Posted in climate, no fossil fuels

London just announced a climate emergency

Returned home from today’s City Council hearing. It was a discussion about the environmental health disparities & the impact of pollutants in at-risk neighborhoods, and organized by City Council’s Committee on Health and Human Services, chair Council member Cindy Bass, see resolution No. 180785.

students testifying on poverty, air quality & health in Philadelphia

Many people testified, including these:

  1. Dr Thomas Farley, Health Commissioner, City of Philadelphia
  2. Glen Abrams, Senior director of Sustainable Communities, PHS
  3. Mike Ewall, Founder & Director, Energy Justice Network
  4. Jerome Shabazz, Executive Director, Overbrook environmental education center
  5. Sue Edwards, Sierra Club PA & southeastern PA Group of the Sierra Club
  6. Terri Burgin, Climate Justice Fellow, POWER Interfaith
  7. Dr Walter Tsou, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility
  8. Tammy Murphy, Medical Advocacy Director, Physicians for Social responsibility
  9. Jennifer Clarke, Executive Director, The Public Interest Law center
  10. Lynn Robinson, Neighbors Against the Gas Plants
  11. Peter Winslow, Evolve Foundation
  12. Eric Marsh, parent
  13. Karen Melton, citizen
  14. Alexa Ross, Philly Thrive
  15. Pat Libbey
  16. and more that I missed!

I, Meenal Raval, spoke up at the end, essentially this:

London just announced a climate emergency.  The health impacts we heard about today are symptoms of our fossil fuel addiction — our children are the canaries in the coal mines.

Let’s accept it. There’s no future for the teens who were here today. I could have told them about the students in Sweden and Australia are on a #ClimateStrike. Young people in their 20s are rising up for a #GreenNewDeal.

Philadelphia, too, must declare a climate emergency. We need to set up a Committee on the Climate Crisis, develop a Green New Deal for our City, and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions ASAP!

Media coverage from the day;


Posted in clean renewable energy, climate, solutions

Uniting around our climate target

Last Thursday, a few of us met at a Quaker facilitated discussion on climate targets, specifically around the international Paris agreement last December, about getting our planetary temperature well below 1.5 degrees centigrade.1449778748021

The topic? Uniting around targets.

We represented research & policy folks from regional environmental non-profits plus grassroots & faith-based activists.

Professor Donald Brown of Widener Law School, and blogger at Ethics & Climate,  spoke about the need to set a carbon budget, asking us to keep in mind not just the business of reducing our carbon emissions, but to also maintain an ethical & moral perspective as we go forth.

We learned that this meant weaving in responsibility to future generations, equality for the current generations as well as the rights of developing nations.

Given all this, he suggested that the US target is not 80% carbon reduction by 2050, but the more equitable one of 100% carbon reduction by 2035.

In other words, we need to be carbon neutral in 18 years. Gasp! Apparently, speed matters.

In the discussion that followed, I learned that the Sierra Club’s goals include a carbon-free electric sector for 2030, and carbon neutral by 2050.

We had some excited discussion about targets that are politically acceptable versus those that are demanded by physics and ethics.

As we parted, I sensed an agreement that we need to work together, despite our divergent tactics, but still reeling in shock at the carbon budget for our state and the speed by which we need to get there.

A follow-on solutions-based public meeting to discuss getting our state of Pennsylvania to this goal of carbon neutral in 18 years, is set for the evening of Wednesday May 18th. It’s from 7 to 9 in the evening at the Friends Center at 1501 Cherry Street in Center City Philadelphia. If Center City is too far for you, you can also join via a webinar. Details and registration here on EventBrite, and here on Facebook, too, for up-to-the-minute dialog. Please join me & others for this discussion.

Posted in climate, no fossil fuels

Southport: A Battle for the Future of Philadelphia’s Waterfront

Another voice from our growing coalition against the proposed energy hub for Philadelphia.

RefineryThe old Sunoco refinery near Point Breeze, now run by Philadelphia Energy Solutions (my photo)

On August 3, 1684, as an influx of early business developers flocked to the new port city, Philadelphia founder William Penn issued an unusual edict. Waterfront development had begun to block public access to the Delaware River, an important resource for early colonists. “The water,” Penn decreed, “is no purchaser’s.” Owners of waterfront property would have to extend city streets to the river and keep them open to the public.1

Thus began Philadelphia’s perennial battle between industrial development and recreational use along its waterfront districts. Today the battle takes place around the Southport Marine Terminal, where Phil Rinaldi’s Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) seeks to develop a large open space along the Delaware River into a fossil fuel export hub.

The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA), a state-controlled entity, unveiled the PES proposal, one of…

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Posted in climate, policy

Time for a Pennsylvania Revolt

Thanks to the West Chester Community Rights Alliance, tonight12804891_1051784081546783_7352565686046815210_n I had the privilege to participate in CELDF’s 7th & last stop on their tour of Time for a Pennsylvania Revolt.

It was a pleasure to hear the Community & Environmental Legal Defense Fund’s founder Thomas Linzey bring to life a subject I’ve rarely given much thought to: our constitution and how it was based on English law, both of which placed commerce & property above people, communities & nature.

Linzey, a man who once ran for US President, who went to Widener Law School, and who in 2008 assisted Ecuador to craft a constitution that included a bill of rights for Nature.  The concept of a bill of rights for Nature seems so obvious, except that this was the first instance of rights for nature anywhere.

CELDF is a law firm offering pro bono legal services, recognized nationally for success with 190 wins and 4 losses. Despite the legal wins, they learnt that communities could only permit less harm and were thereby legalizing harm with permits & regulations. We need to change the conversation from harm to rights; to who makes the decisions. We need rights-based ordinances; that to prohibit harm, there’s not a remedy within the existing regulatory system.

There was an example of State College, where Penn State wanted to replace a coal power plant with gas, had a partnership with Columbia Gas, and permits in hand from DEP & PUC for a pipeline thru the center of town; the community eventually won because they had earlier signed in a community bill of rights.

Another example was of Grant & Highland townships in Pennsylvania. Who banned disposal of fracking waste-water. When the gas company responded with a lawsuit, the township had dissolved and morphed into another legal entity.

To date, CELDF has helped over 200 communities set up rights-based ordinances.

Having seen The Promised Land and Erin Brockovich in the past week, I was ready when Chad Nicholson showed us the  trailer for We the People 2.0, the coming of the Second American Revolution.

Looking over CELDF’s Board of Directors, which read like a list of trusted friends, my doubts about taking a leap to reclaiming our democracy; to defining our energy future; to facing our challenge to reduce carbon emissions – all evaporated.  There was Kenny Ausubel of Bioneers, Josh Fox of Gasland, Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s Icecream, Randy Hayes of Rainforest Action Network,  author Derrick Jensen, Winona LaDuke, Bill Twist of Pachamama Alliance.

Philadelphia has a home rule charter, which is our local constitution. How do we occupy this charter, to build momentum towards the climate targets we’ve set for ourselves?

Posted in climate, policy

The Climate Election in Philadelphia

The Democratic Primary is next Tuesday, May 19th.  Philadelphia Democrats will select the candidate virtually certain to become our next Mayor.  Of the 6 in the running, Jim Kenney rises to the top, both in our opinion and in recent polls.

The next most likely contender is Anthony Hardy Williams who has close ties to outside millionaires intent on the privatization of our schools as well as thkenney-me Marcellus Shale Coalition, which employs his wife and has contributed to his campaign. Williams has also refused to distance himself from anti-Muslim extremists.

We believe that Williams is divisive and toxic to Philadelphia, but that he has a serious chance of winning if the vote is split between Kenney and other candidates with progressive politics. This would be tragic for Philadelphia in many ways, and would mark a turning from the green agenda of the Nutter administration backwards toward a 19th century vision of pollution, economic stagnation and accelerating climate catastrophe.

There has been some concern expressed in environmental circles about the presence of Phil Rinaldi, CEO of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, on Jim’s Policy Committee. We also were concerned about this and asked for a meeting with Jim and his policy chief, which turned out to be extremely productive.

Our team of representatives from interfaith groups, environmental groups, labor & business, all opposed to the dirty energy hub, new pipelines, dangerous oil trains, and fracking, found Kenney most willing to listen to us as we educated him and his team about the moral issues around climate change as well as the value of green investment over fossil fuel investment in creating jobs without sacrificing clean air, clean water and clean food.

As proof of this commitment, Jim has publicly committed to an open and democratic process for our energy future and has added a trio of extraordinary environmental advocates to his policy team:

Dr. Poune Saberi practices as an occupational & environmental medicine physician, and serves on the boards of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Professor Kenneth Lande has taught at the University of Pennsylvania since 1959. He is one of the most prestigious physicists in the US and is known for his extensive research on the impact of fossil fuel extraction and use on health, safety and the environment.

Dianne Herrin is a green development champion with training and experience with LEED Operations and Maintenance, carbon accounting/reporting, municipal energy planning, energy master planning, and has ISO 50001 certification.

These three advocates will be at the table when energy and economic development decisions are made in the Kenney administration.

In addition, the Kenney policy team included substantial input from us into a new energy policy for Philadelphia. We’re delighted with the result, which includes a goal of 80% carbon reduction by 2050.

With three world-class policy advisors with extensive policy background on his team, Kenney actually has the expertise and experience at his disposal to move on concrete, doable steps toward this goal. The policy doesn’t just talk about carbon reduction. It lays out specific policy to reduce building energy use, to reduce the emissions from the City fleet, to implement a green (and local) procurement program, to incentivize renewable energy, to encourage more green roof infrastructure, and more!

We believe this puts Kenney head and shoulders above the rest of the candidates, even those who claim to support green development but don’t put forward specific plans and still maintain that a fossil fuel hub can be achieved without environmental sacrifice.

A week before our crucial meeting with Jim and his team, GRID magazine endorsed Nelson Diaz for Mayor.  Many of us were disappointed to see this from a local magazine educating our region on sustainability, but found it understandable because Kenney’s new appointments and policy had not become public. Now, there is no reason not to feel GREAT leaving the voting booth, not wasting a vote on a candidate who can’t win, but propelling a true champion into office.

Last we heard, Diaz only had 4% at the polls.  This primary could be won by a narrow margin, so remember that voting for Diaz is taking a vote from Kenney, and handing it to Anthony Williams, the corporate candidate, financed by the fracking industry, school privatizers and anti-Muslim voices.

We could continue wringing our hands and complaining about inaction on climate and corruption from our politicians. Or we can engage in conversation with them, and make this the Climate Change election it ought to be.

A few more points about Jim Kenney: He’s local, born, educated and lived all his life in Philly, and committed to all of its residents. Our local paper, the Inquirer, wrote this about him on May 7th: “Kenney called passionate, loyal to a fault, driven to do right.” Earlier, on May 3rd, a Philadelphia Magazine article, The (New) Jim Kenney for Mayor, explained his evolution from an impassioned young man to a seasoned politician.

He’s experienced around City Hall. The recent May 11th Daily News editorial wrote this: “Kenney has shown himself to be independent, especially when you consider the lack of support for many of his pet causes. He knows how the city and its politics work, and is smart and open to new ideas.”

kenney-aHe listens.  Even to people different from him. Examples abound in his openness to LGBT
rights, to marijuana reform, to immigration reform. And now, to dealing with climate disruption in our region.

Vote Kenney for Mayor!