DE Activists Boycott DNREC Informational Meeting on Dirty Bioenergy Devco Gas Project

DNREC failed to sufficiently inform environmental justice, Haitian Creole- and Spanish-speaking communities, groups say

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Food System

For Immediate Release

Activists are boycotting a state informational meeting for the dirty Bioenergy Devco gas project happening this evening. The meeting precedes the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) October 26 public hearing on the draft permits for the proposed project near Seaford.

Bioenergy Devco’s proposal would truck factory farm waste from three states into a residential neighborhood in Sussex County to refine it into a gas indistinguishable from fracked gas. Emissions from burning the so-called “biogas” would have the same annual climate impact of a typical car driving almost 100 million miles. The local community would face serious public health and quality of life concerns from increased truck traffic, foul odors, and local air and water pollution.

A Food & Water Watch analysis found that the community surrounding the proposed gas refinery is home to people of color and people living in poverty at nearly twice the rate of Sussex County as a whole. Advocate outreach has demonstrated a consistent lack of DNREC communication over the past two years with these people, many of whom are Spanish or Haitian Creole speakers, about the details and dangers of the proposed facility. At a meeting with DNREC in July, the agency refused all advocate requests to better perform outreach to these communities. As a result, draft facility permits are currently only provided in English, and the only accommodation for non-English speakers during the public workshop and hearing appears to be the availability of Spanish captioning.

Activists are boycotting today’s DNREC meeting, citing the agency’s failure to sufficiently inform environmental justice, Haitian Creole- and Spanish-speaking communities about the proposal; refusal to require truthfulness from Bioenergy Devco representatives; and refusal to offer the community a seat at the table. Groups opposed to the project will not be turning out members to the DNREC meeting. Food & Water Watch Delaware Organizer Greg Layton said:

“DNREC’s informational session is nothing more than a one-sided dog and pony show for the developer to spin its polluting gas project as a win-win-win. Governor Carney’s agency has ignored repeated requests from advocates to reach across language barriers to ensure the communities living next to the dirty proposal understand the significant climate, public health, safety and quality of life issues at stake; and the community has been refused a seat at the table. This proposal has been an environmental injustice from the outset — Governor Carney must direct DNREC to deny permits for Bioenergy Devco’s biogas facility.”

“In having conversations within neighboring Spanish-speaking communities, none were aware of the scope and scale of this project. Few were aware of the project at all, despite being those who will be most impacted by it,” said Reji Gregoire, Green Campaign Manager with Delaware Working Families Party.

“This is hurting people,” said Charito Calvachi-Mateyko, Delaware Civil Rights Coalition Coordinator. “Can you imagine having thousands of truck loads bringing chicken manure, chicken litter and dead chickens constantly, seven days a week in front of your neighborhood? This is outrageous.”

“According to US News & World Reports’ pollution rankings, Delaware ranks in the top 10 most polluted states in the US. The proposed methane refinery planned for Seaford would bring close to 20,000 heavy-duty truck trips per year, deteriorating the air. The byproduct created by the refinery would further pollute nearby waterways and drinking water, harming both people and wildlife, and exacerbating climate change, said Shweta Arya, Delaware Interfaith Power & Light Executive Director. “Allowing the construction of an industrial facility of this scale in a residential community predominantly occupied by the underserved migrant population is both a huge public health hazard and an environmental justice issue.”

“While the Sierra Club Delaware Chapter encourages opportunities for the public to engage in permitting decisions, this virtual workshop on the BioEnergy Devco permit fails to provide a meaningful opportunity for the local communities most impacted by this project to participate and seek truthful answers to the many unanswered questions about this project,” said Dustyn Thompson, Sierra Club Delaware Chapter Director. “DNREC has refused to conduct an in-person meeting in the community where the facility would be located, with interpreters for the Spanish- and Haitian Creole-speaking residents, so those who would most feel the effects of this polluting industrial facility can participate equally and equitably in the permitting process. This is not acceptable and as such we are not actively encouraging our members to participate in this virtual workshop.”

Contact: Phoebe Galt, [email protected]