Urgent Action Alert: Oppose House Bill 184

House Bill 184, being pushed by the American Chemistry Council (ex Chemical Manufacturers Association) would drill a huge hole in Delaware’s laws limiting incineration, one of the few areas in which Delaware environmental laws remain usefully strong.  Delawareans would potentially be exposed to harmful pollution from the “gasification” of waste plastics. 

The official Synopsis of HB 184 states “In order to promote the development of pyrolysis and gasification facilities in Delaware ….”

At the same time, definitions would be altered such that the incineration and waste treatment laws would not longer apply.

We apologize for the short notice, but this bill is being heard by the House Natural Resources Committee on June 12th at 4:30.  There is an urgent need to contact the committee members and YOUR senator and representative to oppose to this bill.  Ask them NOT to report it out of committee.  The prime sponsor of HB 184 is committee Chair Rep. Debra Heffernan.  Please CALL if you are able, otherwise email.  If you see this after the committee meeting, it is still helpful to call.

Chair: Debra Heffernan (302) 744-4114
Vice-Chair: Krista Griffith 302-744-4351
William J. Carson (302) 744-4114
John A. Kowalko (opposes HB 184.  Thank him.)
William Bush 302-744-4351
David Bentz (302) 744-4114
Richard G. Collins (302) 381-1610
Ronald E. Gray 302-744-4171
Charles S Postles Jr. (302) 744-4114
Bryan W. Shupe 302-744-4171

Details/talking points below;

Delaware House Bill 184 reflects the agenda of the plastics industries rather than the public interest of Delaware

Most plastics fundamentally are polymerized (solidified) oil or gas.  So, conceptually, they can be re-gasified or re-liquefied.  In practice, however, it doesn’t work well at scale and is generally not a good idea.

Not all the polymerization reactions are 100 percent reversible.

Plastics as sold and used contain plasticizers, stabilizers, and other additives.  These are often heavy metals and/or toxic organics.  The breakdown products of heating them may be more harmful to health than the original additives.  Where will these go?  Up a smokestack?  Into a byproduct (ash) stream?    Into whatever is claimed to be the main product of the process (syngas, synfuels?)

The point is, there will be harmful constituents and they will go somewhere.  They could go up a smokestack at the facility.  They could go into fuels or feedstocks, in which case there will be exposures somewhere else.  Very detailed analyses and material balances would be needed to evaluate this.

Regulatory programs are in “silos” and not likely able to cope with these scenarios.

Gasification systems are often represented as “sealed,” “zero emissions,” etc.  But this is never true.  It is equivalent to claiming that a car engine is “zero emissions” because the emissions are coming out of the muffler, not the engine itself.   Don’t be fooled!

“Gasification” and “pyrolysis” are often represented as something fundamentally different than “combustion” or “burning.”  In reality, all combustion of solids and liquids requires gasification, in the sense that solids and liquids don’t burn.  Combustion is a “gas phase” process, as one can easily enough see by looking closely at a burning candle or a bonfire.

Very few if any plastics gasification/;pyrolysis plants have demonstrated clean operation and long term economic viability.  Unless and until the technology is better demonstrated, bringing such a  facility into Delaware would amount to another experiment on our health.  Delawareans’ health has historically been impacted by industrial processes.  We should learn from this experience.

Excessive use and careless disposal of plastics, especially “single use” plastics, is a huge global, problem.  There are many steps Delaware can take to help, such as phasing out single-use plastic bags and water bottles.

The plastics industry, on the other hand, is primarily interested in increasing sales and preventing recycled material from competing with new material.

Thus, Delaware HB 184 has counterparts in many other states where the plastics lobby is active.

The “American Chemistry Council” also seeks to create regulatory loopholes and to redefine plastic waste treatment as less-regulated “manufacturing.”  See, for example, lines 10-11, 13-15, 32-39, 65-66, 72-73, and 86-87 of HB 184.   The ACC is very clever and well-funded, and is trying to divert current–and very valid–concerns about plastics in harmful and self-serving directions.

Delaware has strong laws against incinerators.  Laws that have served the state well.  These laws should continue to apply to plastics.

A 3013 report prepared for the American Chemistry Council itself, “Gasification of Non-Recycled Plastics From Municipal Solid Waste In the United States” noted that:

“Recent information indicates that these facilities have become very expensive to operate and that several have been closed due to economic pressures (specifically the price of
energy and high costs of operation) and pressures from the environmental community in Europe.”
(page 32) and:

Though yet unproven at a commercial scale, the emission profile of gasification facilities may [emphasis added by Muller] offer some comparative benefits over other waste conversion [incineration] technologies….”

While some additional experience has probably been gained since 2013 we think the situation has not changed fundamentally.

The official Synopsis of Delaware HB 184 states “In order to promote the development of pyrolysis and gasification facilities in Delaware ….”  This is premature and unwise, reflecting the objectives of  industrial special interests rather than the health and well-being of Delawareans.

House Bill 184 should be rejected.

Additional information on pyrolysis/gasification:  https://www.no-burn.org/gasification-pyrolysis-risk-analysis/

Alan Muller
Green Delaware

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