A bill opening up Delaware’s landmark Coastal Zone Act to new development is now law.
Gov. Carney signed the legislation Wednesday at the former General Chemical site in Claymont. It allows businesses to set up new heavy industry on that site and 13 others along the coast previously protected. But those businesses will be required to clean up those sites.
"This is a big deal," said Carney.
Carney and lawmakers supporting the new law, including House sponsor Rep. Ed Osienski, lauded it as striking the proper balance between economic development and environmental protection.
“What we’re really excited about now is what are the possibilities coming down the road – as in good companies relocating here, creating good paying jobs and taking care of Delaware by remediating these sites as HB 190 requires.”
Just how quickly the bill will have an impact is up in the air.
DNREC has a two year window to develop the regulations needed to create the permits the new law requires for these sites – a process DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin concedes will be a heavy lift.
“We need to have a plan on how we’re going to do outreach, how we’re going to create a group of people who will help, provide input on this, and focus on the things that we feel need to be done to the existing regulations to make sure that it addresses a conversion permit,” said Garvin.
But some may not have to wait for the regulations. The law has provisions for permits to be granted sooner.
D2 Management, owner of the old General Chemical site, may seek one. D2 Management president Keith Delaney says its already seeing interest in its property.
"We actually already had two site visits from multinational companies looking to relocate and making site selections between Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. And we've been shortlisted by these two companies," said Delaney. "And that's happened since the bill passed the Senate."
Garvin says he understands DNREC may be asked for permits before the regulations are complete.
"We're interested in trying to get the regulations done as quickly as possible and trying to use the information that we have to process (applications submitted before regulations are complete), but not do it in a fashion where people think we've predetermined what the regulations will look like moving forward," said Garvin.
Delaney adds he's confident the state won’t let a opportunity to develop a site slip through its fingers.
"If we had a company that makes a commitment tomorrow, we're going to work with DNREC and public and private partners to try and fast track this process, making sure it appeases all parties, but we're not going to miss a company I can tell you that," said Delaney.
The law passed both chambers of the General Assembly with bipartisan support, despite concerns from many environmental groups.