Treating the people like garbage in Delaware?
Our previous comments on this matter may have had some effect, but we don’t know what the Markell administration intends to do, and Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) secretary David Small did not return a call (We didn’t really expect him to, because we know him, but we tried.).
We’ve had some long conversations with people in the industry, and studied the transcript of the public hearing, and talked with people in various parts of Delaware’s environmental regulatory agency (DNREC). We draw on our 20 years experience with environmental controversy in Delaware. Continue reading
All sorts of bad air on Wednesday, Aug 26th:
Delaware Department of Ag violating law to protect chicken scam?
New York City garbage going to Chester, PA, via Elsmere, DE?
More power lines to be hung up over the Delaware River?
Utility ripoffs in general and in particular….
The DNREC has announced an “air quality action day,” saying that ozone is forecast to be in the Code Orange range and particles are forecast to be in the Code Yellow range.
The official forecasting system does not consider the combined effect of multiple pollutants, but Green Delaware does, and we say this is a Code Red (unhealthy for everybody) day. Continue reading
Delaware City, whatever it’s other charms, has been, pathetically, a “company town.” The Company being whatever is the current owner of the Delaware City Refinery. The Refinery has had perhaps a half-dozen owners since opening in 1957, none seeming nastier or more aggressive that the present PBF Energy. Continue reading
“The Data Center” was a scam so blatant, so absurd, that it should never have gotten any traction at all.
That it did is a sad commentary on the intellectual and ethical emptiness of Delaware’s “Chamber of Commerce” business community, and, of course, the administration of Gov. Jack Markell. The so called “Delaware Economic Development Office,”especially, demonstrates a consistent and predictable idiocy backed up by secrecy and dishonesty.
Per usual in Delaware, the scam was assembled by various parties, including the Markell administration, the University of Delaware, and the City of Newark, before the public was given notice. Then, it was rolled out as a done deal. Thankfully, it apparently has been undone. (Note that the objection is mostly to the power plant, not to a data center as such.)
Aside from the obvious lie of saying a 278 megawatt gas-burning power plant was “auxiliary” to a data center, consider the un wisdom, or the symbolism, of a large new fossil-fuel power plant in a state so vulnerable to the effects of climate change that much of it will soon enough be under water.
Delaware has the lowest mean elevation of any state at 60 ft above sea level. (Florida and Louisiana are next at 100 ft.) The mean elevation of Kent County is only 36 feet. Current measured sea level rise is around 3.4 mm per year and speeding up–it varies from place to place–and almost every new official prediction of sea level rise is higher than the last one. See “ Waters rising … Delaware going away?”
It is long past time to be shutting down the the existing combustion power plants that drive climate change and sea level rise, far less a time to be building new ones. (The total generating capacity in Delaware is on the order of 3300 megawatts.)
In the face of this, Markell has allowed investment in wind, solar, and energy efficiency to mostly come to a stop–suiting the interests of Delmarva Power–while embracing various schemes for burning more natural gas.
(All considered, it appears that the climate change impact of natural gas is at least as high as coal, because of the unburned methane emissions.)
Residents of the City of Newark, and faculty and students of the University of Delaware, came to life to oppose a scam in which the City and the administration of the U of D were deeply involved. In recent decades it has been rare to see signs of political life in Newark, but self-interest does have an energizing effect. See Newark Residents Against the Power Plant.
The Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club (especially Amy Roe) and the Delaware Audubon Society contributed.
But the real hero of this fight, in my opinion, is Rep. John Kowalko of Newark. Kowalko relentlessly sought accurate information from various parties so he could represent the true interests of his constituents. It doesn’t take a lot of courage for professors or environmentalists to oppose a power plant, but Kowalko, a longtime union person, took a lot of heat from any-job-at-any-cost Delaware union officials.
Kowalko, as he usually does, behaved with gumption, integrity, and right-on values. Consider the oath of office that Delaware’s Constitution prescribes for public officials:
“I, (name) , do proudly swear (or affirm) to carry out the responsibilities of the office of
(name of office) to the best of my ability, freely acknowledging that the powers of this office flow from the people I am privileged to represent. I further swear (or affirm) always to place the public interests above any special or personal interests, and to respect the right of future generations to share the rich historic and natural heritage of Delaware. In doing so I will always uphold and defend the Constitutions of my Country and my State, so help me God.” [emphasis added by Muller]
How many legislators take their oath seriously? John Kowalko is one who clearly does. (I don’t know what role has been played by Senators representing the area.)
Compare the “Data Center” fight with the fight of people around Millsboro against a giant Korean chicken-killing plant, another Markell project just as absurd and undesirable. See “ Just how disgusting can the Markell administration get? Is there any bottom?” That area is represented by Gerald W. Hocker and John C. Atkins, two of the most special-interest-serving legislators in Delaware. (Atkins has been in the news recently –but not for helping his constituents!–, and Green Delaware has featured him before.)
Friday and Saturday are forecast to be Code Yellow bad air days in Delaware for ozone. Saturday is also Code Yellow for particles. Some discussion of the meaning of this is here.
Here is an email from Rep. John Kowalko:
Most people know that Delmarva Power and other utilities are reaching deeper and deeper into our pockets with less and less justification. Heat and electricity are becoming less and less affordable, though wholesale costs are low. Of course, the main goal of the management of Delmarva Power is to maximize profits for stockholders.
Delaware’s so-called “Public Advocate,” Dave Bonar, is seeking to keep Reps. John Kowalko and Edward Osienski from “intervening” in an important Delmarva Power ripoff “docket” now happening in the Delaware Public Service Commission (PSC).
Green Delaware’s comments to the PSC on this are here.
So what’s really going on? Utility regulatory matters aren’t always easy to understand and a little background may help. Continue reading
Note: Revised 12/24/2013
It should not be a secret that Delaware’s court system is bad. Nor should the reason be obscure. I once sat in the chamber of the Delaware House of Representatives and listened to the Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court boast of the role Delaware’s courts play as a tool for “economic development.” Meaning, of course, that businesses will incorporate in Delaware because they know the courts will side with them against employees, customers, the environment, etc.
It should be obvious that courts dedicated to serving special interests are unlikely to offer justice to the people with any reliability. It was not obvious to the Delaware senators and representatives in the House chamber that day, who rose in loud applause.
These problems exist at every level of Delaware’s court system, from the Justice of Peace (“Magistrate”) courts to the Supreme Court.
Some very dedicated people have worked persistently for many years to open up the “Family Court” of Delaware, which operates behind closed doors in flagrant violation of the Delaware Constitution. (Article 1, Bill of Rights, Section 9. “All courts shall be open” I don’t see any fuzziness there.)
The “official” argument on this point is that because the Family Court is established by statute and is not mentioned in the Constitution, the constitutional provision that “all courts” be open does not apply. This argument is convenient, but appears to me to be nonsense.
It is easy to see why the Chancery Court or the Supreme Court would favor big businesses over humans, but one might wonder why the Family Court, which generally doesn’t deal with business matters, would be such a scandal–the tales of evil and injustice meted out in this “court” go back decades.
My theory–please comment if you have a different one–is that the Family Court is run not by the judges, but by the lawyers practicing before it–effectively, the Family Law Section of the Delaware State Bar Association. These lawyers operate the Court as a profit center for themselves: The more matters can be dragged out, the more misery inflicted, the bigger slices of peoples’ assets end up in the pockets of the lawyers themselves.
To put it another way, it is in the interest of people going through a divorce, say, to get things resolved and get on with their lives. The lawyers have a financial interest in prolonging the pain.
The Family Court has been investigated over and over again and the complaints are always similar, but little has changed.
Delaware has a permanent Family Law Commission that never seems to do much.
The lawyers and others opposing obedience to the Constitution typically claim that the tender sensibilities of children and others will be affronted by public proceedings. They, of course, are trained advocates who know how to get their way, and are treated with excessive deference by the General Assembly.
For another piece of the puzzle, see this post from January 2009: “… Governor Jack Markell needs to reform Delaware’s judicial selection process” Need we say: he didn’t.
Some people–I’m one of them–suspect that work done by Common Cause of Delaware on opening up the Family Court , lead by John Flaherty, generated pushback that contributed to the shutdown of Common Cause in Delaware. (Since reborn more-or-less as a brownnoser org.)
This post is timely because a “Task Force” on the openness of the Delaware Family Court, operating under a Senate Concurrent Resolution, has recently held meetings and heard testimony. The Associated Press has reported: “Task force recommends to open more Family Court hearings.” A report to the legislature is due by Feb 15, 2014. However, this sort of thing has happened before and little has changed. Still we have heard from some people who think that this time around some good will emerge. So this could be a good time to submit comments.
The Task Force has two more meetings scheduled:
Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 7, from 2:00 to 4:00 with a public comment session from 1:00 until 2:00;
Thursday morning, Jan. 23, from 10:00 until 12:00 with a public comment period from 9:00 until 10:00.
Both meetings will be held in the Senate hearing room on the second floor of Leg Hall.
Comments can be emailed to Dick.Carter@state.de.us .
In my opinion this would be needed to force real change: A very clearly worded law, stating that all Family Court proceedings be open, unless a judge makes a detailed written finding, specific to that proceeding at that time and place, as to why the Constitution of Delaware should not apply. Mandatory criminal penalties should apply to violations.
Here is a batch of moving commentary and testimony, linked from Nancy Willing’s Delaware Way blog.
Note this curious document, “Privacy of Proceedings in Family Court,” which seems to say that the Constitution of Delaware, supposedly the supreme law of the state, applies in only one of the fifteen “case types” called out. Appears to me that the Judges running the Family Court need some basic legal education.
See the site of the Delaware Court Reform Initiative.