CZA: Profits and False Hopes

June 9, 2017

“By what measure do we evaluate and trade the health of the environment, the health of the ecology and the health of our citizens for business opportunities that profit and enrich the shareholders of these corporations. This has certainly become the mantra of the current regime in Washington. Profits are the only important factor.”

This was my closing statement to the Natural Resources Committee members immediately before they voted to release HB 190, which will remove core protections against heavy industry and bulk product transfer on Delaware coastlines from the landmark Coastal Zone Act. Scores of concerned individuals, environmentalists, and environmental groups publicly testified that they were not invited to publicly engage in the dialogue with other stakeholders as HB 190 was being conceived and written. (Learn more about what HB 190 will do to the environmental protections in the CZA: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8])

Most only asked that the process be temporarily halted so there could be a series of public meetings up and down the state where opponents and proponents could have a face to face civil dialogue on how to proceed. I concluded my comments prior to the final motion to release by asking the sponsor, Representative Osienski, to please consider the following request: “Representative Osienski, I would respectfully request that you consider tabling this bill and hosting a series of public meetings involving all stakeholders where supporters and opponents can both have the opportunity for a measured and civil debate.” That request went unacknowledged.

Information I had sought earlier in the hearing further clouded the issue of this bill’s necessity. I asked the sponsor to name me one legitimate company which had sought to develop on these sites that withdrew their request because of the existing Coastal Zone Act restrictions. He could offer none and called DEDO officials as witnesses. I posited the same question to these two officials, and they proceeded to contend that there were 36 companies that expressed interest in the sites. I reiterated that I asked the sponsor to name me one legitimate company that withdrew their interest because of the CZA, and the DEDO officials responded that names and circumstances of all of these suitors were covered by confidentiality agreements that would not allow their identities, plans, motives, or resources to be publicly divulged. I once again asked if there was a single legitimate investor among these 36 companies who expressly said that they were withdrawing their offer or locating elsewhere due to the restrictive nature of the Coastal Zone Act’s protection. Again I was unable to secure an answer to my very specific question from the DEDO representatives which forces me to conclude that there were and are none. I received a call from the acting DEDO head yesterday who took exception to my characterizing their testimony as untruthful, and I still have received no response to my inquiry nor should I be expected to withdraw any of my conclusions reported in the news.

Passing this legislation could spell disaster for Delaware’s environment, ecology, and the quality of life that its citizens enjoy and have far-reaching and disastrous consequences for our billion dollar tourism economy. Please call all of the House members and demand that they oppose HB 190 at this time.

John Kowalko
State Representative
25th District


Below is a letter signed by dozens of respected environmentalists, environmental groups, and other community organizations opposing HB 190.

2017-CZA-HB-190-sign-on-letter-2017_06_06