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