Author Archives: Alan Muller

About Alan Muller

Executive Director of Green Delaware

“Union Pacific aims to be first railroad to haul liquefied natural gas”

Comments: 

Note the secrecy here, from both the Union Pacific and the Federal Railroad Administration (more a servant of than a regulator of the industry).

In the course of fighting a proposal for an LNG terminal in Logan Township, New Jersey, we learned a lot about the hazards of LNG. Readers will recall that the oil and gas people were saying that massive imports of LNG were essential. Now, of course, they are saying that exports of LNG are essential. The federal government, of course, is disposed to do what the oilers and gassers want.

The Union Pacific does not operate on the East Coast, but could this be a foot-in-the-door for trains even more dangerous than the oil (bomb) trains?

am Continue reading

Rep. Osienski, Sen. McBride step up on bomb trains

Flames erupt from the scene of a crude-oil train derailment Feb. 16 near Timmins, in Ontario, Canada. (Transportation Safety Board of Canada)

Rep. Ed Osienski and Sen. Dave McBride developed a letter to Rep. John Carney asking the US Congress to take meaningful action on oil (“bomb”) trains.  This letter was signed by 30 Delaware state senators and representatives.

Here’s the letter. Continue reading

Delaware’s worst environmental scandal? Unpublic Hearing March 24th.

[Update:  We have since learned that the Hearing Officer has agreed to keep the public comment period open until April 24th, at the request of Delaware Audubon and Delaware Sierra.]

Reject Jack Markell’s latest dirty deal with the Delaware City Refinery.

After 58 years of river/bay destruction, the time for cooling towers is NOW.

On Tuesday, March 24th, at six pm, at Gunning Bedford Middle School, 801 Cox Neck Road (West of Delaware City)  the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) is holding one of its mostly bogus “public hearings” on a water permit for the Delaware City Refinery.  The subject is a “draft permit” to allow the refinery to keep polluting the Delaware River and vacuuming the marine life out of it.  The permit also has implications for air quality because shortages of cooling water have lead to some of the largest “upsets” at the refinery. Continue reading

“What are we doing to our children’s brains?”

“Environmental chemicals are wreaking havoc to last a lifetime”

In November, election results put many anti-health, anti-environmental activists into public office.  Did this happen because millions of people said to themselves “I have too much money … we need more pollution and disease … corporations and banks are being oppressed by the people …?”  I doubt it, but the effect is the same. Continue reading

Comments IN RE Draft Amendments to Regulation 1124 Section 36.0 “Stage II Vapor Recovery”

Mr. Robert Haynes, Hearing Officer
Delaware DNREC
Green Delaware’s Comments IN RE Draft Amendments to Regulation 1124 Section 36.0 “Stage II Vapor Recovery”

Dear Mr. Haynes:

Green Delaware recently began a review of the record in this matter. (We had not been invited to participate in the “review committee” and were not contacted by other “environmental” participants.) We appreciate the extension of the public comment period as we requested and hope you find our comments useful.

A considerable amount of technical documentation has been generated by the Department and in general we feel the work is competently done and does not need repetition here. This is in addition to an extensive existing literature of EPA reports, industry publications, etc.

Handling gasoline exposes people to various toxins such as benzene–a known cause of cancer in humans. Therefore, minimizing these exposures, and resulting health impacts, should be considered a priority in addition to the concern of VOC contributions to ozone formation. The gas station people, at least in their public hearing testimony, did not address health impacts to their employees and customers.

The Division of Air Quality is proposing to do more to control gasoline vapor emissions than the minimum federal (USEPA) requirement, but less than the State of California, the leader in this area, is doing. Green Delaware feels that the DNREC proposal is sound and well-justified as far as it goes. But it does no go far enough.

The DNREC is proposing to allow the shutdown of Stage II vapor control at Delaware’s approximately 330 gas stations. This means that Delaware would rely on the On-board Refueling Vapor Recovery (ORVR) systems that most–but by no means all–cars and light trucks are now equipped with. This also means that off road equipment, motorcycles, boats, “gas cans” for lawn care equipment, generators, etc, would lose the vapor control now provided by gas station nozzles.

There exists an “incompatibility” between some forms of “Stage II” gas station vapor recovery equipment and the “on board” (ORVR) systems that can potentially cause increased emissions from the gas station systems. This incompatibility can be cured by modifications to the Stage II systems.

California long ago decided to keep Stage II systems in service and cure the “incompatibilities.” This approach provides the best control of gasoline vapors, and thus the maximum protection of air quality and public health. The equipment to do this is commercially available and demonstrated.

DNREC has shown that the present Stage II systems need more frequent inspection and maintenance. (“… a survey conducted during the development of the proposed regulatory revision indicated a majority of gas stations needed maintenance in order to pass the annual tank tightness test.”) Apparently, 70 percent of gas station systems initially fail to pass their annual leak tests. These leaking systems likely cause some occupational exposures, and customer exposures, as well as increased gasoline vapor emissions. So, the DNREC proposal for a continuous pressure monitor (CPM) requirement makes sense whether Stage II is retained or only a pressure monitoring system is required.

The comments and testimony of the gas station interests provided no real response to these concerns. Their objections seem to have little if any factual basis.

The EPA and other sources claim a very high degree of reliability and effectiveness for the on-board (ORVR) systems. Based on personal observation, we have some doubts as to the effectiveness of the nozzle/filler neck seal on many ORVR systems. (Without positive pressure in the tank, from an effective seal, the displaced vapor will not enter the on-board canister.) In our experience, visible vapor and gasoline odors are common at stations without Stage II controls. Further, it seems surprising that on board systems would have a very high degree of reliability when gas station systems have a 70 percent annual (de facto) failure rate. This causes us to suspect that the “break even point,” the point at which vacuum-assist Stage II systems are argued to increase, not decrease overall emissions, is probably farther in the future than the 2018-2019 time frame identified by the Division of Air Quality, if it exists at all. This further suggests that shutdown of Stage II systems in Delaware would be premature. Certainly shutdown of existing systems should not occur before the break even point.

The gas station people argue that the pressure in their tanks is likely to remain negative due to the dispensing of liquid from the pumps and the non-return of vapor. This may be, or might be if liquid withdrawal was constant, but if the systems are not vapor tight one may expect ingress of air and resulting vapor expansion. And their systems apparently do not reliably remain vapor tight. So, again, the continuous pressure monitoring is needed.

Therefore, sound public policy is to retain and modify Stage II vapor recovery, as necessary, to make it compatible with ORVR. An inferior alternative, the one now proposed by the Department, would allow the shutdown of Stage II vapor recovery but enact a continuous pressure monitoring requirement. The least desirable alternative would be the one apparently desired by the industry: Simple shutdown of State II.

Delaware usually tries to do a little better in air quality management than the minimum of federal requirements and the desirability of doing so in this case seems well-established. We urge the DNREC to “do the right thing.”

Respectfully submitted,

Alan Muller
Alan Muller, Executive Director
Green Delaware
Box 69
Port Penn, DE 19731 USA
302.834.3466
cell 302.299.6783
greendel@dca.net
www.greendel.org

New York City garbage coming to Elsmere, DE?

Since closing it’s giant Fresh Kills landfill, the City of New York has been spewing garbage all over the Eastern part of the US.  Now, the City is contracting to send 500,000 tons of garbage every year to the Covanta incinerator in Chester, Pennsylvania, one of the most notorious “environmental injustice” communities in the US.

In years past, Green Delaware has worked with Chester residents to stop the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (the “Dirty Authority”) from sending Delaware garbage to Chester.  Of course, New York City garbage doesn’t belong there either, and New York groups, along with Chester residents, are fighting the scheme. Continue reading

A Letter to the Editor of The [Wilmington, DE] News Journal

I see that Rep. John Kowalko, Amy Roe of the Sierra Club, and Delaware Audubon leaders have all been ridiculed by Harry Themal in a recent column. He called them “Luddites” – a label that’s also been applied to me on these pages – for advocating enforcement of Delaware environmental laws. I’m sure these parties have enough self-confidence to realize there is no higher compliment, no better evidence of moral fiber and good citizenship, than to be smeared on the editorial page of The News Journal.

For an non-environmental example: Consider the late Rep. Al O. Plant, who was ridiculed relentlessly by The News Journal, essentially for the offense of being an uppity black person. It was only many years later, when Plant had mellowed, or sold out, or been incorporated into the “system” – depending on how one wants to see it – that he was mentioned respectfully on the editorial page. Mr. Themal, if I recall correctly, has been ridiculing people better than himself since 1959. Perhaps, even by your standards, enough is enough?

Alan Muller

Green Delaware

Port Penn

Tire incinerator update/action alert

Key points:

o       Call into WDEL, Al Mascitti Show, after 10:00 on Thursday, Aug 22nd.  Ask your questions and share your thoughts on the tire/plastics incinerator in New Castle.

o       Call on Gov. Markell and DNREC Secretary Collin Omara to publish a proper public notice and press release about the extended incinerator comment period.

Send comments to Collin. OMara@state.de.us, Michelle.Jacobs@state.de.us, jack.markell@state.de.us

O’Mara’s office phone:  302.739.9000  Markell’s office:  302.577.3210

o       Get your comments on why the incinerator is an incinerator ready for the Sept 9th deadline (detailed suggestions upcoming on this).
Continue reading