Coastal Zone Act proposal brings back memories of ’71

Delaware Gov. Russell Peterson signed the Coastal Zone Act in 1971.

DOVER — Some notes and quotes between headlines and deadlines …


The Coastal Zone Act changes proposed in House Bill 190 in the legislature this week no doubt brought back some memories of former Gov. Russell W. Peterson for readers, especially longtime Delawareans.

If you’re too young to recall or too new to the area to know the back story, the year was 1971.

Essentially, the Coastal Zone Act created a ribbon of protected space four miles along the Delaware coast. Some existing industry was grandfathered in.

Gov. Peterson, a Republican, signed that landmark legislation in June that year and his memorable line was “to hell with Shell.”

Gov. Peterson took on big oil and won.

For Kent Countians, consider that Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge could have had a Shell Oil refinery as its neighbor.

A Woodland Beach refinery was in the works.

“It was tremendous head-on collisions with the most powerful forces imaginable,’’ Gov. Peterson told Tom Eldred in an April 2000 interview. “They wanted to make the Delaware Bay the premier supertanker port and maritime commerce center on the East Coast.’’

Then-U.S. Secretary of Commerce Maurice Stans, who had called the governor to Washington, told him he was being disloyal to his country.

“I looked right back at him and said, ‘Hell no, I’m being loyal to future generations.’ In the end, we were successful because the people of Delaware really believed in it,” Gov. Peterson said in the 2000 interview. “They saved the coast.’’

Since 1971, no new heavy industry has been added along the coast.

There were attempts, though.

In the very first year, there was a failed request to allow supertankers 26 miles off the coast of Rehoboth Beach to transfer crude oil on a pipeline to a tank farm near the beach community.


The legislators behind House Bill 190 want to foster manufacturing opportunities with exemptions for 14 heavy industry sites that were grandfathered in when the Coastal Zone Act was enacted.

All but one are in New Castle County above the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. The 14th is in Delaware Storage and Pipeline, Port Mahon, east of Little Creek.

Applicants would have to seek conversion permits from the state’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control.


Please read today’s guest commentaries on the topic.

The first is an overview of the legislation from state Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, and state Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark.

The second comes from Delaware’s Audubon Society.

Note that Gov. Peterson, after his time as governor, became president of the National Audubon Society.

Gov. Peterson said his love of birding up and down the state drove his desire to protect the environment.

We welcome reader views on the proposed changes to the Coastal Zone Act.

Send a letter to the editor to or post comments under stories on this topic at


It has been hotter than the Fourth of July this past week with temperatures near 90.

The norm is 74, according to the Delaware Environmental Observing System Facebook page.

There have been four three-day streaks of 90-degree days in the month of May and four more than overlapped from May into June since 1948.

“So, basically what this means is that about 5 percent of Wilmington’s Mays (since 1948) have seen hot weather like what we’re experiencing right now,” said the DEOS post.

The last year we had a three-day streak of 90-degree temps in May was 1996.


Our next edition of “Outside the Oval” will be out on Monday, May 29.

It’s our guide for race fans coming to the AAA 400 weekend at Dover International Speedway June 2-4.

This year’s booklet will include a story on a speedway tour. You can get a cool look around the Monster Mile in a complementary video now posted at

The link also takes you to a section of photographer Marc Clery’s video slideshows from recent events.

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