35 Groups Urge Governor Carney to Oppose Biogas Infrastructure Development in Delaware

Biogas will strengthen factory farm and fossil fuel industry presence in region, groups say

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Food System

For Immediate Release

Today, 35 groups from across the Delmarva region issued a letter to Governor Carney, urging his opposition to factory farm biogas infrastructure development moving forward in Delaware. The controversial Bioenergy DevCo biogas scheme in Sussex County currently seeking state permits will be the first facility of its kind in the state and region. Groups warn that the project is only the start of what could be a destructive regional industry buildout, if allowed unchecked.

Letter signatories cited a host of concerns with the Bioenergy DevCo biogas operation, including:

  • Traffic and the safety of public roads: The methane refinery Bioenergy DevCo has planned would bring at least 20,000 heavy-duty truck trips per year (or more than 50 every day) to local roads. A yet undisclosed number of the trucks added to local roads would be hauling explosive gas – sometimes called “truck bombs.” 
  • Air quality: Biogas facilities emit smog-forming nitrogen oxides, ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide. These chemicals are known to cause chronic lung disease and other respiratory ailments like asthma, and would directly affect health in nearby neighborhoods.
  • Water quality: The waste at biogas facilities inevitably seeps into the soil either through mismanagement at the site or land application to fields, and has the potential to poison local drinking water with nitrate contamination that is linked to birth defects, miscarriages, various cancers and blue baby syndrome.
  • Environmental justice: The community surrounding Bioenergy DevCo’s proposed biogas facility is home to people of color at almost twice the rate of Sussex County as a whole and home to people living in poverty at almost three times the rate of Sussex County as a whole. To place a dirty and dangerous industrial plant for the sole purpose of extracting gas (and generating profit) from slaughterhouse sludge in this community is simply unjust.

In the letter, groups requested that Governor Carney direct the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to reject Bioenergy DevCo’s sought-after permits and oppose all buildout of biogas infrastructure. Food & Water Watch Delaware Organizer Greg Layton said:

“Delaware is facing the crises of a destructively expansive factory farm poultry industry and the imminent doom of the climate crisis. As they always do, Big Ag is looking to profit off the situation by peddling a false solution in factory farm biogas. But make no mistake — factory farm biogas will do nothing to aid our poultry waste overload, and everything to further entrench both factory farms and fossil fuel infrastructure in our communities. Governor Carney must say no to Bioenergy DevCo and no to biogas.”

“Biogas is a threat not only to the environment, but to the health of the communities in which our members live and work,” said Javiel Nazario, UFCW Local 27 VP & Executive Asst. to the President. “We call on Governor Carney to oppose the buildout of biogas infrastructure in favor of safer, cleaner energy alternatives.”

“Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice (SDARJ), supports fellow environmental justice advocates and, therefore, opposes the construction of an anaerobic digestion system in Sussex County,” said SDARJ Chair Charlotte King. “The hazards associated with the proposed methane refinery site that have been shared with state agencies responsible for protecting the environment and the health of Delawareans, state and county legislators and residents, raise serious concerns that the project would import and concentrate massive quantities of pollutants, and would threaten local and regional water quality. In addition, given our mission, SDARJ is especially concerned about people of color who live near the proposed plant. As a matter of fact, in Seaford, Delaware, people of color make up about 32 percent of the population within the three-mile radius of the proposed anaerobic digester. Indeed, an extensive and expanding body of scientific evidence finds that people of color are located more often in communities that are exposed to disproportionately higher levels of pollution.”

“The Sierra Club Delaware Chapter strongly opposes this methane refinery in Sussex Co,” said Sherri Evans-Stanton, Sierra Club Delaware Chapter director. “The facility would send toxic chemicals in the air and would poison our local drinking water. This would result in significant increased health impacts. Additionally, the facility would be located next to some of our most vulnerable communities. Biogas is not a renewable energy and this project should be denied.”

“Factory farm gas or so called ‘biogas’ is a dirty energy with serious safety and health concerns for the minority communities where this project is being sited,” said Maria Payan, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project senior regional representative. “Furthermore, to represent this as an Environmental Justice solution for frontline communities is reprehensible. “

“The Community Housing & Empowerment Connections Inc. (CHEC) stands with Food & Water Watch and other nearby residents in Seaford in preventing Bioenergy DevCo’s project from moving forward. While there are a number of reasons why this project should not be located there, the primary one is that it’s harmful to people’s health,” said Penny Dryden, Community Housing & Environment Connections, Inc. Executive Director. “Low income communities of color already face higher pollution burdens than their more affluent and whiter neighbors, as highlighted in our 2017 EJ for Delaware report. The placement of dirty digesters in these communities is unjust, detrimental to health and will only exacerbate the existing environmental hazards facing these vulnerable communities in Sussex County Delaware. CHEC Inc. urges the governor and all other public officials to put the people above profits and reject this project.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]