Lawmakers filed a measure May 18 that would establish a conversion permitting process that would allow for remediation and redevelopment of a limited number of abandoned heavy industry sites along Delaware’s coastline for industrial use.

The 1971 Coastal Zone Ac regulates heavy industrial and manufacturing activities in Delaware’s Coastal Zone, a protected coastline running the length of the state. During that time, industries that were grandfathered under the original CZA law have closed down, allowing heavy-industry sites to become abandoned properties that remain polluted today.

Sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski and Sen. Bryan Townsend, House Bill 190 would establish a conversion permitting process for interested parties to potentially redevelop a limited number of abandoned heavy-industry sites for industrial use. Many of these are existing brownfields that have been shut down and are sitting, polluted and unusable because of contamination. The bill would only allow for 14 specific sites — mostly concentrated in northern New Castle County — to be available for a conversion permit.

Under HB 190, an interested industry would need to clean the brownfield, following the Delaware Hazardous Substance Cleanup Act and removing pollution from the site. A new operator also would have to show that it has the financial backing and available funds to complete any future remedial action.

A company applying for a conversion permit would also have to submit a sea-level rise plan. Additionally, there would be restrictions on what types of industries could operate along the coast. Refineries processing crude oil, basic cellulose pulp paper mills, and incinerators would continue to be forbidden, as they have been since the Coastal Zone Act was enacted in 1971.

There have been various improvements regarding how industries operate since the Coastal Zone Act was passed. Heavy industrial companies have more tools at their disposal to reduce their impact on the environment. Manufacturing companies use more efficient and environmentally conscious processes to ensure that they operate more cleanly and reduce the size of their environmental footprints.

Additionally, state and federal environmental regulations governing heavy industrial sites — such as air and water permitting — have been strengthened, better protecting the environment from pollution.

Under the bill, bulk product transfers would be allowed at nine sites, with certain limitations and only so long as they support industry at those sites or elsewhere in the coastal zone. Current law prohibits the transfer of liquefied natural gas.

Osienski and Townsend noted they have met with stakeholders from all sides of the issue and would continue that dialogue as the bill moves through the legislative process.