A House committee approved a bill to ease development restrictions at 14 polluted sites along Delaware’s coastline Wednesday night.
In the past, companies heavily polluted those sites. Business lobbying groups say letting new industries clean up these areas and grow there would be a win-win for the state and its economy.
But environmentalists reject such changes, noting it only takes one disaster to hurt the state’s coastland and waterways for decades.
Susan Mack, a Sierra Club member, says it’s an “attack at the central core principles” of the law.
“Go down, drive down along the coast and you can see the evidence of what that benefit has been to this state by almost 50 years ago having the foresight to have a strong environmental protection for our coastal zone,” Mack said.
More than 40 people spoke during the two-and-a-half hour hearing – the majority of them environmentalists opposed to this move to alter the landmark Coastal Zone Act.
Mike Hackendorn, from the Delaware Building Trades Council and a local pipefitters union, says allowing new businesses to clean these sites and open up shop helps the state’s economy.
“We all know that there’s a lot of businesses that have shut down over the last six or eight years in Delaware and these jobs are much needed – especially for the middle class people,” Hackendorn said.
Green groups are most concerned about something called “bulk product transfer” meaning the shipment of loose materials like fuel, grain or sand.
That’s currently outlawed for any new business that would develop the coastal zone, but if lawmakers approve this bill, two-way transfers would be a possibility.
New oil refineries, pulp mills, incinerators, steel plants or liquefied natural gas terminals would not be allowed under the measure.
The bill has heavy support from Republicans and Gov. John Carney (D) and is expected to come up for a full House vote as early as next week.