The new environmental warriors

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By Joyce Mullins • February 5, 2009

There is nothing new in Delaware’s fight to keep our environment clean.

One of the first people I met when I started my reporting career here was the late Grace “Bubbles” Pierce-Beck.

She made her mark working with former Gov. Russell W. Peterson to create the Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act in 1971 and people were still talking about her achievements right up to her death last fall at the age of 82.

I’m keeping an eye on some new environmental warriors, including some coastal folks such as Joan Deaver, Kim Furtado and Sallie Forman. And then there’s Alan Muller, founder of Green Delaware. Formidable! Say that word with a French flavor and you’re close to his intent and style.

Muller is controversial, but I am impressed with his thoroughness when it comes to uncovering facts.

In mid-January, for example, the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control gave its report on “Toxic Release Inventory” for 2007. Muller published the TRI in his Green Delaware Alert No. 637.

[Note: The alert is here]

Among the facts that got my attention were that 75 percent of TRI air releases came from power plants and 47 percent of statewide air releases come from NRG’s Indian River Power Plant.

Muller praised DNREC for “doing a pretty good job,” but then he asked sharp questions that we all need to be asking. He says that actual power plant chemical emissions are about 17 times higher than the TRI reports reveal.

Muller said, “Our old friend NRG’s Indian River Power Plant, reports releasing into our air 3,271,238 pounds of TRI chemicals in 2007.

“A couple of years ago, this facility reported TRI air emissions of 3,932,377 pounds but the total harmful emissions reported to the DNREC were 68,297,232 pounds,” Muller said. “Only 5.7 percent of the harmful emissions known to DNREC were reported in the TRI.

“The actual emissions are about 17 times higher. Why? This information is collected under a different federal law (the Clean Air Act) and DNREC is not required to publish the information,” Muller said.

“Usually it is released only in response to a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request,” he said.

My purpose in listing a couple of names of rising new environmental warriors was not to urge you to follow them, but to encourage all of us to become activists.

When you read numbers that don’t add up, start calling. File a FOIA request. Make a nuisance of yourself. It’s our air and water and we have a right to expect it to be clean.

Joyce Mullins has worked for newspapers in Delaware for more than 30 years. Send feedback to

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