Coastal Zone Act should not be changed

This column first appeared in The News Journal on Sunday August 25, 2013

In 1971, Delaware put itself at the forefront of environmental preservation by passing the Coastal Zone Act, which has helped protect hundreds of thousands of acres along the Delaware River and Bay from industrial development by regulating heavy industrial activities and preventing the offshore bulk transfer of raw materials in the Coastal Zone.

I don’t take the significance of this law or its impact lightly – half of my legislative district is within the Coastal Zone. While we have seen significant improvements in the air, water and soil quality in recent years, we still see the legacy of damage that companies like Metachem have wrought on our environment. However, recent challenges and conversations about the CZA have highlighted a potential problem: Do we open the door and attempt to amend or further define a landmark 42-year-old law that has helped preserve our state’s natural beauty?

There is too much at risk if we haphazardly open that door legislatively. I am committed to the health of the environment and will not support and or bring to the House floor legislation that will adversely impact the environmental quality we enjoy today in the Coastal Zone.

While it may make sense to review the 15-year-old regulations to see if they can be improved, Delaware got the law right in 1971. We have benefited from that foresight with a beautiful coastline that today is the envy of other states. We can’t afford to take the risk of going backward.

Valerie Longhurst

State House Majority Leader