Environmental Law Center Program Examines Past, Present, and Future of the Coastal Zone Act
Web Editor - Published: October 4, 2011
“It was unique legislation. I do not know of any other legislation like it at that time,” said former Congressman Mike Castle of the Delaware Coastal Zone Act during his keynote address at “The Delaware Coastal Zone Act at 40: Past, Present and Future,” a special CLE event hosted by Widener Law’s Environmental Law Center on Friday, September 30th, 2011 on the Delaware campus.

The daylong program began with a welcome from Environmental Law Center co-director Jim May, who said of the Delaware Coastal Zone Act, “The law is a wonder. It was the first comprehensive coastal land use act here or anywhere in the world.” Fellow Environmental Law Center co-director John Dernbach then spoke briefly about Widener’s Environmental Law Center by video feed from the Harrisburg campus.

The program then began in full with a video clip from “An Evolving Legacy: Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act,” a documentary on the Delaware Coastal Zone Act recently put together by Michael Oates of 302 Stories Inc. Marilyn P. Whittington, the Executive Director of the Delaware Humanities Forum, which funded the film, introduced the clip

The first comprehensive coastal land-use law in the world aimed at curbing industrial development within a coastal area, the Delaware Coastal Zone Act forbids new heavy industry and bulk transfer facilities along the state’s fragile coastline. Despite heavy opposition from the Shell Oil Co. and other industrial developers as well as the Nixon administration, the law passed by a slim margin in 1971.

The morning portion of the program featured a legal history of the act and two panels: Practice and Procedure Under the CZA and Emerging Legal Issues. A luncheon and Castle’s keynote address followed.

Introducing Castle, Widener Law Dean Linda L. Ammons said, “It is my distinct honor to introduce Congressman Mike Castle. He has played a key role in making Delaware a better place for everyone.”

Castle’s remarks focused on the political history and implications of the Act, and he spoke particularly about former Delaware Governor Russell Peterson, who was instrumental in seeing it enacted. “He was as fearless a politician as I have ever known,” Castle said of Peterson.

The afternoon portion of the program featured a panel on legislative and regulatory perspectives, breakout sessions, a screening of “An Evolving Legacy: Delaware’s Coastal Zone Act,” facilitated by writer and director Michael Oates, and a “town hall meeting” discussion moderated by retired Delaware Superior Court Judge Susan del Pesco.

Widener Law thanks the Delaware Humanities Forum, the Delaware State Bar Association Section on Environmental Law, and the student-run Widener Environmental Law Society for co-sponsoring “The Delaware Coastal Zone Act at 40: Past, Present and Future.”