Sussex County Council Disregards Public Opposition; Votes Unanimously to Approve Controversial Dirty Bioenergy Biogas Proposal

Factory farm biogas scheme proceeds to state permitting, despite significant health, safety and environmental justice concerns

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Climate and Energy

For Immediate Release

Georgetown, DE — Today, the Sussex County Council voted unanimously (5-0) to approve Bioenergy DevCo’s controversial factory farm biogas facility’s conditional use permit to site their industrial operations in an agricultural-residential zoned neighborhood near Seaford. The scheme, which plans to transform Perdue’s poultry slaughterhouse waste into methane to support regional pipeline infrastructure, received conditional use approval despite significant risks to public health, safety and environmental justice concerns.

The vote to approve the conditional use permit comes after months of community organizing throughout Sussex County. Last month, over 230 advocates overwhelmed the County hearing for the project with steadfast opposition to the dirty scheme. Over the past week, constituents made more than 70 calls to Council members, urging them to vote against the project. With the approved conditional use permit, Bioenergy’s proposal now goes to the state to seek permits for air pollution, water quality and solid waste handling.

Those opposed to the project warn that the factory farm biogas proposal threatens further entrenchment and expansion of the dirty and dangerous gas and poultry factory farm industries  in Delaware and in the Delmarva region. Highlighted during COVID-19 as hotbeds of community transmission, the poultry factory farming industry across the area is known for substandard working conditions that threaten food safety and the health and safety of workers; unsustainable practices that produce excessive poultry litter that leaches pollution into drinking water sources, rivers, streams and the Chesapeake Bay; and exploitative practices that crowd out independent producers and local food economies.

Residents and advocates remain united against factory farm biogas buildout in Delaware, as the industry seeks to expand throughout the region. Groups turn next to the state permitting process to make their voices heard.

“Today’s vote is a disappointing vote for factory farms and dirty energy in Delmarva — two things Sussex County residents need less of,” said Food & Water Watch Delaware Organizer Greg Layton. “To burden a local population already surrounded by Superfund sites and poultry factory farms with this factory farm gas scheme will only invite greater public health and safety risks. From the outset, members of the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission and County Council made it clear that they were uninterested in their constituents’ concerns. Today’s decision proves that local elected officials are more interested in lining the pockets of agribusiness and dirty energy interests than addressing the needs of their most vulnerable constituents.”

“It is a sad day when the will of the people, along with our zoning code take a back seat to special interests,” said Maria Payan of the Sussex Health & Environmental Network and the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project. “Vulnerable communities will suffer again. This application was totally misrepresented — and approved by the County anyway, even after it was exposed.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, Food & Water Watch, [email protected]