Introduction to A Citizen’s Guide to Environmental Advocacy in Delaware by Professor Ken Kristl

I wrote this Citizen’s Guide to assist citizens of Delaware who want to advocate effectively about environmental issues and concerns. The Guide seeks to provide general information and suggestions that will help Delaware citizens understand how the process works and ways to craft a message that can affect the decisions that give rise to those concerns.

          The focus of this Guide are the processes for making decisions about environmental issues. A significant volume of environmental decision-making happens at the state level. Local zoning processes control development that can have environmental processes. As a result, understanding how the state and local processes work, the general details of where, when, and how you can participate, and some strategies for making that participation as impactful as possible—the goal of this Guide—can help citizens be effective advocates for their environment.

          This Guide consists of five chapters that serve distinct roles. Chapters 1 and 2 describe how the state environmental processes work. This includes a general overview of how the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, or DNREC, operates, the main programs that DNREC oversees and the environmental decision-making processes in those programs, and the procedures for public participation in the decision-making process. Chapters 3 and 4 focus on suggestions for how to advocate effectively within those Delaware processes.

Chapter 5–added to the second edition of this Guide—provides an overview of zoning and land development processes. The first official notice of a project that raises environmental concerns for citizens often comes in the context of a developer or facility owner seeking some kind of local zoning approval. Chapter 5 provides citizen advocates with an overview of the distinct but interrelated topics of Zoning and Land Development that can guide the deep dive that occurs with a particular project.

          Given the scope of this effort, I designed the Guide to provide general information so that citizens can understand.  It is not, and should not be viewed as, legal advice.  When dealing with a particular situation, you should consider consulting an attorney (especially if it involves appeals or other legal processes).  Nevertheless, I hope the Guide helps you understand the processes so that you can ask an attorney informed questions and have a sense of how the process will work.

          I want to thank the Inland Bays Foundation for asking me to undertake this project as part of their John Austin-Bill Moyer-Bob Chin Citizen Advocacy Program.  Having worked with John, Bill and Bob —who were very effective citizen environmental advocates themselves—it is an honor to undertake this effort to inform citizens and encourage effective advocacy.  I hope this guide lives up to their legacy.

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Professor Kenneth T. Kristl, Esq.
Professor of Law
Director, Environmental & Natural Resources Law Clinic
Widener University Delaware Law School