Follow-up comment on Coastal Zone Act “stakeholder processes”

The last time the State of Delaware used the “Consensus Building Institute” scam-shop to carve up the Coastal Zone Act, twenty-five years ago, Green Delaware and Audubon were on opposite sides and DAS was a key seller-out. I’ve been an Audubon member most of the time since about 1971, and am pleased to see that Delaware Audubon is showing more brains and integrity this time around, and is holding back from the farce. This shows some smarts and political maturity.

A key thing to remember is that the battle was lost in the legislature and the mind of an uber-mediocre governor. That outcome is not going to be reversed by DNREC.

It’ s important to pay some attention to the administrative rulemaking process but not be distracted and diverted by it.

If people are serious about getting the Coastal Zone Act back, they need to focus on Carney and on getting rid of turkey legislators like Osienskim and on bringing in corrective legislation.

Coastal Zone Act “workshops”

Most readers will know that a new Delaware law guts the Delaware Coastal Zone Act.

The basic destruction was done by the Delaware General Assembly and Governor Carney in House Bill 90. The details of how the destruction is to be implemented are to be worked out by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). To do this, the DNREC has hired the “Consensus Building Institute,” the same outfit that was used to write very harmful Coastal Zone Act regulations back in the late 1990s. What we said at the time. Continue reading

Letter to the Delaware Public Service Commission about one of the latest Delmarva Power attempted ripoffs.

Green Delaware
November 8, 2017
The Delaware Public Service Commission
Regarding: Docket 17-0927 (Delmarva Power’s electric base rate case filed Aug 17, 2017)
via e-filing
Dear Commissioners:
Green Delaware supports the Joint Motions to Dismiss and Motions to Stay Discovery and Further Proceedings.

Continue reading

Updates from Green Delaware

Reasonable people will agree that the US is in a major political crisis.  The “presidency” of Trump has turned out to be as evil and misguided as predicted by the most pessimistic.  Every agency connected to environmental and health protection is being turned on it’s head.  The US House and Senate are under the control of nutwads.  While Trump is mostly despised by responsible people, he has a hard core of supporters, motivated by anger and hate, who do not care at all the damage being done.  They applaud it.   The more the better.  But the US faces so many profound challenges that we just can’t afford such misgovernment.Likewise Delaware is in political crisis.  The state is run by a non-visionary governor and poor legislative leadership seeming to take guidance mainly from “Chamber of Commerce” interests.  Since “corporate” control is largely the cause of Delaware’s problems, increasing the corporate chokehold will surely not make things better.

The good news is that a new generation of activists is raising it’s head in Delaware.  People do care.  I’m impressed by many of them.  Some brief profiles to follow at some point. Continue reading

Protect Delawareans from lead poisoning

After July, we gave our readers a vacation from emails, focusing Green Delaware’s presence primarily on Facebook.  Today is the first day of Fall and emails are back.

Please take a few minutes to read Sarah Bucic’s op ed below and prod Governor John Carney to take action. Attention is focused on the Governor as the DNREC has failed for many months to take action. Continue reading

July updates from Green Delaware

Green Delaware sent out quite a few emails during the last weeks of the Delaware General Assembly, so we’ve tried to be quiet for a while…..

Bad air

First, Wednesday and Thursday (July 19th and 20th) are both official Code Orange bad air days.  Since both ozone and particle levels will be high, along with temperature and humidity, Green Delaware would call these Code Red days and urge caution.  These are unhealthy conditions and can be expected to recur throughout the summer.  The Mid-Atlantic Medium Range Air Quality Discussion says high ozone levels may persist Friday through Sunday.  With the Trump administration working to shut down environmental regulatory programs, the long-term outlook for air quality improvements is not so good. Continue reading

All hands on deck for the Coastal Zone

There are only four days left of this session of the 149th Delaware General Assembly.  (Various extensions and “special sessions” are possible.)

In this session the “Delaware Way” has been in full flower.  The Delaware Way is that a small club of “big head” legislators get together with big-business interests, and the Governor or his representatives, and make all the real decisions.  Ordinary legislators generally understand that if they want to stay in office and get things for their district, they aren’t supposed to buck this system,

A few things are on the agenda for this week.  One is passing tax and budget bills that penalize mainly lower-middle-class and working class people for Delaware’s “budget deficit.”  Rep.  John Kowalko is advocating a more fair approach.

Another is gutting the famous Delaware Coastal Zone Act, via HB 190.

Overall, the lack of vision, leadership, and idealism is painful to think about; painful to see in action, and plenty damaging to the future of Delaware and it’s people.

Procedurally, House Bill 190 was written without significant public input.  Defenders of the Coastal Zone Act have responded by calling for an open “stakeholder process” before any legislative action is taken.

HB 190 was approved by the House Natural Resources committee on June 7th.  The vote was 8 to 1 with only Rep. John Kowalko voting against.  The committee is chaired by anti-environmental activist Debra Heffernan (who does not return calls from Green Delaware).

HB 190 then went the the whole House, where it was passed 7 to 34 on June 20th.  The honor role of those voting “NO” is Reps. Baumbach, Bennett, K. Williams, Kowalko, Longhurst, Lynn, and Mitchell.  (Read the roll call here–click “view” under roll calls)

Next stop is the Senate Environmental, Natural Resources & Energy Committee, chaired by longtime Senator Harris McDowell and packed with anti-environmental types.

Is the committee so packed because Senate head Dave McBride chose to do so, or because the entire senate is so packed these days?  In any case, HB 190, now decorated with a bunch of amendments that don’t change much, is to be taken up by a Senate committee on

Wednesday, June 28th, at 11:00 am in the Senate Chamber.  Members of the public will probably be allowed to speak, but likely only for 2 or 3 minutes.

If HB 190 passes out of the Senate committee it will probably go to the whole Senate on Thursday, June 29th.

If the Senate passes HB 190 as passed by the House, it will go to Gov. John Carney for his signature.  Carney is a dedicated, long-declared enemy of the Coastal Zone and the Coastal Zone Act.

So, the timely action at this point is to contact the members of the Senate committee and ask them NOT to approve HB 190:

Also call Senate leaders:
President Pro Tem:  Dave McBride, (home: 322-6100, Leg Hall: 744-4167)
Majority Leader:  Margaret Rose Henry, (home: 425-4148, Leg Hall: 744-4191)
Majority Whip:  Nicole Poore, (home: 838-7979, Leg Hall: 744-4164)
Minority Leader:  Gary Simpson (home: 422-3460, Leg Hall: 744-4134)
Minority Whip:  Greg Lavelle, (home: 478-6128, Leg Hall: 7440-4135)
Also call you own Senator, if you feel you have one.  Contact information.
The message should be clear:  “We support the Coastal Zone Act.  Please DO NOT pass House
Bill 190.”
For lots of background on the Coastal Zone Act and Russ Peterson, see
Alan Muller

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. Continue reading

Strengthen, don’t gut, the Delaware Coastal Zone Act

Note: a version of this piece was published in the Delaware State News on June 3, 2017.

The Delaware State News has a history of solid coverage of the Delaware Coastal Zone Act.  Not the least was a detailed five-part series by Russ Peterson in which he laid out the history of the Act as he experienced it.  (This might be reprinted if available.)

I was aware of, but not involved in, the controversies in the late 1960s and early 70s that lead to the Act.  Since the early 1990’s Green Delaware has advocated about the Act, and regarding individual permits sought under it.  We have likely disagreed with Delaware’s “environmental community” nearly as often as we’ve disagreed with the Chamber of Commerce, et al.

Much of the near-fifty-years of Coastal Zone controversy has been rather stereotyped — business and union interests claiming damage to the economy, loss of jobs, etc., and environmental interests asserting the need to protect our natural resources and quality of life.  For the most part, the Act has been chipped away at, and enforcement has often been weak.  The last few years have been especially disastrous, with the Markell administration shutting down meaningful enforcement, handing out Coastal Zone permits like so many peanuts, and Delaware courts willfully misinterpreting the plain language of the Act to deny citizens “standing” to demand enforcement.  The present Governor, John Carney, ran on a platform that included weakening of the Act.

The current proposed legislation, House Bill 190, would not leave much left of the Act.  The prime sponsor, Rep. Ed. Osienski, is a retired construction union business agent.

In spite of these problems, the Act has done a lot of good.  Here’s one example:   In about 2004 the Crown Landing liquefied natural gas import terminal was proposed in Logan Township, New Jersey.  If built, if would have disrupted normal traffic on the Delaware River and created serious hazards.  Because part of the facility would have been in Delaware waters, and because it would have been a new “bulk transfer facility,” prohibited in the Delaware Coastal Zone, Delaware was able to say no to Crown Landing.  (Thank John Hughes and Ruth Ann Minner.)  A case about it went to the US Supreme Court.  Now, not so many years later, facilities are being proposed for the export of LNG, including one right on the Northern border of Delaware.  Market conditions change but oil/gas company profits tend to determine public policy….

It’s been a long fifty years, and the activists who originally fought for the Act, many still active in the 1990s, have now mostly retired or passed on.  To many living Delawareans, the Act is history, its benefits perhaps taken for granted, and the need to fight for it less than obvious.  Yet the widespread opposition to SB 190 makes clear that Delawareans as a whole continue to recognize the significance and concrete value of the Act, and don’t want it weakened.

The immediate impetus for the Act was an attempt by Shell Oil to build another refinery in Delaware.  Given the environmental horror show of the existing Delaware City Refinery, the threat posed by another one was easy to see.  The Act served that immediate purpose effectively.

But the Act did a lot more and how this came about is worth considering.  Politics tends to be a pragmatic business, focused on short term goals and problems.  Russ Peterson was a different sort of politician.  Highly educated, a product of the then-progressive political atmosphere of the US Upper Midwest and a former research director for DuPont, he was comfortable with conceptual, big picture, thinking.  He, and many of his supporters, were Republicans.  (Later in life, when the GOP went to pot, he became a Democrat.)  Peterson set up a study group, staffed by a professional scientist.  Their report provided the conceptual basis for the Act.

Science tell us that the places where land meets water are among the most biologically productive, as well as being the most vulnerable to pollution and destructive forms of development.  This biological productivity relies on the preservation of beaches, marshes and wetlands.

Sites along the water have also historically been sought by industrial interests seeking access to cooling water, places to dump wastes, and water-born transport.   They are also sought for recreational uses such as swimming beaches, marinas, surfing, and fishing.  Growing coastal populations have increased all  these pressures.

Coastal locations are a limited resource subject to many competing demands.  Fifty years ago Delaware’s political system was able to recognize these realities and act somewhat effectively with a pioneering “coastal management” law.  Has our collective wisdom so deteriorated that, in the face in increasing demands, we will choose to roll back,rather than strengthen, coastal protections?

The words of the Act are clear and simple.  Read the entire law below:

It is hereby determined that the coastal areas of Delaware are the most critical areas for the future of the State in terms of the quality of life in the State. It is, therefore, the declared public policy of the State to control the location, extent and type of industrial development in Delaware’s coastal areas. In so doing, the State can better protect the natural environment of its bay and coastal areas and safeguard their use primarily for recreation and tourism. Specifically, this chapter seeks to prohibit entirely the construction of new heavy industry in its coastal areas, which industry is determined to be incompatible with the protection of that natural environment in those areas. While it is the declared public policy of the State to encourage the introduction of new industry into Delaware, the protection of the environment, natural beauty and recreation potential of the State is also of great concern. In order to strike the correct balance between these 2 policies, careful planning based on a thorough understanding of Delaware’s potential and the State’s needs is required. Therefore, control of industrial development other than that of heavy industry in the coastal zone of Delaware through a permit system at the state level is called for. It is further determined that offshore bulk product transfer facilities represent a significant danger of pollution to the coastal zone and generate pressure for the construction of industrial plants in the coastal zone, which construction is declared to be against public policy. For these reasons, prohibition against bulk product transfer facilities in the coastal zone is deemed imperative.

This Delaware Act has served as a model for coastal management laws worldwide.

We don’t have to look very hard to see that Delaware is vulnerable.  On the East Coast, we receive a cumulative dose the air pollutants emitted by states to the West.  Most of Delaware’s ground and surface waters are polluted.  As the lowest-lying state, we are uniquely vulnerable to the sea level rise caused by climate change.  Key segments of the economy,such as agriculture, recreation, and tourism are sensitive to changes in weather and climate.   Delaware’s location on the Northeast Corridor, with I-95 passing through,seems to make Delaware vulnerable to imported social problems, contributing greatly, for example, to the high levels of violence in Wilmington.  A few years ago Green Delaware noted that life expectancy in the US had slipped from 24th to 49th, and Delaware is slightly below the middle of the pack.  Many Delawareans are struggling with a our state’s lack of prosperity and economic opportunity.  A state run as a safe harbor for corporate misconduct, a “Company State,” as Ralph Nader put it, faces many conflicts of interest in seeking to improve life for human residents.

Of course, any fifty-year-old law, no matter how wisely conceived, can benefit from review and updating.  Heavy industry has faded in Delaware–and is unlikely to return–while sprawl development has greatly increased, causing increased traffic congestion and a decline in quality of life.   The entire state of Delaware is under the federal Coastal Zone Management program–a program entirely separate, administratively, from the Delaware Coastal Zone Act program and somewhat lacking in teeth.  Consideration might be given to expanding the jurisdiction of the Delaware Coastal Zone act to more of the state, perhaps all of it.  Many other possible upgrades are easy to think on.

An impressive collection of Delaware’s non-governmental organizations are calling on legislators to withdraw SB 190 and set up a “stakeholder” review process to look at the Coastal Zone Act.  Green Delaware supports this, but we note that such a process should (1) not be dominated by industrial/organized labor interests tied to the negative agenda revealed in SB 190,and (2) the focus should not be on weakening the act, but on strengthening it to meet the needs of present times.

Lots of work is needed to make Delaware a place to be proud of.  A beefed-up Coastal Zone Act can play a valuable role.  Green Delaware declines to accept that Delaware residents and legislators are less capable in 2017 than they were in 1970.  Those legislators need to hear from you NOW.

Alan Muller is Executive Director of Green Delaware.

For more on Russ Peterson and the Coastal Zone Act see: “Commentary: Time to think about Delaware’s Peterson, Coastal Zone Act,” and “Russ Peterson, the Delaware Coastal Zone Act, and leadership in Delaware,” also published in the State News.