It’s All Hands On Deck To Stop A Biogas Pollution Scheme In Sussex County

We are in a major fight to stop a scheme to turn the disgusting dregs of Perdue's factory farming into methane and further pollute our air and water.

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Climate and Energy

In Delaware’s Sussex County, the corporation Bioenergy DevCo is rapidly advancing a proposal to produce gas from processed factory farm waste. The company’s current plan is to produce methane gas from “DAF scum,” the leftover pollution from Perdue’s regional slaughter facilities (including strained blood, chemicals and other pollutants from factory farmed poultry). Bioenergy is seeking permits to construct this dangerous industrial facility in a residential zone near Seaford, Delaware. The company claims that their plans would reduce pollution — but in reality, they would create and concentrate it. We’re partnering with community members to stop this scheme.

This project, if constructed, would further entrench factory farms on the Eastern Shore while deepening the power grid’s reliance on gas infrastructure for at least 20 more years. Bioenergy and Perdue have already signed a 20-year contract for Bioenergy to process Perdue’s waste at the facility — they only need county and state permits to begin. If all of this wasn’t bad enough, Bioenergy DevCo has also been intentionally deceitful to the public about the types of waste that will be coming into this facility, and what will be leaving it. First, the company suggested they would use poultry litter, but now we’ve learned they’ll be using “DAF scum.” It’s been a little like peeling an onion, with each layer revealing new information that should have been disclosed up front. Why would they do this? For profit, of course. 

Perdue’s plan creates threats to air, water, safety, health and property

If permitted, this factory farm gas scheme would accept the highly industrial waste from processing plants and slaughterhouses from across the region to generate gas for out-of-state corporate profit. The project threatens: 

  • Our air and water with methane leaks, industrial wastewater pollution and continued pollution from the countless factory farms in the region. It also incentivizes the buildout of gas pipeline infrastructure to bring this factory farm gas onto the grid. 

    This scheme will take in an industrialized waste called “DAF scum,” and create a highly soluble digestate that must be managed locally. According to Delaware’s own regulations on this sludge, “this residual material is a slurry of water and solids that can be 100 times more concentrated than untreated wastewater.” This means even more pollution to threaten local waterways such as Gum Branch and the Nanticoke River. The pollution from the facility could reach downstream waterways and ecosystems as far away as the Chesapeake Bay.
     
  • Local quality of life. The “AR-1 zoning district” in which Bioenergy DevCo proposes to build their facility was zoned for residential neighborhoods and the families who live there. Because this area has been zoned for residential use, Bioenergy is seeking a “conditional use permit” to be able to locate an industrial facility there. But that’s not right. There are other zones for industrial facilities that aren’t near homes and neighborhoods. This proposal also threatens local property values (who wants to live near an industrial facility processing chicken parts into explosive methane gas?) and the safety of roads and highways throughout the region given Bioenergy’s plans to truck in the industrial waste and truck out the gas on dangerous “bomb trucks.”

Fighting against corrupt opposition trying to pass this factory farm gas scheme 

The people who would be most impacted by these quality of life issues have so far had to fight tooth and nail for a voice in the process. The Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission had been content to approve this process without any public input whatsoever — it wasn’t until residents and advocates demanded the opportunity to provide input and a series of media reports exposed the commission’s intent to fast-track this process that the commission ultimately reversed course and agreed to use a proper process. At the hard-fought hearing, many residents felt bullied by Bioenergy and their allies on the Commission who verbally attacked and interrupted people during their remarks.

On March 11th, after multiple delays, the Planning & Zoning Commission approved the conditional use permit for this facility in the face of over 130 residents’ opposition. Not only did residents turn out to oppose Bioenergy’s proposal at the Commission’s hearing, but groups also submitted a letter to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) outlining numerous and significant legal, public health and environmental problems with Bioenergy’s proposal, as well as issued a letter to Delaware Governor Carney to halt this factory farm biogas scheme in the state. 

Opposition has been steadfast with community meetings, webinars, door-knocking and livestreams (including one with state senators) organized across the past six months to educate and activate neighbors and family members. Now the Sussex County Council must consider this permit. Only after these approvals are in place can the DNREC review various air and water permits required for the facility. One thing is for certain, it was clear at the hearing that the Planning & Zoning Commissioners didn’t even KNOW what kind of pollution Bioenergy DevCo was proposing to import into Sussex County. Bioenergy’s current plans to use “DAF scum” should be a concern to the publicly elected Sussex County Council who have a duty to protect residents’ health and well-being.

Next in the fight to stop Bioenergy DevCo’s scheme is the March 16th Sussex County Council meeting — a great place to hold Sussex County Council accountable. We need everyone: submit your comment here

Raise your voice to make a difference in this fight.