DNREC falling short on biogas project

October 21, 2022

Information is basic in a restorative democracy, but now DNREC has scheduled an Oct. 26 public hearing for the proposed Bioenergy Devco project near Seaford, and at this late date, the department will hold the meeting without materially informing the affected non-English-speaking neighborhood of the potential risks to their health and life.

That is an outrage.

Research from the environmental advocacy group Food & Water Watch shows that residents of the community within three miles of the proposed methane refinery are twice as likely as the average Sussex Countian to be people of color. And, in my own visits to the neighborhood nearest the Bioenergy Devco site, most of the people I’ve met spoke Spanish or Haitian Creole almost exclusively.

A coalition including Food & Water Watch, Sussex Health & Environment Network, Southern Delaware Alliance for Racial Justice and the Delaware Civil Rights Coalition has spent the past year attempting to represent the immigrant community south of Seaford to the state of Delaware. During that time, our coalition has repeatedly asked DNREC to inform members of this community about the environmental hazards that might soon enter their air and water, and to weigh the community’s concerns in decision-making, but DNREC has not acted.

For example, DNREC’s community ombudsman, the staffer charged with addressing such environmental justice concerns, has ducked us entirely, canceling meetings and ignoring emails.

The record suggests that DNREC is not seriously professional or objective in this review process to safeguard the public health, safety and welfare. Do they realize that this would mean that the secretary and his governor have neglected their duty?

In fact, DNREC staff told us very plainly that the company behind the project, Bioenergy Devco, which is the only party aside from DNREC permitted to speak at the informational meeting, is not under any obligation to make its presentation clear and understandable to anyone. And, per DNREC, the company may withhold any information it chooses to withhold, and refuse to answer any question it does not like. 

This is the national case study in the president's home state that demonstrates the need for EPA’s new $3 billion Environmental Justice and Civil Rights Division. It is not in the interest of any party, including our Gov. Carney, to precipitate this state v. EPA clash.

Far from an informational meeting, this is an industry dog and pony show, short on climate science and long in lacking DNREC's vision and leadership to protect the public welfare. 

From attempting to place this polluting industrial operation in the midst of a vulnerable community to knowingly withholding relevant information from its would-be neighbors, this entire process has been an affront to environmental justice.

Gov. Carney, please direct DNREC to stop this project.

Charito Calvachi-Mateyko 
Executive director, Latino Initiative on Restorative Justice
  • A letter to the editor expresses a reader's opinion and, as such, is not reflective of the editorial opinions of this newspaper.

    To submit a letter to the editor for publishing, send an email to Letters must be signed and include a telephone number and address for verification. Please keep letters to 500 words or fewer. We reserve the right to edit for content and length. Letters should be responsive to issues addressed in the Cape Gazette rather than content from other publications or media. Only one letter per author will be published every 30 days. Letters restating information and opinions already offered by the same author will not be used. Letters must focus on issues of general, local concern, not personalities or specific businesses.

Subscribe to the Daily Newsletter