A Profile of Alan Muller of Port Penn: An Environmental Activist and Executive Director of Green Delaware
(page 2 of 4)
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.
continued on page 3...