Gov.Jack Markell’s dirty deals produce dirty air for Delaware

Today, Thursday, May 30, 2013, is a Code Orange bad air day for ozone and a Code Yellow bad air day for “fine particles” (PM2.5).

Friday and perhaps Saturday are also expected to be Code Orange for ozone.

Wednesday, May 29th, was Code Yellow for both ozone and particles.

Tuesday, May 28th, was Code Yellow for particles.

So, obviously, Delaware is well into a summer bad air season.

The DNREC Division of Air Quality says this:

“A Code Orange air quality forecast for ozone is a level of pollution that can be unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as young children, the elderly, and those with heart and/or respiratory conditions. Such persons should limit outdoor activities, especially those that require a high level of exertion.”

But, the real health impacts are greater than stated above for several reasons:

The color code system doesn’t consider the effects of multiple pollutants.  Thus, Code Orange for ozone and Code Yellow for particles is reported as Code Orange.  But since the effects of the pollutants are cumulative, a Code Red Alert would probably be more realistic.

Heat and humidity are “stressors” on top of the physical/chemical air pollutants.  Temperature and humidity are predicted to be high.

Allergens (pollen) also make their contribution, and pollen levels are forecast to be in the “medium-high” range, 8/9 out of 12, peaking on Saturday.

Overall, the air quality situation is not good–please take care.

Jack Markell and the Delaware City Refinery

The single worst thing done to air quality in Delaware in many years was the reopening of the filthy Delaware City Refinery.  This was done in a scam run directly by Gov. Jack Markell and with ZERO public input.  The dirty deal included rollbacks of environmental requirements Delawareans had fought for.  It is hard to know whether the most shameful actions were on the part of Markell and his team, or the mainstream Delaware “enviros” who objected not.

Beyond doubt many people will get sick and die from resumed Refinery pollution.

But the pollution is not just resumed, it is increased.

We digress for a moment to the Delaware Chapter of the Sierra Club.  This organization has been a public nuisance for many years:  promoting incinerators, conniving with polluters, endorsing horrible candidates for public office … dishonoring everything the Sierra Club (founded on May 28, 1892) has claimed to stand for.

But something has changed:  At the moment, the Delaware Chapter has a Conservation Chair, Amy Roe, who actually seems interested in fighting the pollution belching from the Delaware City Refinery.

Roe has requested a public hearing on a proposal by DNREC that would allow greatly increased emissions.  The data below are from the Sierra Club and Green Delaware hasn’t checked the numbers, but we have no reason to doubt them:

o Increase in Total Suspended Particulates by 29% (Page 186)
o Increase in Sulfur Dioxide emissions by 4.7% (Page 190)
o Increase in Carbon Monoxide emissions by 14.2% (Page 192)
o Increase in Volatile Organic Compound emissions by 12.3% (Page 192)
o Increase in Sulfuric Acid emissions by 17.2% (Page 194)
o Increase in Ammonia emissions by 15.9% (Page 194)
o Increase in Lead emissions by 33.3% (Page 195)

The refinery belches out millions of pounds per year, so these increases are very significant.

The bullshit technicality here is that the increases have already been granted in about ten permits previously issued, so the DNREC claims the “Title V” permit under consideration is just a paperwork exercise and doesn’t change anything.  Therefore, stop complaining.

“As part of the current renewal of the facility�s TV permit, we are simultaneously making a significant permit modification to incorporate the Bin 1 project Operation permit conditions along with several other recently issued 1102 permits.  Note that this incorporation does not itself allow the emissions increase.  Any emissions changes were already authorized as part of the permitting steps ending in issuance of the operation permits mentioned in #5 on 09.07.2011.  The current permitting action only moves the current limits from the individual operation permits into the facility wide Title V permit.”

Do your lungs feel better now?

A public hearing on this will be held on June 4th at the Delaware City Fire Company, 815 Fifth St., Delaware City, DE 19706. (This is not an appropriate location as the fire company has close ties to the refinery and in the past has harassed attendees at public meetings and hearing.)

Unfortunately, Delaware’s once respected public hearing process has largely collapsed into farce, so people cannot count on being treated courteously or being allowed to ask meaningful questions.

Green Delaware has long experience with DNREC air quality management officials.  In spite of many disagreements a civil relationship has generally prevailed.  But there is a tone of arrogance and hostility directed towards Ms. Roe that we don’t like.

Also from Roe’s request for a public hearing:

Age-Adjusted Cancer Rates per 100,000 people:
United States = 465.1
State of Delaware = 517.0
Delaware City’s Census Tract = 680.5

It is difficult to hope for a good outcome here, and much of the fault, in truth, lies with the corruption, cowardice, and incompetence of Delaware’s “environmental community.”  And, of course, with our deadly Governor.  But Ms. Row’s efforts represent a real improvement and deserve support.

A key issue is that the “record” (public comment period) needs to be kept open after the June 4th hearing, to allow people to react to information developed during the hearing.

ACTION:   Contact Markell and Colin O’Mara, the Secretary of the Delaware DNREC, asking that the record be kept open until at least June 30th, 2013, and longer if necessary. , 302.744.1002 (Dover), 302.577.3210 (Wilmington), 302.739.9000

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