Green activist hot over pollution workshop

A public workshop on air emissions permitting for business, on Oct. 8 at Dover Downs, has raised the ire of environmentalists. Activists from Green Delaware this week urged the public to call on the state to cancel the $50 workshop and reconsider a new program the group says will aid polluters.

“Green Delaware calls on all public interest organizations in Delaware, and all concerned citizens, to demand that this stop – starting with cancelation of the $50 ‘public workshops.’ They’re supposed to serve and protect the public, not the polluters!” said Alan Muller, director of Green Delaware on Oct. 3.

The $50-per-person cost of the workshop includes materials, continental breakfast and lunch, and registration is required to attend. All Delaware facilities with an air emissions source and air pollution control equipment are being encouraged to attend the workshop. These include many commercial or industrial facilities.

According to state officials, the workshop will provide information on DNREC’s new Value Stream Mapping process “and how it helps streamline the air permitting process by including more easy-to-understand forms and instructions and removing wasteful and redundant steps — that can ultimately cut the permit processing time in half.

“This new process allows facility owners to more effectively plan operational changes,” officials said in announcing the workshop. “In addition, recent federal and state regulatory requirements for air emissions permits will be presented, and DNREC’s permitting team will be available to answer questions throughout the day.”

“Delaware’s Gov. Ruth Ann Minner and Environmental Secretary John Hughes have chopped away at the ability of citizens to participate in regulatory decisions,” Muller said. “But actually charging $50 to attend a ‘public workshop’ combined with a new program to aid the polluters — this is a new low, obviously intended to keep the public away from learning about giveaways to industrial air polluters.”

Muller said that in the waning days of the Minner administration the state is seeing many bad decisions being rushed through the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.

He pointed to a public hearing he said was recently held without a court reporter and a Sept. 22 hearing at which he said Hearing Officer Bob Haynes closed the record to the public then contacted the applicant, asking for more information to be sent in. A permit was issued within days, said Muller. The order made reference to “the Department’s experts,” but DNREC officials were unable to identify those experts, he said.

“There seems to be no limit to the pervasive sleaze of this lame-duck administration. Bad news for the environment and our health, of course, and it is very demoralizing to competent, honest people in the agency. We encourage people to contact us, in strict confidence if necessary, about more examples that need exposing,” said Muller.

“We’ve gone from a time when the public had some rights, to a time when one could go and be ignored for free. Now, they are asking us to pay $50 for the privilege of being ignored. Green Delaware calls on all public interest organizations in Delaware, and all concerned citizens, to demand that this stop — starting with cancelation of the $50 ‘public workshops,’” said Muller.