Coastal Zone Act modification goes to Carney

 

DOVER — The Senate approved legislation loosening restrictions on development along the coast on Thursday, the second-to-last day of the legislative session this year.

By an 18-2 tally, with one member not voting, senators sent to Gov. John Carney a bill that would alter the Coastal Zone Act.

The measure, supporters say, would drive economic activity while cleaning up polluted sites along the Delaware River. But some people believe it goes too far and cripples key environmental protections.

Currently, all industries not operating when the Coastal Zone Act was passed 46 years ago 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.

Sarah Bucic of Wilmington wears a Save The Coastal Zone Act shirt while listening to speakers during Coastal Zone Act bill in the Senate Chambers at Legislative Hall in Dover on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

The act has helped keep the state’s natural resources unharmed by industry, state officials have said. It also restricted economic growth and led to some companies opting not to settle in Delaware. Gov. John Carney made modifying the law a key part of his economic platform.

“The reforms in (this bill) will help improve economic opportunity for all Delawareans and create good-paying jobs across our state. We will responsibly pave the way for new industries and rethink our economic development strategy to provide more support for entrepreneurs, small businesses and Delaware’s most talented innovators,” Gov. Carney said in a statement. “Bottom line, we are making jobs a priority. Thank you to members of the General Assembly for their leadership on this issue, and for helping make our economy work for all Delawareans.”

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.

There was little opposition on the floor Thursday, with supporters speaking to the promise they believe the bill offers.

Sen. Bryan Townsend speaks during Coastal Zone Act bill in the Senate Chambers at Legislative Hall in Dover on Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“We cannot continue to stand by and watch these jobs flee to Pennsylvania and New Jersey,” Sen. John Walsh, D-Stanton, said.

Sen. Harris McDowell, D-Wilmington, said he was still undecided about the bill when he went on the floor Thursday.

“It is in some ways a crossroads between the long trajectory and immediacy of need in our time,” he said.

Although a few senators had questions about the impact of the measure, Sen. Bruce Ennis, D-Smyrna, and Minority Leader Gary Simpson, R-Milford, were the only ones to vote against it. Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, went not voting.

Staff writer Matt Bittle can be reached at 741-8250 or mbittle@newszap.com. Follow @MatthewCBittle on Twitter.

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