Coastal Zone Act changes signed into law

CLAYMONT — Fifty years ago many people living in Claymont and surrounding areas held blue-collar jobs at nearby industrial sites along the Delaware River.

Today, most of those jobs are gone.

It’s a desire to create “new old jobs” and boost Delaware’s economy that led to modification of the landmark 1971 Coastal Zone Act, its proponents say.

On Wednesday, Gov. John Carney signed legislation altering the act and, supporters hope, paving the way for job growth.

Joined by lawmakers, business owners, union leaders and other state officials at the former General Chemical site, Gov. Carney spoke of what he believes the legislation can accomplish.

Gov. John Carney makes remarks before signing House Bill 190 to modernize the Coastal Zone Act at the former General Chemical location on Philadelphia Pike in Claymont. This legislation allows for the responsible redevelopment of 14 legacy industrial sites along the Delaware coastline, which will help facilitate new job creation and additional environmental clean-up of those sites. (Special to the Delaware State News/Doug Curran)

“The most important thing that we talked about during the campaign was creating an environment where businesses could come and create jobs,” he said.

The new law, he said, is a win-win that can lead to polluted sites being cleaned up and jobs being generated. He does not exactly know how many jobs could result from the change but said he expects hundreds of new positions.

Currently, all industries not operating when the Coastal Zone Act was passed are banned from the zone. The bill would allow the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to issue permits for bulk transfer facilities at the 14 sites, although the original act stated that banning such facilities is “imperative.”

Bulk product transfer consists of moving large quantities of a substance such as oil from a ship to a dock.

Certain industries, such as those using oil refineries, natural gas terminal and incinerators, would remain banned.

DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin said in an email three of the 14 sites have been vacated, while two other locations are currently inactive.

The lone site below the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal is the Delaware Storage & Pipeline Co. facility in Little Creek.

The bill received relatively few votes against in the General Assembly, but it stirred up controversy from individuals concerned the measure would harm the environment and give too much power to big business.

The law, Mr. Garvin said, will “continue to realize the original intent of the act in striking a balance between protecting natural resources and the environment of Delaware’s Coastal Zone and bringing economic development into Delaware.”

Gov. Carney said cleaning up polluted sites is especially important because of sea level rise caused by climate change.

The act has helped keep the state’s natural resources fresh and allowed the tourism industry to thrive, but it has also restricted business growth in some ways, main sponsor Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, said.

While Gov. Carney made reforming the act a part of his campaign platform last year, Rep. Osienski said work to modify the law actually began two-and-a-half years ago.

“The journey to get here was not a short one,” Rep. Osienski said.

D2 Management acquired the former General Chemical property in 2015 and has plans to begin redeveloping it. D2 President Keith Delaney said in a news release the company has received a good deal of interest from potential tenants and is planning “an aggressive marketing campaign.”

Wednesday’s bill signing was also a homecoming of sorts for the governor, a Claymont native.

“This whole industrial complex provided the employment base for most of the people in Claymont where I grew up,” he said.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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