Groups appeal ethanol permit

The Delaware Audubon Society and League of Women Voters are appealing DNREC Secretary David Smith’s permit to allow Delaware City Refinery to ship up to 10,000 barrels of ethanol daily.

The two groups filed an appeal with the Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board. Kenneth T. Kristl of Widener University School of Law’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic, represents them.

The groups argue that the Coastal Zone Act signed into law by Gov. Russell Petersen in 1971 prohibited new development of heavy industry in areas around the Delaware River and transfer off offshore bulk product.

They contend Small has made a decision contrary to the Coastal Zone Act by allowing a new bulk product transfer facility within the Coastal Zone. Small cited a previous case law in making his determination, saying the act was never intended to shut down existing sites over nonconforming uses.

The shipment of bulk ethanol was not an issue when the act was written 46 years ago.

State officials and business leaders, concerned with the lack of industry and jobs in Delaware, are moving toward allowing some areas of industry, especially areas that had been grandfathered under the original Coastal Zone Act but lost their grandfathered status when they were sold or stood fallow too long.

“We carefully analyzed the facts and law surrounding the secretary’s decision on this permit and concluded that the transshipment of ethanol it allows clearly violates the Coastal Zone Act,” Kristl said. “We look forward to presenting our arguments to the Coastal Zone Industrial Control Board at the public hearing on this appeal.”

“Governor Russell Peterson, who died in 2011, was president of the National Audubon Society from 1979 to 1985. Defending the Coastal Zone Act is not only core to our mission of protecting Delaware’s important bird areas; it is also part of our responsibility to preserve the legacy of Governor Peterson,” said Matt DelPizzo, president of Delaware Audubon Society.

“The League of Women Voters’ support of what may be the state’s most significant land use law, the Coastal Zone Act, goes back to the Act’s origin in 1971.  We’ve seen a relentless attempt to erode the law.  The larger concern in this appeal is to prevent a continuing erosion of the protections provided by the Coastal Zone Act,” said Jill Fuchs, president of the league.

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