Court Fight Begins over Delaware City Refinery’s Ethanol Project
by Scott Goss (The News Journal/DelawareOnline) A court battle over the Delaware City Refinery’s plans to significantly expand its biofuel operations is now officially underway – nearly a year after state regulators approved the project.
The dispute pits one of the state’s largest industrial employers against two of its most outspoken civic groups and echoes previous legal fights – all won by the refinery.
In the current case, refinery owner PBF Energy wants to receive and store 10,000 barrels of ethanol a day before shipping the unblended gasoline additive to other facilities along the East Coast.
The refinery now brings in about 2,000 barrels per day, which is then blended with gasoline produced at the facility. But PBF claims that adding the ability to sell unblended ethanol to other refineries will be crucial for the plant to “remain economically viable in the highly competitive refining industry.”
Environmentalists, meanwhile, see the $7 million project as yet another step in what they say is PBF’s plan to transform the refinery into a hub-and-spoke transportation business – a shift they say violates the Delaware Coastal Zone Act, the state’s landmark environmental law.
Over their objections, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control affirmed the refinery’s Ethanol Marketing Project is consistent with the state’s Coastal Zone Act, clearing the way for the company to seek other permits needed to undertake the new operation.
In February, the Delaware Audubon Society and the League of Women Voters of Delaware petitioned a state board to overturn DNREC’s approval, claiming the project would amount to the exact type of bulk product transfer operation expressly prohibited by the 46-year-old Coastal Zone Act.
They argue the project will result in increased train and barge shipments of highly explosive ethanol, resulting in more noise, traffic headaches and potential accidents.
The board, however, ruled the two civic groups failed to show their members would suffer direct harm from the project. They voted 5-1 to dismiss the case.