Delaware officials ignore, evade law, withhold information from public, promote illegal polluting incinerators

[Note:  A version of the following was submitted to several Delaware publications as an op-ed.]

UPDATE: September 9, 2013, at 4:30, is the deadline for official public comment on the New Castle Tire incinerator. If you haven’t yet done so, PLEASE send in your comments NOW. At a minimum, all you have to say is that you “agree with Green Delaware’s position that the proposed New Castle tire incinerator IS an incinerator as defined by Delaware law, and is not allowed at the proposed location.” But don’t hesitate to send in comments even after the official deadline. Send comments to:,, . And please copy Green Delaware:

How many people know that Delaware is threatened by three illegal incinerator schemes, one in New Castle County, one in Seaford, and one in Millsboro?

Few people know about these, as the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) seems to be keeping this information from Delawareans, although it has a public affairs shop with nine full-time staffers and pumps out press releases on such topics as: “Send your best summer and fall shots of anglers to the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Fishing Photo Contest.” Here’s another “Grand opening of Go Ape Zipline Treetop Adventure at Lums Pond State Park.

Incinerators aren’t allowed in Delaware within three miles of a park, school, church, or residential property, and for good reason: Air pollution, odors, waste piles, reduced recycling, etc, are all part of the incinerator picture.

Incinerator promoters respond to Delaware’s strong law by claiming their incinerators aren’t incinerators. Rather, they are “pyrolizers,” “gasifiers,” etc. These are word games; they are all incinerators within the meaning of our laws.

Applications for a “status decision” on whether a proposed incinerator is an incinerator go to the “small business assistance” part of the DNREC, NOT to a unit focused on protecting the environment. Why?

An effort to strengthen and clarify these laws passed in the General Assembly in 2010 with overwhelming support, but was vetoed by Gov. Markell with a message obviously written by the burner industry. Details on that can be found on the Green Delaware website ( ).

Let’s start with the New Castle incinerator, just because the process is further along and tells us what we may expect in regard to the two Sussex proposals:

The proposed incinerator in New Castle would burn tires and plastics, which are among the very worst materials to burn. It would be less than half a mile from two public schools, and hundreds of homes.

The application is full of errors and inconsistencies. It claims at one point that “There is no combustion or oxidation in entire process,” but the graphics show multiple burners and smokestacks. DNREC’s own evaluation showed that the application was patched together from a WikiPedia article and another burner firm’s website. Read the application here:

The DNREC has known about this scheme since January, but didn’t notify the public until July, and then only with buried legal notices. The well-funded DNREC “public affairs” operation wasn’t used to notify the public. Why?

Green Delaware requested a 30 day extension of the public comment period, which was initially resisted but then granted after legislators supported it. But, the DNREC refused to issue a public notice or press release about the extension, obviously hoping people wouldn’t find out about it. Compare that to this one from the same DNREC this morning: “PRESS RELEASE: Public comment period continues through Sept. 19 for proposed wildlife regulation changes.”

Worse, maybe, is that the DNREC told the applicant it had already decided the incinerator was not an incinerator, and planned to send a decision letter as soon as the public comment period closed.

Why does the DNREC seem more interested in promoting polluting incinerators than enforcing the law and protecting Delawareans from environmental hazards? This is hard to say. But the DNREC received at least 16 emails from Barbara DeHaven of the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) promoting the New Castle incinerator. When I asked her why she did this, Ms. DeHaven hung up on me.

Green Delaware has requested a similar 30 day extension of public comment on the Seaford and Millsboro burners, but the DNREC has denied this.

Details on the incinerator proposals, including several hundred pages of documents released to us under the Freedom of Information act, are at .

Now, lets take a look at the Seaford and Millsboro incinerator proposals:

The Seaford burner (application posted here: is claimed to be a “Process Development Unit (PDU) at the company’s Seaford research facility….The ‘feedstocks’ would include poultry litter [chicken poop] grass and tree tops … wooden pallets, tree trimmings, etc.”

The address is given as 9447 Ginger Lane, near the intersection of Rte. 13 and Cannon Rd.

The applicants, “Renewable Oil International,” call it a “fast pyrolysis biorefinery” but our review shows it is plainly an incinerator under Delaware law. Our comments to the DNREC are here:

The Millsboro application ( seems to be for an “on farm” incinerator for poultry litter and other waste materials.

The location would apparently be Ray Ellis Farms, 34364 Fox Hound Lane, Millsboro.

Since wastes, according to the application, would come from diverse sources, not just the “host” farm and adjacent farms, the proposal clearly does not qualify for an exemption from the incinerator law. See our comments for details.

Some other things to consider include (1) Burning poultry poop is foolish; it needs to be returned to the land, at appropriate application rates, as fertilizer; (2) People living on farms are already exposed to many environmental hazards including chemicals, polluted well water, and bad air in chicken houses and other animal housing. They surely don’t need incinerator pollution added to the mix. Children are especially vulnerable; and (3) People will be told not to worry because other permits will be required. But the “status decision” on whether the proposals are incinerators is the real decision point. Other permits are given out like airline peanuts.

We urge people to contact legislators and DNREC, seeking the same 30-day extension that was granted for the New Castle incinerator. Do residents of Sussex deserve less?

Coons up to no good

Senator Chris Coons has introduced a bill to create additional federal tax incentives for building incinerators. He has lots of industrial support for this but hasn’t considered the effects of incinerator pollution on the people who elected him. This should not surprise people who know Coons, who has posted an endorsement of his bill from–guess who–Collin O’Mara, head of the DNREC and the same person who is supposed to make the call on whether incinerators are incinerators: “Senator Coon’s vision to expand Master Limited Partnerships to include projects that harness all energy resources [no matter how dirty or unhealthy] simply makes sense….” ( Coons, of course, could have done a bill limited to relatively clean sources such as wind, solar, conservation. Why didn’t he?

Take action:
The Seaford incinerator would be in the districts of Senator Bob Venables (, 875-9559) and Rep. Dan Short (, 628-5222).

The Millsboro incinerator would be in the districts of Sen. Gerry Hocker, 537-6016) and Rep. John Atkins (, 934-1587). Let them know how you feel about this.

The New Castle incinerator would be in the districts of Sen. Margaret Rose Henry ( and Rep. J.J. Johnson (, who have already taken positions against the tire incinerator. Thank them!

DNREC Secretary Collin O’Mara can be reached at, 739-9000.
Governor Markell can be reached at, 744-4101

Contact Sen. Coons:


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