Inland Bays Foundation president speaks out
The following is the testimony given by the writer at the Jan. 7 Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control public hearing.
Decades of noteworthy effort by DNREC to restore the bays to their once swimmable and fishable state have met with some success, but real progress has been stalled by resistance from local organizations and improper land-use decision made by Sussex County.
In the mid-1990s I was a member of the then Governor’s Task Force on the Inland Bays and have served as an expert witness before the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission and Sussex County Council for development that was not in compliance with Sussex County’s Land Use Plan.
I was born and raised in Sussex County. Although the Inland Bays Foundation agrees with the intent of Executive Order 36, we are concerned with some of the language that it contains. Specifically, a careful read of the Order would lead one to believe that environmental regulations are a deterrent to a viable economy and to economic growth.
This is not true.
Study after study has shown that protecting our environment creates jobs and in the case of Sussex County ensures that people will continue to live, vacation and recreate here.
I have four documents that I would like to introduce into the record of this hearing.
The first is a report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation titled, ‘Debunking the “Job Killer” Myth - How Pollution Limits Encourage Jobs in the Chesapeake Bay Region.”
The report shows that there has been a 43 percent increase in the number of environmental industry jobs in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia over the last two decades.
In a groundbreaking article in the Scientific American more than 20 years ago,
a noted Harvard University Business School Economist concluded that Strict environmental regulations do not inevitably hinder competitive advantage against rivals: indeed they often enhance it.
The report concludes ”Clean water also will mean more fish, crabs, and oysters which will translate to more work and income for fisherman, processors, packers, restaurateurs, and people in the tourism-related industries. If history is any guide, environmental regulations will once again nourish job creation, not bury it.”
My second document is a report published Nov. 8, 2012
by the Public News Service that also concludes, “Here in this report, document after document, research after research finding, show that especially in times when the economy is slowing down, environmental protection stimulates that economy and creates jobs.”
There are those groups in Sussex County that would have us believe that positive growth means growth without unnecessary government interference and without unnecessary environmental regulations. If they had their way, development would occur anywhere with little oversight.
As I have stated, if this occurs in Sussex County, this philosophy will lead to uncontrolled, unsupportable growth, and a deterioration in the quality of life in Sussex County.
This has happened and continues to happen around the country with the ultimate decline in property values and economic hardship.
It’s time that we start learning from our past mistakes.
Number 7 of Executive Order 36 indicates a misunderstanding of the economics of environmental protection in that it states that it is the intent of the Order to “reduce impediments to economic growth......” caused by regulations that may be reduced or streamlined.
Executive Order calls for meaningful public input to the regulatory reform process. I would encourage DNREC to give little consideration to any comments received at these public hearings that do not contain specific analyses of the adverse economic impacts of the regulation that anyone or any group is requesting to be changed or eliminated.
It would be irresponsible for DNREC to make any changes without sufficient data on which to base its decision. Simply stating that a regulation is bad or is not needed is inadequate.
For example, I am introducing a document showing suggested regulatory changes by a group advocating for positive growth in Sussex County. It requests the elimination of the nitrogen removal standard for small septic systems, removal of the 30 day property transfer requirement from all septic permits, and the permit transfer requirement from dock permits.
There is absolutely no supporting documentation on how these changes are adversely affecting the economy or are hindering growth. Also, why would such a request be made when water quality data clearly show that the Inland Bays are overloaded with nitrogen leading to algae blooms and subsequent fish kills.
The nitrogen discharged into the groundwater eventually finds its ways into the bays as studies by the Delaware Geological Survey have shown.
These pro-growth organizations have stated that the Inland Bays are, “cleaning themselves up” and that growth with fewer restrictions will lead to a better quality of life for Sussex county residents and visitors.
Yet, no facts or data has ever been presented by these groups to substantiate their supposed statement of fact. These statements are made for the self-serving interest of those who benefit financially from unrestricted and irresponsible growth.
Again, I implore DNREC to consider only those changes that can show a conclusive benefit to the environment and to the economy of each County and the State of Delaware. This is clearly the intent of Executive Order 36.
Finally, I would ask that the DNREC reinstate the collection of subaqueous lands fees for structures constructed on public subaqueous lands that are generating revenue. This fee was established by House Bill 360 of the General Assembly and adopted by DNREC June 30, 1991.
Failure to collect these fees is allowing private parties to build structures on state land, charge for the use of the structure and pay no fee to the state for the use of state land. This would be similar to allowing someone to build a restaurant or concession in a state park and not charge a fee for doing so.
Failure to collect these fees for many years has resulted in the loss of millions of dollars of revenue that could be used to offset the cost for environmental protection in Delaware.
president, Inland Bays Foundation