For Immediate Release
Maria Payan, firstname.lastname@example.org, (717) 826-7286
Phoebe Galt, PGalt@FWWatch.Org, (207) 400-1275
May 19, 2021
Seaford, Delaware – Yesterday, national and local groups advocating for responsible agriculture, social equity, and environmental justice filed a complaint with the State Attorney General requesting immediate enforcement action against Sussex County for failing to follow public notice and participation requirements in the approval of $60 million in bonds to fund a controversial factory farm waste refinery.
A Sussex County committee recently gave the greenlight to Bioenergy DevCo/BDG DE LLC to finance its industrial gas production facility with $60 million in tax-exempt Industrial Revenue Bonds (IRB). The bonds will cover construction and other costs associated with the development of a factory farm gas facility that has prompted overwhelming opposition in the local community. The factory is sited in a low-income community whose residents are already suffering significant health damages, water degradation, and air pollution related to industrial poultry operations.
The complainants – Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP); Food & Water Watch (FWW); NAMATI; Delaware Civil Rights Commission; Delaware Alliance for Community Advancement (DelACA); and Sussex Health and Environment Network (SHEN) – assert that the county failed to provide reasonable notice about the committee hearing and was not transparent about this funding proposal, despite hundreds of concerned residents opposing the project to county officials because of threats to the health and safety of the surrounding community and the environment.
The complaint asks the Attorney General to revoke the county’s approval of the bonds and require the public hearing be redone in a manner that allows community members to participate and comment.
“This hearing violated reasonable notice,” said Maria Payan, co-founder of SHEN and Senior Regional Representative at SRAP. “This process must be sent back for a public hearing that involves the public process with reasonable public notice.”
The gas refinery that will benefit from these tax-exempt IRB bonds is to be constructed in a community that is home to many underrepresented people of color who endure the socioeconomic and public health impacts of profiteering corporations on a daily basis. The project is proposed to include industrial-scale gas storage, pipelines, and methane transport, and will draw waste into Sussex County from poultry processing plants across the tri-state Delmarva region.
“What started as a pelletizing poultry litter facility would be completely replaced with an industrial methane gas factory,” Payan added. “Nobody is fooled. The poultry-processing industry has found their supposed solution to disposing of their stinky industrial sludge by pretending it is poultry litter, and the council knowingly agreed, despite hundreds of pages of opposition from their constituents. The poultry industry once again flexed their muscles, and the council obeyed.”
“From the outset, impacted residents have been excluded from the plans to site an industrial dirty energy facility in their community — we are issuing this complaint to make it clear that these underhanded practices must stop,” said Greg Layton, Delaware Organizer with Food & Water Watch. “The public deserves adequate, proper notice of decisions affecting their communities, health and environment. It is worth fighting for, and we intend to see this bond process restored to the public.”
Kerri Evelyn Harris, Executive Director of DelACA, commented as well, saying, “The lack of transparency throughout this process is part of the reason people are losing faith in local and state governments.”
Concerned residents of Sussex County have submitted over 275 public comments in opposition of the factory farm gas factory, which threatens to greatly exacerbate adverse human health and environmental effects in an area already suffering from past and ongoing industrial abuse. The project was approved anyway and, a week later, approved for $60 million in tax-exempt funding.
Taking enforcement action against Sussex County for this process is necessary to help prevent further wrongdoings and to do right by all Delawareans,” said Harris. “The people of Delaware overwhelmingly spoke out against the biogas facility, and yet, now, the County Council is giving tax-free start up funds to support the project; why must the people of Delaware fund a facility that will have the ability to slowly make them sick and even potentially kill them?
“You have a ‘smoking gun’ here where hundreds of people attended a separate meeting on this project just the day before and voiced their objections, but then no one attended this bond hearing. How is that possible? That basically proves the county did not meet its obligations to inform the public about this hearing,” said Jay Monteverde, Program Director of NAMATI’s US Environmental Justice Program.
The vote to approve the IRB bonds allows Bioenergy DevCo/BDG DE LLC to subsidize the cost of their corporate-owned, for-profit scheme that severely threatens community health and safety. Attorney General Jennings must take enforcement action against Sussex County for their violations in approving this bond.
About Socially Responsible Agriculture Project
For more than 20 years, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP) has served as a mobilizing force to empower communities to protect themselves from the damages caused by industrial livestock operations and to advocate for a food system built on regenerative practices, justice, democracy, and resilience. Our team includes technical experts, independent family farmers, and rural residents who have faced the threats of factory farms in their communities. When asked for help, SRAP offers free support, providing communities with the knowledge and skills to protect their right to clean water, air, and soil and to a healthy, just, and vibrant future. www.sraproject.org
About Sussex Health and Environment Network
SHEN is a collective voice for positive solutions and inclusiveness in representation in environmental and public health issues. Finding solutions to big problems has never been easy and has always come from the bottom up. The vision of SHEN, a coalition of stakeholders in Sussex County, Delaware, is to ensure a clean, healthy environment for future generations. The mission of SHEN is to improve the health of its citizens and their natural environment. www.shen-network.net
About Food & Water Watch
Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests. www.foodandwaterwatch.org
About Delaware Alliance for Community Advancement
Delaware Alliance for Community Advancement (DACA), promotes equity, opportunity, and dynamic democracy in partnership with innovative base-building organizations, organizing networks and alliances, and progressive unions throughout Delaware.
Namati is dedicated to putting the power of law in the hands of people. We are engaged in a vital struggle, in a brutal time. With authoritarianism and nativism rising, Namati and our many partners around the world are fighting to protect basic rights.