Alert 654: Ciba (BASF) rolls out a new air pollution threat to your health…..

GreenDel Alert 654:

Ciba (BASF) in Newport, DE, rolls out a new air pollution threat to your health:

Proposed “Biomass” incinerator would belch air pollutants

Please help stop the attempt to roll back Delaware’s laws against incineration


It’s no secret that much of Delaware’s air is polluted and often harms our health.

One thing in Delaware’s favor is strong laws, among the strongest in the world, against incineration.  These laws, which Green Delaware members played a key role in passing, were championed in the Delaware General Assembly by Sen. David McBride and many other legislators.  These lung-protecting laws are periodically under attack, often by the Delaware (“Dirty”) Solid Waste Authority, obsessed with building another garbage incinerator.  But the Garbage Empire isn’t alone.

These days the attacks are increasing, because the burner industries are using global warming as an excuse to promote more smokestacks, sometimes claiming that their emissions are “carbon neutral” and hoping that a panic over climate change will cause people to forget about other hard done by pollution.

Common sense says we can’t keep climate changing gases out of the atmosphere with more smokestacks and more burning, but common sense is often lacking, even among well funded “environmental groups.”

The latest attack on Delaware’s environmental laws and our lungs comes from Ciba, a subsidiary of the big German chemical firm BASF.  The Ciba plant, located in Newport, DE, easily seen while passing through Newport on Route 141) used to belong to DuPont and then became Ciba-Geigy before being bought by BASF.  The Newport plant used to be one of Delaware’s most notorious polluters–the Christina River ran colors below the plant and dust often covered Newport.  Ciba, at least outwardly, is cleaner now.

Now, Ciba’s plant manager Rudy Merstetter says Ciba wants to build a wood-burning incinerator in Newport.  Merstetter told Green Delaware he couldn’t give us any details because the contractor hadn’t been selected.  Other sources told us it was Intrinergy .He’s been doing the usual thing–trying to line up support before the public finds out what’s up.

Ciba made a presentation to state legislators and officials of the Town of Newport in March.  They talked about how good their proposed incinerator would be.

But there is no mention of this in the March or April Town Commission meeting minutes . Nor is it mentioned in the official April newsletter .  Why not?  Are town officials trying to grease the skids for Ciba’s burner?

Ciba has been approaching organizations they think might roll over.

They met with the Delaware “Nature” Society, which gets funding from, guess who, Ciba.  Multiple calls to the Society were not returned.

Ciba wrote to the Sierra Club’s Delaware Chapter.  An honest person in Sierra leaked this information to us and this is how we found out.  Sierra would not share with us the letter it received from Ciba.

Delaware Audubon apparently was not approached, didn’t know about it any sooner than Green Delaware did, and told us “of course we are against the incinerator.”

The promoters approached the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and were told an incinerator couldn’t be permitted under Delaware law. William T. Wood, one of Delaware’s most high-powered lobbyists, represents both Ciba and the Chemical Industry Council of Delaware.  Wood has been prowling Delaware’s Legislative Hall, asking Senators and Representatives to agree to support a bill rolling back Delaware’s environmental protections to allow the Ciba incinerator–and who knows how many other incinerators and burners.

Intrinergy’s Donna Wirick, who made the presentation in Newport, didn’t want to talk to us about details of the project.  She readily admitted interest in changing Delaware laws to “… allow certain types of projects.”

Key people in all this include Senator Karen Peterson, representing the area, Representative (and House Speaker) Bob Gilligan, also representing the area, Senator Dave McBride, Chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Control Committee, and Rep. Mike Mulrooney, Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee.  (The General Assembly will not readily approve something if the representatives of the district it would be in don’t want it.)

Governor Markell is also a key player, of course.  During his campaign he opposed burners, and we hope he will stick to that.  The Governor’s Energy Advisory Council and the Energy Office (see “Delaware Energy Plan 2009-2014 –a worst-ever report? ) , part of the DNREC, have both endorsed weakening our laws.

Colin O’Mara, the new Secretary of the DNREC, is pretty much an unknown quantity to us. What does Green Delaware know about “biomass?”  Quite a bit, actually.

I attended an industry meeting, “Biomass ’08,” April 15-16, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“The first International Biomass Conference & Trade Show aims to facilitate the advancement of near-term and commercial-scale manufacturing of biomass-based power, fuels, and chemicals. Plan to learn and share information on biorefining technologies for the production and advancement of biopower, bioproducts, biochemicals, biofuels, intermediate products, and coproducts –through general sessions, technical workshops, and an industry trade show.”

I spent April 29th and 30th of this year in DC with a team of experts from various states–California, Massachusetts, Maryland, DC, Pennsylvania–talking to legislators and staff about “biomass.”

Most importantly, I’ve recently consulted with communities dealing with “biomass” schemes in Minnesota, Florida, Alabama, and North Carolina.  The basic story is always the same:  The promoters talk about “green,” “renewable,” “carbon neutral,” “sustainable,” etc.  They make it sound wonderful to local officials.

But digging into the actual permits and other sources of real facts show that “biomass” burners belch out millions of pounds per year of health-damaging air pollutants.  They also belch out large amounts of climate-changing carbon dioxide, far more per unit of electricity generated than modern gas, or even coal, plants.  A key thing to know is that even “clean wood” is a very dirty fuel.  Of course, garbage, or “Construction & Demolition” waste is worse in some ways.  But plain wood is plenty bad enough. Usually, these projects are defeated when communities have the real facts. Some projects I’ve looked at:

o       Proposed 25 megawatt wood burner in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Kandiyohi Development Partners).  Emissions 1,058,904.5 pounds per year.  This project has been defeated by communities in two locations in Minnesota after people learned these facts.  Emissions details.

o       Proposed 42 megawatt wood burner in Tallahassee, Florida, (Biomass Gas and Electric, L.L.C.).  Emissions 1,414,000 pounds per year.  This project was defeated by community opposition and various scandals.  Emissions details.

o       50 megawatt “poultry litter” incinerator in Benson, Minnesota (Fibrominn).  Emissions: 5,272,146 pounds per year.  This incinerator unfortunately, was built.  Since then it has been identified in an EPA data base as a “High Priority Violator” and has been cited in a Notice of Violation by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.  More important, it is contributing to serious violations of Air Quality Standards.   This burner is allowed to put out over 70 times more “Hazardous Air Pollutants” per megawatt of generating capacity than a recently permitted coal unit (Cliffside #6 in North Carolina). Emissions details.

o       Proposed 50 megawatt burner in LaGrange Georgia.  We are just beginning to look at this one but emissions of toxic air pollutants (not all the pollutants, by any means) are reportedly over 600,000 pounds per year.  From the permit application, total emissions are expected to be around 1.4 million pounds per year.

Key points:

o       These incinerators pollute a lot and belch “greenhouse” gases.  There is no magic no-pollutant technology;

o       They all got, or easily can get, air permits.  The Clean Air Act/EPA/DNREC provides little protection;

o       Delaware did the right thing by banning these burners.  We need to keep these laws in place;

o       Delaware’s energy policy should focus on wind, solar, conservation, “zero waste,” and other desirable and effective approaches;

o       The promoters don’t just want this one project.  They want to open the doors for “biomass” generally.  This could include garbage and other really bad stuff.

YOU NEED TO BE HEARD NOW against weakening Delaware’s environmental laws.

Please contact your state senator and representative, and

Governor Markell:`, 1.800.292.9570

DNREC Secretary Colin O’Mara:, 302.739.9000

Senator Karen Peterson: 

Senator Dave McBride:   

House Speaker Bob Gilligan:

Rep. Mike Mulrooney:    

Contact information for legislators, including home and office phone numbers, is at: .

If you live in or near Newport, contact:

Mayor:           Michael Spencer

Vice-Mayor:     Albert Bradbury

Commissioner:   Kevin Haigh     

Commissioner:   Kathy Joseph    

Commissioner:   Mary Harrington

Town Office: 994-6403 (

Call Rudy Merstetter, Ciba/BASF’s plant manager in newport:  302.992.5600,

Tell him NO weakening of our environmental laws and NO biomass burner in Newport!
Rudy Merstetter
Ciba/BASF plant manager Rudy Merstetter

Thanks for all your are doing to make Delaware a better place.

Alan Muller Green Delaware

2 thoughts on “Alert 654: Ciba (BASF) rolls out a new air pollution threat to your health…..

  1. Detoxdietguy

    nowadays there is too much pollution in the air. most of the pollution from the air comes from fossil fuels. maybe someday we would use less and less of fossil fuesl in favor of clean and renewable energy sources.

  2. tom spiro

    it’s so sad to see how “green delaware” fights the creation of jobs w/o undersatnding the concepts. Just because of few “greeners” outthere that most like don’t respect the own even grass companies have no chance to improve their cost and stay here… so to all the greeners … educate yourself more and learn about new tech that not only can save jobs but also the enviroment ….
    A pissed off skilled out of a job operator

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