Environmental Group Accuses Sussex County Officials of Illegal Mishandling of Proposed Anaerobic Digesters

"Bioenergy seeks to push through a dirty, dangerous energy project in an agricultural and residential area with as little public input and oversight as possible."


Climate and Energy

Dover – In a letter sent late last week to Delaware Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Secretary Shawn Garvin, the environmental group Food & Water Watch alerted the agency to likely illegal mishandling of the ongoing evaluation of a proposed anaerobic digester project in Seaford. Among other things, the group accused local officials of improperly excluding public input into zoning decisions and seeking to illegally approve the gas production facility in an area reserved for agriculture and single-family homes. 

The letter also detailed a number of inherent public health and environmental threats associated with the proposed digesters, including the concentration of massive amounts of air and water pollution, impacts on drinking water sources, and grave public safety concerns related to the collection, processing and transport of explosive gasses.

“Bioenergy seeks to push through a dirty, dangerous energy project in an agricultural and residential area with as little public input and oversight as possible, and local officials seem to be playing right along,” said Tyler Lobdell, staff attorney at Food & Water Watch. “DNREC needs to step in and ensure public health and safety for local residents. This means, first and foremost, that Bioenergy and local officials are following the law in this project review process.”

“It is shameful that the public is being left out of the local zoning process for a project of this magnitude during the pandemic. Communities deserve a seat at the table. Our right to live, work, pray and play in a healthy and safe environment should not be an afterthought,” said Gina Burton, of the Sussex Health & Environmental Network.

“Again the citizens of Sussex County have been bypassed on a decision that will not only impact their health, but will further pollute what is left of this precious environment,” said Shelly Cohen, a local resident

The letter to Secretary Garvin states, in part: “DNREC’s rules require that a project proponent obtain local zoning approval before applying for permits – this has not happened here. Therefore, DNREC lacks authority to permit many aspects of Bioenergy’s [proposal] at this time… Bioenergy is attempting to push through local approval of this project by bypassing two critical elements in the process: public participation and final approval by the County Council… DNREC must not circumvent local approval requirements, put its thumb on the scale of the Commission’s decision by prematurely considering permit applications, or otherwise overlook critical environmental and safety threats in an effort to expedite Bioenergy’s project proposal.”