Delaware's Coastal Zone Act
The Coastal Zone Act (CZA) was signed into Delaware Law by Governor Russell Peterson in 1971 as a response to plans by Shell Oil Company to build a refinery near Taylor's Bridge and present-day Blackbird Creek Reserve, and to protect the state’s fragile coastal areas from the impacts of industrialization and environmental mismanagement.
The CZA prohibits the new development of heavy industry in protected areas, as well as offshore gas, liquid and solid bulk product transfer facilities not in development prior to the Act becoming law.
In 1999 regulations were established by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).
The Grandfather Clause: Heavy industry and bulk product transfer operating along the coastal zone prior to June 1971 (when the law was first enacted) are grandfathered in from facing CZA prohibitions even those these firms’ actions act as threats to Delaware’s coastal areas. Expansions by these firms have the potential to further undermine Delaware’s fragile coast. Not only does this raise questions regarding fairness within industry, but is highly problematic in concerns pertaining to generational equity, as some firms have been allowed to pollute dangerous toxins and emit for generations, and under the current framework of the CZA will be allowed to in to perpetuity.
Environmental Factors: CZA permits consider not only the environmental impact of industrial development, but also economic and aesthetic effects as well. All applicants must present an Environmental Impact Statement of proposed development which includes impact on: wetlands and erosion, as well as threats to endangered wildlife.
Offset Proposals: Applicant’s proposals must “more than offset the negative environmental impacts associated with the proposed project or activity requiring a permit” by mandating that new pollutants be “clearly and demonstrably more than offset” by some mitigating activity leading to an overall reduction in emissions along the Coastal Zone. While offset projects within the Coastal Zone are given preference by the DNREC Secretary, non-CZ bounded offsets are considered. This raises concerns of spatial equity, which demands that those whom benefit from pollution are not removed from its consequences.
Public Notification: The public has a right to: know when CZA permits are requested, public hearings regarding permits, the transferring of permits between firms and the decisions made regarding permits. Legal notices must be made in statewide and local newspapers and updates to interested citizens, via direct mail, of all pertinent CZA matters if requested. Before the Delaware City Refinery recently tabled its Clean Fuels Project, it was acting in concert with the state to create a fast tracked permitting process for the CZA and other necessary regulatory permits.
Appeals: Permit decisions are made by the DNREC Secretary, and can be appealed to the CZ Industrial Control Board. Control Board decisions can be appealed to the Superior Court, which can hear cases from the original appellate or the DNREC Secretary.