Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Defending the Delaware from Deepening to Protect the River for All

Today we learned that the Delaware Riverkeeper, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and the organizations that have joined us in our litigation are being allowed to intervene in the call for an injunction to stop the Army Corps from proceeding with the project until our legal challenges are done.  This sound decision by the court will help ensure that the wide variety of legal violations and environmental threats the project poses are fully addressed in the Court's decision.

The Army Corps plan to begin deepening before it has fulfilled all of its obligations under environmental protection laws and before the release of the newest Government Accountability Office Review that is now ongoing seems to demonstrate the tremendous fear the Army Corps has in the outcome of honest environmental and economic reviews.  It has been nearly 20 years since this project was proposed - the rush to act now is clearly driven by fear and/or politics, rather than need.

The Army Corps is claiming that Congress has demonstrated its support for the project.  Such a pronouncement is disingenuous in light of the findings by the Government Accountability Office as recently as 2006 that

  “GAO’s recent reviews of four Corps civil works projects [including the Delaware Deepening] and actions found that the planning studies conducted by the Corps to support these activities were fraught with errors, mistakes, and miscalculations, and used invalid assumptions and outdated data.  Generally, GAO found that the Corps’ studies understated costs and overstated benefits, and therefore did not provide a reasonable basis for decision-making.”

The Army Corps has not given the Congress an accurate picture of the deepening, its environmental threats, or economic ramifications.  Nor has it given an accurate picture to the public, including those who misguidedly support the project.

And the Army Corps, as well as project supporters, have failed to consider the harm that could be done to all those jobs that rely on the healthy fish, shellfish, and wildlife of the Delaware.  We are talking about multi-million dollar industries, put at risk from the environmental harm the deepening threatens.  In fact, when these jobs have been brought to the table for consideration those who support the project quickly and callously dismiss them as unimportant.

Well, they are not unimportant.  They are very important.  The health of the River and its ecosystems are vital to us all and it is not okay for one small sector of the community to seek to harm the River purely for their own private gain, at the expense of everyone else.

The Army Corps is failing to honor its obligation to protect the public; so it is now on the Courts to do so.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lawsuit Filed Against Delaware Deepening To Protect the River and All Who Depend Upon It.

November 19, 2009, on behalf of 5 citizen environmental organizations including the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, National Wildlife Federation, New Jersey Environmental Federation, Delaware Nature Society, Clean Water Action the Delaware Riverkeeper Network's River Resources Law Clinic  filed an independent legal challenge in Federal in District Court in New Jersey against the Delaware Deepening proposal. The groups also filed in Delaware District Court to intervene in the legal action brought against the deepening by the State of Delaware.

When the Army Corps announced that it was going to proceed with the Deepening project at this time, it was announcing its intent to violate no less than 7 federal environmental and community protection laws as well as state environmental and community protection laws.
In addition to being a flagrant violation of state and federal law, the decision by the Army Corps to move forward with the deepening without needed Delaware and New Jersey permits and approvals is a stripping of state environmental protection authority that cannot be allowed to stand.

While it is critically important that both NJ and DE have filed to challenge the actions of the Army Corps, the legal challenges they brought were much more focused on the states’ rights issues. NJ’s action was broader than Delaware’s and included more environmental claims to be sure, but neither included the full array of environmental harms that is included in our litigation.

The Delaware River provides the foundation for our healthy economy and healthy communities. Our environmental protection laws and government agencies are meant to protect the River and environment for us all.

This is not about jobs versus the environment – this is about protecting both.

The Army Corps has made clear that the Delaware deepening project will not increase the quantities of goods that come up the River – the benefits are only increased efficiencies, not more tonnage.

The undocumented claims of jobs being made by Pennsylvania are not the result of the deepening project, they are the result of other port development projects.

Deepening the Delaware puts at risk a wide array of fish, shellfish, and wildlife that are critical for providing hundreds of millions of dollars of income and jobs to our communities, region and nationwide.

The oysters that the deepening threatens provides up to $3 million dollars of economic benefit to our region.

The horseshoe crabs that the deepening threatens is not only critical for ensuring vaccines and medical devices are safe for use by humans, but supports a $150 million biomedical industry and is the basis of $34 million of ecotourism income to our region.

The commercial and recreational fisheries of our Estuary, Bay and River is another multi-million dollar industry that supports many, many jobs directly and indirectly. For example, in Pennsylvania, fishing activities are credited with generating $4.7 billion per year in revenue and supporting 43,000 jobs -- while this is not only from the Delaware Estuary, it gives a sense of how important fishing is economically to our watershed states. Sale of fishing licenses generates tens of millions for the budgets of our river states including $19 million in PA, $4 million in NJ and $200,000 in DE.

The deepening project, according to the record, will not create jobs.  But it will harm them.

At the same time it threatens drinking water supplies as well as wetlands that are important for not only environmental protection but providing storm protection to our communities.

That the Army Corps of Engineers awould be willing to break the law in order to press forward a dangerous project that threatens our environment, our drinking water, and all of the jobs that depend upon clean water and healthy fish, oyster and birding communities of the Delaware river is unconscionable. When Government is willing to break the law, citizens must rise up and defend it – that is what we are doing – defending our right to clean water, clean air, fish we can catch and feed our children, wetlands and floodplains that protect us from pollution and floods.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Salem Nuclear Generation Station -- Trying to Live Longer so it Can Kill More

The Salem Nuclear Generation Station is the single largest predator in Delaware Bay. It is allowed to kill indiscriminately on a daily basis. Every year Salem kills over 3 billion Delaware River fish including:

Over 59 million Blueback Herring
Over 77 million Weakfish
Over 134 million Atlantic Croaker
Over 412 million White Perch
Over 448 million Striped Bass
Over 2 billion Bay Anchovy

This is no small impact, not to the River and not to the commercial and recreational fishermen who are subject to size and catch limits while Salem is allowed to continue killing indiscriminately.

If Salem were retrofitted with cooling towers it could reduce those fish kills by 95% -- 95%!!!!

But rather than invest in this existing and proven technology, the plant's owners have spent years fighting the requirement legally.

Now, there is an effort to extend the life of Salem, originally scheduled to shut down in just a few short years, by another 50 years.

This is not about nuclear power versus not nuclear power.

This is about whether or not to stop the needless fish slaughter.

At this point there are two ways to stop it -- shut down the plant on time or put in place cooling towers.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Delaware Deepening -- Where Will the Spoils Go?

Yesterday I toured the confined disposal facilities where the toxin and pollution laden spoils from the Delaware deepening project would go if that project moves forward. Contrary to what Governor Rendell is telling you, all of the contaminated spoils will go to 8 sites located in communities in New Jersey and Delaware, none of the dredge spoils will go to Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania will get the remains of the rock that is blasted from the bottom of the Delaware River near Marcus Hook; the rock is quite a different beast than the toxin laden muck that is the spoils.

Does Rendell know he is telling a lie? Yes, he does. I have a letter from Governor Rendell to Governor Corzine saying so -- making clear that he knows so.

What do these sites look like? They are quite lovely actually. They are wide open spaces that are attractive to wildlife -- hence the threat. You put toxic muck in these sites it is an invitation to contamination for the wildlife as you can see from the photos.

The harms of the deepening are vast and varied.
For a quick overview check out the video below.
For more information check out the many postings on the Delaware Riverkeeper Network website --