muller

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