Tag Archives: polllution

In the News-Journal: “Ciba proposes waste-fueled generator”

Ciba proposes waste-fueled generator

Delaware passed ban on incinerators in 2000

By JEFF MONTGOMERY
The News Journal

A Newport pigment factory has challenged Delaware’s ban on new incinerators, asking state officials to consider a biomass-fueled steam and electricity plant.

Ciba Corp.’s proposal — made public only in broad terms — could require lawmakers to change a law passed in 2000 that banned most types of waste-fueled incinerators, “even if the by-products of the operation include useful products.”

Although one public record filed with federal regulators last year indicated that Ciba was considering a process that would skirt the incinerator ban, a company spokeswoman indicated by e-mail that Ciba now is pursuing a more conventional burner.

The ban — which took effect without Gov. Tom Carper’s signature — was introduced after a public battle over plans for a power plant that would have burned castoff wooden industrial pallets and other wastes. Supporters said the measure was needed to protect low-income neighborhoods from waste industry pollution.

Critics, including Carper, argued that the bill went too far, blocking use of renewable fuels, such as crop wastes, wood chips and woody “litter” used on the floors of thousands of Delmarva Peninsula poultry houses.

Today, legislators are divided on whether the law should not be changed.

“I’m going to oppose any change. If you can’t breathe, nothing else matters,” said Sen. David B. McBride, who sponsored the ban in 2000. Ciba could build its plant, he said, “if they can do it within the existing law.”

Company officials plan a public briefing at 7 p.m. May 28 at Newport Town Hall at 15 N. Augustine St.

BASF Corp., an international company with headquarters in Germany, completed a $5.1 billion acquisition of Switzerland-based Ciba in April. Officials described the Newport plant’s future as uncertain at that time, noting that some activities at the 200-employee plant might overlap with those of BASF.

Although details on the incinerator proposal are scarce, Ciba Vice President Donna Jakubowski said Newport was considering a “commercially proven combined heat and power technology.”

“We are pursuing this project to develop sustainable, renewable energy that uses the best technology available to be protective of the environment,” Jakubowski said in an e-mail. The company now buys electricity and uses natural gas to generate steam.

The company hopes to meet all of its steam requirements and two-thirds of its electricity needs from a biomass burner, Jakubowski said. A wide range of timber and agricultural industry leftovers, wood wastes or dedicated “energy” crops are under consideration for fuels, as is yard waste. Other details are unavailable, she said, with DNREC’s permit and emission control requirements likely to affect final project designs.

“Obviously, we support transitioning away from the use of fossil fuels and looking at more renewable energy where it makes sense. But some of the proposals also have significant downsides,” said Jennifer Mihills, associate director of the Delaware Nature Society.

“At this point, we have raised several questions. Certainly we don’t want to see an opening of the door for all kinds of possibilities,” Mihills said.

Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Deputy Secretary David Small said that his agency has fielded other inquiries about incinerator-type projects recently, and has discussed the Newport proposal with Ciba.

Alan Muller, who directs the environmental group Green Delaware, said Ciba and other industries in the state are trying to reopen the state to incinerator construction, a move that would worsen emissions.

“We are concerned that the ‘fuels’ could end up including chemical wastes from Ciba’s manufacturing processes,” Muller added. “But even if the only ‘fuel’ was ‘clean wood,’ the health and environmental consequences would be bad. Wood is a chemically complex, high-emissions fuel.”

House Majority Leader Robert F. Gilligan, D-Sherwood Park, said that Ciba needed to brief community members and neighbors about the plant before lawmakers consider amending the ban.

Rep. Michael P. Mulrooney, D-Pennwood, who chairs the House Natural Resources and Environmental Control committee, said that he wanted more information but was “leaning toward” Ciba’s position.

“Right now I’m inclined to support it,” Mulrooney said. “From what I understand, the community is in favor.”

Newport Mayor Michael Spencer said that Ciba had been an environmentally sensitive plant and good neighbor in recent years, winning EPA recognition for its pollution-control efforts.

“A lot of people live in the immediate area,” Spencer cautioned. “If there’s an overwhelming sentiment about this from the residents, it’s very difficult to get it to the next stage.”

A company document filed with the Environmental Protection Agency last year said that Ciba had been working on the project at least since 2007, and that conflicts with the state’s incinerator ban “have been resolved.”

Ciba told the EPA at the time that its chosen process for Newport involved “pyrolysis” — a setup that uses extreme heat to bake and char wood to extract flammable gas and other materials without creating flames. The gas is then piped to burners for use as a fuel to make steam or electricity.

Jakubowski said that Ciba now considers pyrolysis technology still in a developmental stage.

Misguided Delaware Solid Waste Authority Embarrasses State, Harms Communities, Doesn’t Recycle our Trash.

[Note:  originally published in the Delaware State News]

Alan Muller, Green Delaware
1998

Many readers already know that Delaware recycles very little residential waste (around 2-15 percent, depending on who’s counting. The “Recycle Delaware” drop off centers are mostly a feel-good program.). Many don’t know how the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA) avoids recycling and even harasses people who advocate it. The story of the DSWA is one of arrogant disregard for public opinion, human health, and common sense. As you read this story, remember that the real problem lies with the Governor(s) who have appointed so many misguided and unqualified people to the Authority.

A DSWA Board of Directors Meeting

On March 2, 1998, a room full of people, many from New Jersey, attended a meeting of the Board of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority (DSWA). They were worried about a DSWA scheme: to burn Delaware garbage in Pennsville, NJ, just across the river from the failed garbage incinerator near Pigeon Point (New Castle), DE (Connectiv [Delmarva Power] was also a party to this scheme.) Here is how the Board reacted:

They refused to hear from the public until AFTER voting on all the items on their agenda. Chair Richard Pryor, a former head of Catholic Charities, said comments should have been made at a meeting the week before in another county. The board then set a three minute limit to public comments. After objections, Pryor said the limit was aimed at a specific person, not the visitors from New Jersey. The board adjourned before seven o’clock, while people still had hands up asking to comment. Sharon Findlayson, Chair of the New Jersey Environmental Federation, tried to comment on behalf of the ninety thousand members of her organization. Findlayson has been to hundreds of public meetings and said she had never seen one run with such contempt for the public.

Board members denied any special interest in the NJ incinerator. Then, they admitted paying for nine staff and board members to attend a two day promotional meeting about it at a resort in Cape May. (I also attended.) They claimed to have a “fiduciary responsibility” to send garbage to the cheapest incinerator, although they say they won’t use cheaper out-of-state LANDFILLs for environmental reasons. They blamed Green Delaware and others for the expensive, polluting failures of their incineration and composting projects. For instance, Pryor admitted that operations at Pigeon Point had “stunk people out of their homes,” but blamed the community itself.

DSWA “Waste Forums”

On April 15, 1998, the DSWA held a “Waste Symposium,” co-sponsored by the University of Delaware and the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). No members of the communities directly effected by DSWA facilities and decisions were invited, and the event was structured to prevent public participation–all questions were screened. (Green Delaware wrote to the sponsors before the meeting, asking that communities be included. All refused, saying the views of “those people” were “not relevant.”) The forum “moderator,” Professor Ron Mersky of Wiedner University, began by saying he didn’t believe in recycling and doesn’t do it himself. He later boasted of having chaired the committee responsible for siting a giant garbage incinerator in Chester City, PA, contributing to a public health disaster in that city. (The DSWA has sent hundreds of thousands of tons of trash to Chester without inquiring into the effects on the community, or even seeking an environmental audit of the facility.) At the meeting, University of Delaware police followed this writer around, demanding to search my bag and threatening that I could be “incarcerated” if I attempted to participate in the meeting. An out-of-state visitor commented  “In New Jersey, the public would have been allowed to speak.”

Another bogus “Recycling Forum,” with the same cast of characters, was held on April 21 of this year, with the same cast of characters. The repellent Professor Mersky gave a presentation suggesting that Delaware is doing TOO MUCH recycling and should landfill more bottles rather than recycle them. Another honored guest said “incinerators are great,” and don’t threaten peoples’ health. Jake Kreshtool, longtime clean air activist, was denied an opportunity to respond. The public was not allowed to speak. University of Delaware Police were on hand to ensure that no gagged citizen held up a sign or banner. The DNREC again ignored Green Delaware’s objections to DNREC’s sponsoring a meeting at which the public was silenced. “It’s about control” said Andrea Cramer of Shipley Associates, who organized the meeting for the DSWA. (Sam Shipley is a former head of the Delaware Democratic Party.) At this meeting Governor “Pollution” Carper signed an Executive Order setting up an “Citizens’ Work Group on Recycling.” Need it be said say that no one from Green Delaware was included?)

DSWA Censors “Public Comment”

On Nov. 19, 1998, the DSWA held a “workshop” to “take public comment” on revisions to its plans. I testified that no DSWA Board members represent communities impacted by DSWA facilities, and that some have conflicts of interest. Tom Houska, DSWA planning manager, said he would not allow this testimony and told the court reporter to stop recording. N.C. Vasuki, CEO of the DSWA, later defended Houska’s actions, claiming such testimony was “personal and abusive.”

Misinforming Delaware’s Kids

For many years DSWA has pumped out misleading information. Thousands of school children have been given the impression that the maximum feasible recycling is already being done in Delaware and that incinerators aren’t a health hazard. People are told that trash is “converted into electricity,” although a moment’s thought indicates that only nuclear reactions could begin to do this.

Delaware Can do Better

These aren’t just the antics of amusing cranks: the DSWA does real harm to peoples’ health, pocketbooks, and quality of life. In 1997 a large delegation from Chester PA, where New Castle County garbage was being burned, came to Wilmington to protest Delaware’s contribution to their health problems. (Children have high blood lead levels, all ages have many respiratory problems, and so on.) They stuffed Gov. Carper’s Wilmington office with green bags to show their appreciation for our contribution to their problems. After Salem County NJ banned the Pennsville incinerator (Delaware and New Jersey activists worked hard together on this) the DSWA began threatening to rebuild their dirty old polluter at Pigeon Point. Busy people then had to give time and energy to pass Senate Bill 98, banning incineration in Delaware’s Coastal Zone. It will never end with Vasuki at the helm..

The DSWA cries out for reform: Scandal and absurdity will prevail until people with better judgement manage Delaware’s garbage. The trash industry is “deregulating” following a Supreme Court decision that killed the DSWA’s monopoly on handling Delaware municipal waste. In this new situation, the one obvious remaining role for the DSWA is to organize and support curbside recycling programs throughout Delaware. This seems to be the one think that Mr. Pryor and Mr. Vasuki refuse to do. They should be replaced, and Delaware law should be changed to set mandatory, progressive goals for waste reduction and recycling, and to ban garbage incineration throughout the state. A recycling-oriented Solid Waste Authority could help Delaware build a sustainable future. Let your leaders know you want real recycling for a healthy future. (Green Delaware will offer more detailed proposals in a future article.)

Alan Muller is coordinator of Green Delaware, an organization concerned with environmental and public health issues in Delaware and nearby states.