Alan Muller ‘s office in Lake Itasca Park

And at a Rock-Tenn Burner Fest in St. Paul, being introduced by Nancy Hone, Neighbors Against the Burner:

Here’s a profile of Alan that was published in Delaware Today:

A Profile of Alan Muller of Port Penn: An Environmental Activist and Executive Director of Green Delaware

by Bob Yearick

Alan Muller takes no prisoners.

For almost two decades, the executive director of Green Delaware has held public officials’ feet to the fire of his environmental zeal. At meetings, hearings and legislative sessions, in a calm voice, Muller presents meticulously researched arguments and asks uncomfortable questions that offer no compromise.

His wrath spares few of those in power. Here’s a sampling:

Of Gov. Jack Markell: “Supporting his candidacy was the biggest mistake of my career as an advocate. He governs as a right-winger and corporate stooge. His environmental policies amount to giving the developers and polluters whatever they want.”

Of U.S. Senator and former New Castle County Executive Chris Coons: “A total servant of corporate interests and big business who knows how to work liberal do-gooder types, so they think he’s great.”

Of New Castle County government in general: “I have zero respect for it. I regard it as a criminal organization.”

Of the State Chamber of Commerce: “Probably the biggest single foe of the environment in the state.”

Wilmington Mayor Jim Baker, the DuPont Co., other Delaware environmental groups and The News Journal—which Muller calls The “Stooge Journal” (except reporter Jeff Montgomery, whom he considers a friend)—also are on Muller’s hit list.

His scorched-earth style can elicit bitter backlash. Says John Taylor, senior vice president of the State Chamber of Commerce: “Alan Muller is great at name-calling but lousy on getting his facts right. Mr. Muller attacks anyone who doesn’t agree with him 100 percent. And his narrow, misguided and misanthropic vision is well-known to those in Delaware who truly care for the environment. In fact, the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce has been an active partner in bringing clean energy to Delaware. The latest example of this being the Bloom Energy decision to come to Newark.” While Taylor no doubt expresses what many would like to, other Muller targets chose a more circumspect response. Markell, who gets high marks from many enviros, would say only, “Alan Muller believes strongly in his causes and makes himself heard.” Chris Coons’ office declined to comment. Another Muller target, Debbie Heaton, of the Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy, says merely that she does not have “happy memories” of working with him.

The official response to Muller is often to ignore or avoid him. That’s understandable, according to John Flaherty, another well-known Delaware activist. “Power hates and marginalizes people who are right, like Alan, because they reveal that the powerful use their positions for themselves and for the interests they serve. And once someone has been banished to the margins, the powerful can rely on the conditioned habits of the public. After all, don’t we all know that anyone on the margins is, by definition, unacceptable?”

According to Muller and some of his supporters, he’s been mistreated and harassed over the years—especially by New Castle County government, which has cited him for many violations at his Port Penn home, a historic building he purchased for about $15,000 (supplemented by a state grant) with the agreement to upgrade it. Muller says the price of the house and its central location between Wilmington and Dover cancels out environmental considerations like the three nearby nuclear reactors, the Delaware City Refinery and other major polluters.

In 2001 Baker had him arrested for “graffiti” and “criminal mischief” after Muller posted warning signs on an open channel carrying raw sewage through a Brandywine Park picnic area. In 2005 he and John Kowalko, then director of the ACORN utility campaign, now a state representative, were ejected from Legislative Hall during a House Energy Committee hearing. When they weren’t allowed to speak, Muller and Kowalko tied gags to their mouths. That incensed then-Rep. Robert Valihura, chairman of the committee, who ordered Capitol Police to remove them.

Calling it “death by a thousand cuts,” Muller says “harassment in the past few years has been relentless.”

Meanwhile, he laments the “plantation mentality” that pervades the state—“the reluctance of people to say anything challenging or critical,” including the media and other environmental organizations. The latter, he says, have been bought off or bullied into submission by those in power. “Other states are less hostile,” he says.

As a result, the somewhat rumpled 61-year-old, nursing “aching feet and a creaky back,” may leave Delaware, perhaps for Minnesota, where his soul mate, Carol Overland, is an energy consultant and lawyer. He spends about half of each year working for environmental groups in several states, at fees exceeding the small income he takes from Green Delaware.

As the most prominent activist in the state’s recent past contemplates taking his leave, it seems an appropriate time to examine his legacy—and his motivation.

For someone so passionate about it, Muller came relatively late to the environmental movement. But the seed was planted early. He grew up in Welshire, a North Wilmington suburb, living with his parents and a brother, who was a year younger. His father, Joseph, was a DuPont manager.

“I’m not saying my father was a bad guy,” Muller says, “but he reflected the values of the chemical industry at the time, and his proudest achievement was bollixing up an EPA effort to regulate sulfuric acid plants. He and other DuPonters went to Washington in the ’60s and testified that (regulation) was unreasonable, impossible and too expensive. As a kid, I thought about it and decided I kind of didn’t agree. I remember thinking the EPA could have gotten the technical details wrong, but it was hard to disagree with the concept of reducing pollution.”

(Of his relationship with his late parents, Muller says: “It had its ups and downs. I’d think my activism was part of it. They would have liked a picket-fence Republican son and grandkids.” Married once, briefly, Muller has no children.)

Fast-forward several years. Muller drops out of UD after his junior year (eventually earning a social sciences degree), goes on to several jobs, then finds himself working as a consultant for, ready? DuPont!

As a technical writer for the company’s engineering department, he says he worked with people who were involved in environmental cleanup and who also lobbied against stricter regulations. “I began to see how it worked from the inside. After several years of pumping out this rhetoric about ‘clean and green’ and don’t regulate us because we do the right things, when Reagan came in, all the company’s pro-environment rhetoric basically stopped, because they felt, ‘Now our guy is in charge.’”

While acknowledging that DuPont paid and treated him well, Muller says, “I began to not like the way they spent so much energy on bullshit and propaganda and suborning the regulatory process rather than just knuckling down and fixing the problems. I didn’t like being involved in that.”

And so an environmental advocate with the passion of a convert was born.

Casting about among the state’s enviro groups, he chose the Sierra Club, where he became conservation chairman. Soon his blunt style and disagreements with some club policies and members got him kicked out—via registered letter.

So, in 1995, he formed Green Delaware, recruiting longtime activists Jake Kreshtool, Ted Keller and Frieda Berryhill. Essentially a virtual organization with an email list of about 3,000 and fueled by Muller’s data-filled, aggressive newsletters, it quickly became the state’s most active—or at least most annoying—environmental group, and he gained a reputation for fact-based arguments that often irked opponents.

The 93-year-old Kreshtool, a labor lawyer and former candidate for governor, admits Muller “isn’t much on social skills,” and can be irritating, “But he’s always polite, and his testimony was determinative in many, many cases involving air pollution.”

Much of Green Delaware’s support comes from an annual $10,000-$15,000 grant from the New Jersey Environmental Federation and Environmental Endowment for New Jersey. The grant recognizes Green Delaware’s work to limit water pollution, particularly in the Delaware River. Jane Nogaki, founding chair of the endowment, says Muller “is at the top of Delaware environmental groups. He can be confrontational without being belligerent, his arguments are well-grounded, and he asks questions rather than making accusations.”

Muller clearly has scored victories—a ban on industrial incinerators probably is his most significant—but most observers agree he could have accomplished much more with a less rigid approach. “Alan rarely declares victory,” says Flaherty. “What I would consider victories in a lot of cases he considers defeats.”

Bill Zak, of Citizens for Clean Power in Sussex County, understands Muller’s attitude. “He knows that conciliation often means things getting dropped in a drawer and forgotten.”

Flaherty and Nancy Willing, author of the liberal “Delaware Way” blog, exemplify another Muller trait: burning bridges.

Flaherty calls Muller “an incredibly bright man who has made environmentalism mainstream in Delaware,” then adds, “Alan has not spoken to me since January of 2006.” According to Muller, “John stabbed me in the back” during his campaign against incinerators.

Willing, also a Muller fan, says he cut her off when he perceived that she sided with the authorities in his dispute over upgrades to his Port Penn home.

Due in part to this penchant for severing ties and his prickly style, Muller has no prospective successor as director of Green Delaware. Kreshtool, Keller and Berryhill are all 80-plus, other allies have died, and younger people haven’t stepped forward.

“In my arrogance,” says Muller, “I thought if we set an example of being smarter, of having more principled behavior than other enviros, it would rub off. Ain’t happening. Maybe it’s my lack of leadership ability.”

If he leaves, Muller and others agree that Green Delaware will probably die, an event that has his foes rubbing their hands in anticipation. For others, like Jane Nogaki, it will be a great loss.

“Today, environmental groups are using social media to spread their message,” she says, “but there’s no substitute for local, grass-roots action. And that’s what Alan always did, standing up against the giants of industry and holding politicians accountable.”


We’ve been in Minnesota since late April, thankfully, because if I were in Delaware right now, it’d be hard to not flee for the border. So is Alan going back to vote? Chris or Christine, either way Delaware loses…

Listen to the guffaws and watch her expression, she is clueless, utterly clueless, what a nutwad:

My world has turned black and white… here’s the view out the door, the tent for the airplane buckled this morning.  We had to go out and get fuel oil for the boiler and gas for the tractor and the roads haven’t been plowed from last weekend’s storm, and here we are now smack dab in the midst of another.  The governor has shut down the state, again… and meanwhile, tomorrow at 2 p.m. the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities is making its decision on the Susquehanna-Roseland, delayed from today because of the storm.  Well, it’s gonna be storming all day, so I don’t think that this one day will make a difference, other than those of us coming from a distance will probably have a harder time because they’ll be another foot and a half of snow.


Our little tent roof wasn’t the only one collapsing.  It could be a lot worse.   Schools, big boxes all over Delaware, and even the Townsend Fire Company roofs have collapsed:


Fair Use from The News Journal/ESTEBAN PARRA

Houses too:


And then there’s the Smithsonian warehouse:


… and more view out the window back door — those crab pots aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.  Just so that tree doesn’t come down on the van:



By standing up for offshore transmission for wind, Delaware’s Gov. Jack Markell stands up to Midwest coal!

The Mid-Atlantic states have been standing up and opposing transmission from the Midwest.  They’ve gone on record in a number of venues, and in their opposition are citing Midwest transmission promoters’ disregard for eastern renewable efforts, that xmsn may well not be an economical way to get power to the east, and that THEY KNOW THAT MIDWEST TRANSMISSION PLANS INHERENTLY ARE ABOUT COAL. The plan they’re referring to is a massive transmission buildout known as JCSP, and it also applies to the big PJM buildout that includes the PA-NJ Susquehanna-Roseland transmission line that was the subject of a hearing last month.

Here’s JCSP (Joint Coordinated System Plan) note their site now talks about wind — but look where the transmission starts, DUH! The coal fields of the Dakotas:


Gotta give them, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, a lot of credit for recognizing and stating what Midwest states have been unwilling to admit.


That said, here’s what Mid-Atlantic states are doing — they’re banding together to propose offshore transmission.  If it’s underwater offshore transmission, that’s an idea that’s hard not to like.  But I’ll bet it throws PJM for a loop, what with all their “backbone” transmission schemes, a la Project Mountaineer, that are in the works:


The FERC birth of Project Mountaineer:

Exhibit STL D-6a (PSEG Discovery Response)

Exhibit STL D-6B (PSEG Discovery Response)

And you can see that those lines in play now, PJM’s “backbone” transmission projects like Susquehanna-Roseland (NE part of Project Mountaineer Line 1) and MAPP (NE part of Project Mountaineer Line 4) are part of the plan… the big transmission plan that does not work for the east coast.

Here’s the Memorandum of Understanding between Delaware, Maryland and Virginia:

DE, MD & VA Wind Infrastructure MOU

And recently, Gov. Jack Markell addressed these issues before American Wind Energy Association’s offshore windfest — but given the PJM big-transmission-projects-from-hell are referred to as “backbone” projects, I wish they’d find another term:

Delaware energy: ‘Backbone’ power line pushed for wind farms

The News Journal

BOSTON — If the Eastern Seaboard is to one day be dotted with thousands of wind turbines, they may as well work in harmony.

That’s the message 10 eastern governors are sending to the federal government as they advocate for a major underwater power line parallel to the East Coast.

U.S. offshore wind farm projects, all still on the drawing board, are being planned to include cables from the turbines to a substation on land to bring the power to the existing transmission grid.

The “backbone” power line the governors envision would connect the wind farms to each other, making it easier to spread wind power from areas where the wind is blowing robustly at that moment to states where electricity demand exceeds supply.

They see the backbone as preferable to a national investment in a transmission line that brings wind power from the Midwest to the East.

Gov. Jack Markell broached the subject this week in his address to the American Wind Energy Association’s offshore wind workshop, the industry event of the year on this side of the Atlantic. Markell signed onto letters the governors sent to members of Congress this summer, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last month.

Governors of Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine also signed the letters.

In an interview, Markell’s natural resources secretary, Collin O’Mara, said he wants to find out if there’s a way to spread out the costs of such a project. Building a backbone would help states satisfy their renewable electricity purchase requirements, and relieve the “spaghetti” structure of the current power grid, he said.

“Let’s have the conversation,” O’Mara said. “It’s extremely worthy of further study.”

Transmission is vitally important to getting offshore wind energy to population centers, said Denise Bode, the wind association’s president. And Gov. Donald Carcieri, R-R.I., called it “the elephant in the room.”

The power grid is “organized like a patchwork to meet local needs” rather than as a planned national system — almost an assemblage of local roads compared with an interstate, Carcieri said. The developers and government officials in attendance were very much aware of the role transmission will play in whether the offshore wind industry lives up to its potential.

The discussion comes as various offshore wind projects are maturing from concept to permitting, construction and design. At the moment, NRG-Bluewater Wind holds the only contract for offshore wind power, with Delmarva Power.

It’s starting the permitting process, getting ready to build weather towers off Delaware and New Jersey next summer, and preparing to bid for the right to develop an offshore wind project in New York City.

Jim Gordon, president of the Cape Wind venture that hopes to build in Nantucket Sound, told the convention he has all of the permits he needs from the state and federal government, but is working to overcome a tribal challenge that the waters in Nantucket Sound are protected.

The developer is working with the local utility — National Grid — to develop a contract to purchase power from the wind farm.

National Grid is also negotiating with Deepwater Wind for a contract to provide power to Rhode Island’s Block Island from a small, five-to-eight turbine facility in near-to-shore state waters. The company is also planning a larger wind farm in federal waters off the Rhode Island coast, which will take longer to build.

Deepwater, Bluewater and Fishermen’s Energy are planning wind farms off the New Jersey coast and the state government has provided incentives.

Deepwater CEO Bill Moore said, in principle, the backbone transmission line is “a terrific idea. It makes a lot of sense.”

But he said it’s a “daunting task” to complete an infrastructure project that crosses state boundaries, impacts different developers, and brings together different regional power grids.

“It obviously won’t happen in the absence of federal leadership,” he said.

Fishermen’s Energy President Daniel Cohen said it’s a good idea, but “it’s another moving part.”

“What comes first? Do you build the project or the backbone? People need to make decisions soon,” Cohen said, noting that the answer affects financing arrangements.

Gordon van Welie, president of ISO New England, the regional power grid manager, said there has been some investment in transmission upgrades, but a national plan is needed before new elements are selected.

“The rhinoceros in the room is the transmission cost allocation” — who benefits from a transmission line, and who pays for it, he said.

He noted that the New England governors adopted their own long-term vision of renewable energy, which included $6 billion in lines to transmit power from inland and offshore turbines to population centers.

The benefits of building lines transmitting wind power from the Midwest are less certain, he said.

“It will be difficult to get progress in this area until there are clear national goals,” he said.

Steven Bruckner, conservation chairman of the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, looked kindly upon the backbone idea. He said he didn’t have environmental concerns, although he wondered whether such a project would be economical.

“You’re talking hundreds, thousands of wind turbines off the coast, eventually displacing those coal burning power plants,” he said. “It’s the scale. It’s the beginning.”

Note that “cost allocation” is raised.  Since the 7th Circuit decision tossing out FERC approval of PJM’s transmission cost allocation dream/nightmare, all transmission projects 500kV and over based on that cost allocation scheme are in limbo.

Illinois Commerce Commission v. FERC – August 6, 2009

So as noted, who pays, and submarine transmission is EXPENSIVE, is THE big issue now.  It’s the big issue for land transmission, it’s the big issue for offshore transmission, and, given the uncertainty since the 7th Circuit decision, maybe some of the sturm and drang could be circumvented if it’s designed at 345kV or below, and uses the “benefactor pays” theory.  We shall see…

Valero Refinery to close

November 21st, 2009

Back to Delaware for the weekend, it’s very strange being here on the east coast and Alan’s in Red Wing with the grrrrrrrrrls.  And speak of the devil, guess who’s in the Philadelphia Inquirer today?  The Valero refinery shut down, one of our neighbors works there, well, I’d guess a lot of our neighbors in Port Penn work there, it’s just up the road, they’ve been shut down for a couple of weeks, and now it’s forever.  I’m curious what Valero will do — $50 says the try to find a way to walk away from the mess they’ve created.  Nearby wells have been contaminated and people are just starting to look around for the source.    We’ll see…


Posted on Sat, Nov. 21, 2009

550 to lose jobs as Valero Energy shuts Delaware refinery

By Harold Brubaker, Jan Hefler, and Jane M. Von Bergen

Inquirer Staff Writers

Oil-refinery workers on the Delaware River yesterday received their second big blow in six weeks, when Valero Energy Corp. said it would close its operation in Delaware City, Del., casting 550 out of work.

When workers heard the news, “it was like a time bomb went off,” said Matt Edler, who has worked for 10 years at the refinery that rises out of the lowlands near the Delaware River in southern New Castle County.

“My grandfather worked there, my father, and I worked there,” said Edler, who yesterday afternoon joined other shocked refinery workers at Red Lion Inn in Bear, Del. “We were all doing the best we could to keep the place alive. That’s our life.”

The loss of Valero as a provider of high-wage industrial jobs adds to the economic woes in Delaware caused by the recent loss of 2,000 auto-industry jobs at General Motors and Chrysler plants.

Coupled with Sunoco Inc.’s idling of its Eagle Point refinery in West Deptford, Valero’s decision shows the refining industry is under intense pressure, not just from the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, but also from expectations that U.S. gasoline demand will never return to the highs of 2007.

The Delaware City refinery, which Valero bought in 2005, when the industry’s biggest problem was lack of capacity to keep up with soaring demand, was losing an unsustainable $1 million a day this year, the company said.
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