Food & Water Watch Sues Sussex County Commission Over Factory Farm Biogas Facility

Petitioners argue the Commission violated Sussex County Code, and that CleanBay Renewables’ conditional use approval is null and void

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Food System

For Immediate Release

On Friday, Food & Water Watch, alongside and on behalf of a local resident, filed a lawsuit against the Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission for their unlawful zoning decision regarding CleanBay Renewables’ planned factory farm biogas facility in Georgetown. The petitioners argue that the Commission exceeded its jurisdiction and ignored County law when it found that construction at the site was “substantially underway,” and that therefore CleanBay Renewables’ conditional use approval could remain in effect.

Food & Water Watch was forced to bring this lawsuit after County officials refused to process its appeal to the Sussex County Board of Adjustment. This refusal marks only the latest move by County officials to ram through factory farm biogas facilities in areas otherwise reserved for agriculture and low-density residential uses, despite local opposition. County officials’ apparent disregard for impacted residents is an affront to their constituents. 

If the lawsuit is successful, CleanBay Renewables’ zoning approval will become null and void, a major setback in its effort to bring a polluting factory farm biogas facility into the area. Given the public health, safety and environmental threats of factory farm biogas, a voided permit would be a victory for nearby residents, who staunchly opposed the facility when it was first proposed in 2018.

With the filing, Food & Water Watch Attorney Emily Miller issued the following statement:

“In flagrant violation of their own County Code, the Commission’s decision to allow CleanBay Renewables’ zoning approval to remain in effect flies in the face of the law and the best interests of their own constituents. Commissioners claimed they were giving the company the ‘benefit of the doubt’ when they made this unlawful decision. But the benefit of the doubt should go to the communities who will bear the brunt of the public health impacts from the toxic air and water pollution the gas refinery would emit — not to the companies who stand to profit off the entrenchment of two mega-polluting industries, factory farms and dirty energy providers. Factory farm biogas must not take root in Delaware. That begins with holding developers like CleanBay Renewables to account, as opposed to giving them special treatment in contravention of state and county law.”

Petitioners are represented in this matter by Kenneth T. Kristl, Esq., Professor of Law & Director of the Environmental & Natural Resources Law Clinic at Widener University Delaware Law School.

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]