How I set myself up #4…..making a farce of historic preservation


Delaware is always a tough place for any sort of public interest advocacy not funded and controlled by big-money interests.  This can be said equally of environmental concerns or social justice concerns, and there are good reasons why people of an activist bent tend to leave the state for friendlier turf.  There simply is not a support system for independent advocacy.  (Most of Green Delaware’s financial support has come from the Environmental Endowment for New Jersey.)  Likewise, there is little support for independent voices in the Delaware General Assembly or otherwise.  This has consequences:  Here is an example of something Green Delaware no longer has the ability fight as we once would have:

Delaware has a visionary law intended to keep polluting industry out of the “Coastal Zone.”  But enforcement of the Coastal Zone Act has collapsed entirely under former governor Jack Markell and present governor John Carney.  Thus, in 2015 Delaware officials issued Croda (the company) a Coastal Zone permit to make ethylene oxide at Atlas Point in the Coastal Zone, near the Delaware Memorial Bridge.  Reportedly they also gave Croda 2.9 million dollars to encourage the company to build the facility.  Ethylene oxide is toxic and explosive, and is also a powerful human carcinogen.  The manufacturing process for it is also very dangerous.  It’s exactly the sort of activity intended to be kept out of the Coastal Zone by the original 1970 Act. 

On Nov. 25, 2018, only a few months after the process started up, a reported 2700 pounds of ethylene oxide and related chemicals leaked suddenly.  The Delaware Memorial Bridge was closed for hours.  Only by good fortune, there was no explosion.  Croda was fined by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for lack of proper inspection, failure to train workers adequately, and other failures contributing to the leak.  Warning sirens were installed.   Delaware officials issued misleading statements ignoring or downplaying the cancer risk and injury to workers.  Less than one year later, Delaware officials gave Croda permission to re-open with few changes.

Green Delaware would have fought this every step of the way,  Whether we would have been able to stop the project is unknown, but we would have tried and made our concerns known to the public at large.  The reality is that Delaware no longer has an effective system of environmental control.   And, of course, with trump in office federal agencies aren’t applying any pressure.

Health and the Covid-19 pandemic

The picture varies in different parts of the country and the world, but the pandemic isn’t over and is expanding in many places.  The death rate per 100,000 attributed to Covid-19 in different US states varies from 1 in Hawaii to 160 in New York State, but the tatistics are not necessarily uniform and reliable.  For what it’s worth, as of June 22nd the rates for Delaware and surrounding states are DE: 45, PA: 50, MD:51, DC: 76, and NJ: 146.  Given Delaware’s overall poor record in public health these numbers are a bit surprising.  They are about double the death rate in Minnesota.

A good brief summary of the national situation and scientific developments is put out daily by retired professor Marie Schwab Miller.  Recommended.

The basic message is to stay away from other people as much as possible and wear a mask.

Sadly, many Republican officeholders, aided by right-wing propaganda shops like the Caesar Rodney Institute, are encouraging people NOT to take precautions, and this will lead to thousands of additional and unnecessary deaths.

Making a mockery of historic preservation

It’s worth considering why the opposition to preserving our cultural heritage is as strong as the opposition to preserving our environment.  In many cases it may just be a matter of interference with developers’ profits.  It may often be that resources are lacking.  But a factor I was unaware of when I got involved with the house in Port Penn is that “historic preservation” is a rich person’s hobby, not only because it is expensive but because it seems to appeal to people with right-wing political opinions.  I do suspect that many if not most “preservation” supporters would vote for trump, give an award to “Pete” DuPont, and so on.  They would naturally tend to hate Green Delaware.  Wish I’d known in advance.

Consider “Preservation Delaware.”  This org has devoted itself primarily to a Dupont (spelling varies) family mansion, Gibraltar, which it owns and has sought public funds for repair of.  The property is in a dilapidated condition, but strangely enough PD is not harassed by citations for code violations.  When we were beginning work on the house in Port Penn, PD circulated word that it would not assist us due to disapproval of Green Delaware’s advocacy work.  The original staff person at PD, Dee Durham, is now a member of the New Castle County Council.

Organizations that have NOT supported us include Preservation Delaware, the Port Penn Area Historical Society, The Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs (which includes the “State Historic Preservation Office”) DelawareWild Lands ( Itself involved in the demolition of historic properties), the University of Delaware Center for Historic Architecture and Design (which received a grant to “document” my house but failed to establish when it was built and by whom), the New Castle County “preservation planner,” and others.  None have ever asked what they might do to help us make the project a success.  Many seem to actively want us to fail.  (Partial exception for Dan Griffith, before he retired as director of the Div. of Historical and Cultural Affairs. he seemed like a decent guy, and somewhat helpful.)

But the biggest rat in the woodpile is always New Castle County.  Everybody seems afraid of the County., even the General Assembly. Upcoming when my stomach can handle it.

Primer:  Evil in a small place–harassment and selective prosecution by New Castle County (Ten years ago.)

Recent previous writings:

How I sent myself up to be driven out of Delaware #1

How I set myself up, #2

How I set mself up to be driven out, #3

By all means protect yourself from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Alan Muller

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *