Nov 21, 2019 Testimony at Philadelphia City Council, about just introduced resolution number 190946
My name is Meenal Raval, a Mt Airy resident and volunteer with the Sierra Club. I’m here today to speak about Council’s just introduced resolution to support proposals to purchase the refinery site that align with our goals.
The fire this past June woke up all Philadelphians to the toxic giant at our riverfront. What happens here affects all Philadelphians, especially the near neighbors in South Philly who inhaled the emissions from this refinery and are paying for it with their health and their lives.
At this late state of planetary climate fever, this site must not become an oil refinery again. Yes, today we need their product to fill our gas tanks. With electrified and improved transit, and electric cars, we won’t be as reliant on the products of this refinery.
I repeat, we must not revive the refinery again. We must not accept any industry that dumps into the atmosphere, or produces anything combustible. Therefore, no waste to energy plant. Nothing that makes jet fuel. Or marine diesel. We ask, simply, for no new fossil fuel projects. Our commitment to 100% renewable energy means we go forward, towards that. Not backwards, into the 20th century.
What can the City do? Any tax incentives we may have had for this site, such as Keystone Opportunity Zones, must be removed. We may need to rezone this space, and take away this zoning, so that this site is less viable for use as a future refinery. We need to make it financially unattractive for anyone to restart this refinery.
Tomorrow, I plan to talk more about creating family sustaining jobs, remediation for a use other than a refinery, consideration of and rising sea levels.
Today, my question to you all is… Who decides what happens next? We’d like to participate.
Since then, I realized that the myco-remediation, district geothermal and a solar farm would provide one-time jobs; first for remediation then for the two types of clean energy projects.
Some people in the community suggested we come up with a forestry-based regenerative industry. Later, someone else suggested using hemp for soil remediation. Some quick research helped me connect the two suggestions.
Hemp is an annual crop, requiring planting, care and harvest each year.
A fast growing plant, reaching 10-12 feet within one season, the planting would provide 2 services: absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and lift up heavy metals from the soil.
Once harvested, the woody stalks could be the basis for local production of building materials like insulation and hemp-crete, a concrete substitute. Both needed in our urban region, and likely to foster local manufacturing.
Over time, as the soil gets cleaner, and we increase the acreage planted, the same woody stalks could be the basis for local textile production — for rope, canvas, even clothing.
When the soil is clean enough, safe enough, we could consider planting for food & body care products — hemp seed, hemp oil, CBD-products.
Of course, we should still plan for some geothermal and solar farms, allow for some marshland and wildlife preserve, and certainly, public access to the riverfront.
On June 21, 2019 the PES refinery in South Philly had an explosion and fire. This incident has received much media coverage. We covered it on a radio episode of Philly Talks Climate on June 28, 2019, see Pay up, PES! …and please clean up on your way out.
On August 21, 2019, at the third public meeting of our City’s Refinery Advisory Group, notably the labor sub-committee, I was moved to speak briefly, something like this…
Hello! My name is Meenal Raval.
I’ve gotten laid off in the past. And remember how it felt to have the rug pulled out from beneath me. So I feel for you all here today.
Tonight, I’ve heard people say that we need heating oil. That we need gasoline.
I say we don’t.
I drive an electric car. Heat my home with electric. And have my row home roof packed with solar panels, powering all this.
Though I couldn’t make it, the below was read by Lynn Robinson of Neighbors Against the Gas Plants.
Hello, and good evening! My name is Meenal Raval.
Though a smallish gas plant, the project we’re resisting is, from an engineering perspective, ideally situated by Wayne Junction. Most people we knew thought nothing of this project when we first learned of it — back in October of 2015.
A team of two (Mitch Chanin and Meenal Raval) researched this over the winter, and by early spring of 2016, we’d begun our monthly attendance at the SEPTA Board meetings, each time questioning this project.
This led to organizing public meetings and looping in many groups in our region — schools, faith groups, environmental groups, neighborhood groups — you’ve all come to the many meetings and hearings questioning and resisting this project. So, thank you all.
We know this plant isn’t needed. That it’s bad for the climate crisis. That it’s bad for public health. And lastly, that it’s a bad financial move. So why has SEPTA dug in their heels and worked to push this project along?
It could be ego, yes. It could also be the gas industry pushing an unwanted, unneeded and addictive substance. Because once a transit agency is dependent on their fracked project, they have a long-term customer — no matter the future cost. A future cost that each of us will be paying — whether as increased fares, increased taxes, or worsened health.
We’ve done our best resisting this project. We expect the L&I Review Board to remember their obligation to consider us, the public interest, when they deliberate on this unnecessary project.
Many people spoke, all in support of this bill, notably: Christine Knapp, Laura Rigell, Spencer Wright, Joseph Kiss, Juan Sanabria, Laila Riley, Edward Robinson, Matt Walker, Mitch Chanin, Meenal Raval.
Many also wrote letters of support, notably: Chris Spahr, Dan Dillon, Barry Moore, Frank Foley, Samuel Park, Mark Bortman, Micah Gold-Markel, Douglas Davis, Julia Hillengas.
Below is my testimony.
Hello, My name is Meenal Raval. I’m a resident of Mt Airy and am active with the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 team. I’m here today to speak on bill# 190378, to establish a solar panel incentive program.
We need a rapid transition to renewable energy, so of course we support this bill. A bill that would offer residents a 20c per watt rebate for rooftop solar projects installed for the next 6 years. The bill would also offer a 10c per watt rebate for commercial rooftop solar projects installed within the same time frame.
What is unclear is how this rebate program will be funded. While we wondered where we were getting the $2.5 million — we hear that it’s already cut to 1/5th the fund! Why are we limiting this program before it’s seen the light of day?
In addition to a rebate incentivizing rooftop solar, we would like to have a comprehensive conversation about something we’ve asked this Committee for months — the Ready for 100 resolution.
A resolution with the goal of transitioning all of Philadelphia’s energy uses, both public and private, to 100% clean and renewable electricity by 2035, and to 100% clean and renewable heating and transportation by 2050.
Adopting such a resolution, with an agreed upon time frame, would lead to an action plan and help put things like today’s bill in the context of a larger plan. We have a draft copy of an Action Plan to offer this Committee. An Action Plan would help prioritize, even triage, our work ahead, so we could focus on reducing the most emissions, and improving air quality for the most people.
A Ready For 100 resolution would put the Citywide Energy Vision and the Municipal Energy Master Plan developed by the Office of Sustainability; Council’s pledge to uphold the Paris Accord plus the 70 megawatt solar project in Adams County — yup, all of these — in the context of an aggressive, but achievable, goal.
A Ready for 100 resolution would, of course, have to include education – what each resident and business could do to shift their energy needs.
Adopting this resolution would provide an important guiding principle for all future decisions about the energy we use, how we invest City funds, which projects to choose, and where necessary — find new solutions.
A Ready for 100 resolution would also require that we review and revise our policies in light of this resolution and action plan. For example… If new vehicles are being considered, this resolution would remind us that they need to be zero emission vehicles. If roofs are being replaced, this resolution would remind us that we need to consider the viability of rooftop solar – for both public and private projects. If a road is being repaved, this resolution would require that we consider pedestrian and cyclist use for this same roadway. If we’re buying leaf blowers and street sweeping trucks, this resolution would have us consider low-carbon options such as investing in people and brooms.
This bill offering a rebate to those installing rooftop solar is one we support whole heartedly.
When we consider the climate crisis in every decision we make, when we consider future generations in every decision we make, it becomes obvious that we can no longer encourage new fossil-fuel projects that have recently been the focus of our climate action – the SEPTA gas power plant, the PGW LNG facility and the soon to be voted on trash & recycling program that would continue to incinerate our trash.
The Ready for 100 resolution has been adopted by cities and towns across the US, including Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Atlanta, Orlando, LA and 18 townships in the Philadelphia suburbs. The Ready for 100 resolution is is very much needed for Philadelphia.
Two Philadelphians—Joe Cox and Meenal Raval—spoke this week against our own municipal utility’s desires to extend their customer base for fracked gas by developing an LNG facility. You can learn more at 350philly.org/NoLNG.
Watch, and/or read testimony below.
Joe Cox, candidate for City Council At Large
Good morning! I’m Meenal Raval. And I’m here today to speak on 3 items: 170706, 181063, and 181081 – all about the climate crisis and our dependance on fracked gas. I’m aware that only the 2nd one, bill 181063, is on the agenda today.
The first item, resolution 170706 is from September 2017. I bring it up to remind ourselves that it commits the City of Philadelphia to meet or exceed our share of the targets set by the Paris Climate Accord to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Sponsors were many of you here today: Councilmembers Cindy Bass, Derek Green, Kenyatta Johnson, Helen Gym, Curtis Jones, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Bobby Henon, Jannie Blackwell and David Oh.
The emissions from PGW are about 22% of Philadelphia’s emissions. What’s been done to reduce these emissions…in light of our commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, back in September of 2017?
I’m also here to speak on bill 181063, that you’ve heard me speak on before. It’s about the LNG facility proposed by PGW.
Lastly, there’s resolution 181081. Many testified on this last week, discussing the future of PGW beyond selling more fracked gas.
This article is highly recommended reading for each of you. Some quotes from it…
In Berkeley, Councilwoman Kate Harrison is proposing a ban on gas hookups in new buildings, part of an effort to make sure the city follows through on its 2018 declaration of a “climate emergency.”
A policy idea for us! Another quote…
Stoves actually use very little energy, but until people are convinced there are superior alternatives to gas stoves, we will not be able to get rid of gas lines to buildings — and start saving large amounts of money by shutting down the gas distribution system.
This article also says that…
gas stoves are polluting our homes. Over the past decade, a growing body of scientific evidence has shown that gas stoves throw off pollutants like nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. When you are cooking, those invisible pollutants can easily reach levels that would be illegal outdoors, but the Clean Air Act does not reach inside the home.
Scientists link gas stoves to asthma attacks and hospitalizations. In 2008, Johns Hopkins scientists urged doctors to advise parents of asthmatic children to get rid of their gas stoves or at least install powerful exhaust hoods. Asthma is a rampant, discriminatory disease, hitting children and communities of color the hardest.
So, I’m here today asking all of you to step up. To remember the Paris Climate Accord and each of your pledges to work towards it. I’m asking each of you to be our climate champion this coming election, and leave us a memorable legacy. There are many of us, ready to to work with you on the transition. Who will it be?
Will it be you…Ms Bass? Mr Green? Mr Johnson?
Or you… Ms Gym? Mr Jones? Ms Reynolds Brown?
Perhaps you… Mr Henon? Ms Blackwell? Or you? Mr Oh?
One lone person spoke this week against our own municipal utility’s desires to extend their customer base for fracked gas by developing an LNG facility. You can learn more at 350philly.org/NoLNG.
Watch, and/or ready testimony offered by Meenal Raval.
Hello. My name is Meenal Raval. Here today speaking on bill number 181063, known as PGW’s public private partnership for an LNG project.
I’m here to remind you that many many groups are still opposed to this project. We remain opposed to this project from a public health perspective — people unable to breathe the air in their neighborhoods, air fouled by fossil fuel emissions. We also remain opposed to this project from a climate perspective — that physics demands that we must not invest in any new fossil fuel projects. We remain opposed to this project from a financial perspective as well. It does not appear that we will be making as much money as advertised.
Just a reminder that this project is not needed to heat our homes. This project is NOT needed.
We therefore recommend that we cancel this project, and ask that each of you vote No on bill number 181063.
I ask that we focus all our energy on transitioning PGW to a more sustainable entity — one that does not require it to sell more and more gas to remain viable.
Two people spoke this week against our own municipal utility’s desires to extend their customer base for fracked gas by developing an LNG facility. You can learn more at 350philly.org/NoLNG.
First up, candidate Joe Cox, running for City Council At Large.
Next, Meenal Raval
Hello, my name is Meenal Raval.
I’m here today in opposition to bill number 181063, PGW’s proposed LNG facility. You may have noticed that I’ve been here each week speaking, or supporting someone speaking, against this bill. Last week, you heard from Abby Leedy, the student from Central High, and also with the global School Strike for Climate. Some of the students from that strike are here today, from Friends Select School.
I ask you — When are you going to acknowledge the elephant in the room? I’m talking about the climate crisis. The crisis that’s affecting our air and water quality. The crisis that’s affecting the most poor, the black and the brown in each community. The crisis that demands that we stop planning new fossil fuel projects.
I also know that most of you are up for re-election. We could support you so much whole-heartedly if you showed an initiative, even some interest, in solving the climate crisis.
But how, you ask? How can you lead on climate? We’ve developed a climate action platform that my colleague Tanya Seaman has shared with each of you. You could use this document for starters. Missed that email? Please see me afterwards.
Also, for starters, you could publicly state that you’re against this project and that you plan to vote NO on bill # 181063.
Since we’re given only 3 minutes to speak here, we’ve taken to the airwaves, by producing our own radio show — Philly Talks Climate. Last week we talked about other US cities making commitments to renewable energy. This week, we’ll talk about using less energy overall, and the jobs potential from this.
The Philadelphia community continues to resist our own municipal utility’s desires to extend their customer base for fracked gas. You can learn more at 350philly.org/NoLNG. The below is testimony of 3 residents opposing PGW’s proposed LNG facility, on March 28th 2019.
Pat Libbey made an interesting, and timely, connection between children, Easter, and pollution.
I’m here today to represent the Youth Climate Strike, and all the youth in Philadelphia who both care deeply about this issue and who will be affected by your vote, but do not have the privilege that allows them to attend meetings and hearings that are held exclusively during school hours.
On March 15th, 1.4 million young people worldwide went on strike for climate, including hundreds in Philadelphia, right outside this building. I’m here today to share some of our official demands with you. The youth climate strike demands a halt in any and all fossil fuel infrastructure projects. We hold that fossil fuel infrastructure disproportionately negatively impacts communities of color, and that creating new fossil fuel infrastructure will create new reliance on fossil fuels at a time of urgency, when we should be doing all we can to decrease our emissions in line with what science and justice demand.
Similarly, we also demand that all decisions made by our government be based on the best-available and most-current scientific research. The UN’s intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that as a society, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2030, and by 100% before 2050. I’m going to assume that you all knew that already, and that you understand how important it is to keep it in mind while you create policy.
The proposed LNG gas plant is a liquified natural gas plant, and I was taught in my public school that plants like it were good because they were not coal. The fact is that extracting natural gas releases massive amounts of methane, an incredibly damaging greenhouse gas. The fact is that natural gas plants do still release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses, the kind of which we should be doing all we can to eliminate. The fact is that they release massive amounts of nitrogen oxides, which have been shown to cause asthma and other life-threatening respiratory problems, especially in young people. What do we think happens when we knowingly give our most vulnerable populations asthma and then send them off to spend their days in public schools with no nurses? When we release even more carbon and methane and climate destroying gasses into the air? Is it somehow okay because it’s caused by natural gas, and not coal or something worse?
I’m here today because “better than coal” is not a metric we have the luxury to use any more. We cannot say that poisoning our children and communities and releasing the greenhouse gasses that continue to create climate crisis is okay because we could hypothetically be killing people faster.
The fact is that the young people of Philadelphia will spend much longer breathing this air than you will. The air you create now- the air you vote to contaminate or not- is the air we will have to breathe for the rest of our lives. The damage you will cause if you vote to approve the LNG gas plant is damage that will be felt most by the people too young to vote you in or out of office.
The fact is that beyond just our air, the consequences of burning fossil fuels are the consequences we will live with for the rest of our lives. The fact is that every fossil fuel project, natural gas or otherwise, that this council approves will create dire, life-threatening, family- and community-destroying consequences that we will live with for the rest of our lives. That I will live with for the rest of my life. Plants like this LNG project don’t just poison our air. They created and continue to exacerbate the climate crisis. Plants like LNG are the climate crisis.
You can do something. You have a choice. I know it’s hard to see it, but the climate crisis–the floods, the droughts, the hurricanes, the fires, the poisoned air and water, the unlivable future, the destruction that will follow me for the rest of my life–it starts with votes like this one. It starts with people saying that it’s easier to stick with small, incremental change, that natural gas is probably okay, that it’s just one small plant in one corner of one city, that’s cheaper, or that the lobbyists pushing for it are convincing and have deep pockets, with ignoring the science because it’s convenient. It starts with legislators elected to serve the interests of the people serving the interests of the fossil fuel industry instead, even if at the time it feels like a small concession. The climate crisis starts with votes like this one. It starts with you.
I stand with the Youth Climate Strike and young people everywhere in asking- in begging- you to rise to the occasion, to rise to what science and justice demand, and to vote against the LNG gas plant. Thank you.
Another fossil fuel project being voted on. Extending our dependence on fossil fuels for another 25 years. The public testified at a hearing on Wednesday, Feb 27, 2019 on bill number 181063. The hearing was scheduled by Philadelphia City Council’s Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities.
Since the entire hearing began 2 and a half hours later than scheduled, and proponents of the bill got all the time they wanted, there was very little time for public comment. We managed to get some select voices added to the record.
The fifth panel consisted of:
Lisa Hastings, Philadelphia resident, at 1:33 in video
Nelson Pavlosky, resident of Philadelphia District 2 where the project would be sited, at 1:36 in video
Lynn Robinson, Neighbors Against the Gas Plants, at 1:40 in video
Claudia Crane, Philadelphia resident, at 2:16 in video
Meenal Raval, Philadelphia resident, again, at 2:21 in video
And those who didn’t get a chance…
The meeting was scheduled for 10am, but since another bill was discussed before this one, it was over 2 hours before this hearing began. Many people therefore didn’t get a a chance to speak. Some of them are listed below.
Below is testimony shared, alphabetical by first name:
Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities, make yourselves look good: vote against building the LNG project!
It makes no economic sense to vote for a 25 year fossil fuel contract when fossil fuels are on their way out. Prices for renewables are going down and fossil fuel prices will rise. The Feb. 24th Wall Street Journal reports that, “The once powerful partnership between Wall Street and the fracking companies is fraying as the industry struggles to attract investors after nearly a decade of losing money.”
Philadelphia and other cities are committed to getting off fossils by 2050. There is unprecedented public outcry for using renewables.
Hello, my name is Carol White. I am a resident of Wilson Park and member of Philly Thrive. I am a mother and grandmother to 14 grandkids, most of whom have asthma. I have to keep inhalers all over my house, in every room. My mother passed away last year from cancer caused by the [Philadelphia Energy Solutions] refinery. And she’s not the only one.Why is the PES refinery allowed to go on operating and spewing cancer-causing toxins? Why do I and my friends and family live so close to it, with no defense or protection from our elected officials? And why on top of this dirty refinery are you considering adding more industry to an area where so many live, work, and go to school? We, the residents of South Philly, deserve to have a say in this matter. We have not been adequately consulted on this issue. You need to hold more community meetings about this, and listen to what we have to say. It’s our city too and we don’t want more fossil fuel infrastructure. Thank you for your time.
Public comment by Coryn Wolk, researcher and writer for Physicians for Social Responsibility Philadelphia/PA and EDGE Philly and resident of West/Southwest Philadelphia.
While my concerns about this project are broad, I am focusing my comments on the environmental aspects of this proposal.
I thoroughly read Langan’s Environmental Review for this project and found many sections that lacked adequate details or dismissed potential concerns without adequate justification.
For context, the PGW Passyunk Plant has had gas-related operations and infrastructure since at least the 1850s. The first large gas holder was built on the site in the early 1850s, the precursor to the cage there now.
Phillygeohistory.org’s historical map overlays show the progression of different infrastructure on-site over the years. For much of its history, gas was produced by coal gasification, an intensely dirty process. Infrastructure on-site included coal storage, coal coke sheds, “purifying houses,” and railroad tracks. The site has also been surrounded by petroleum and chemical infrastructure since that time. Contamination from these operations is a contemporary concern—EPA Region III and Pennsylvania DEP are still addressing vapor intrusion and contaminated groundwater migration in the residential neighborhood directly adjacent to the PGW site.
Details on that work are here on the EPA site and here on the Silar Services site.
For the rest of my comments, I will go by section.
The centerpiece of this project is the LNG liquefaction infrastructure. However, this infrastructure is only mentioned on page 2 of the Environmental Review, which lists “a natural gas liquefaction system (including a gas meter/regulating system, a gas pre-treatment system and a Motor Control Center (MCC)/Distributed Control Building);” a “new 10 MMSCFD nitrogen expansion liquefier (120,000 gallons LNG/day production),” which includes a 5,968-kw compressor, fin fans, a heater, and auxiliary equipment; and a new truck loading system. On Page 6, under “Proposed Facility Changes,” the only stationary source changes listed are the new heater mentioned above and increased use of existing boilers for LNG vaporization. On page 7, Langan doubles down in their erasure of the liquefaction equipment, stating “The natural gas-fired heater is the only new stationary source of emissions that is proposed” and claiming that because they are electrically-driven, the rest of the 10 MMSCFD liquefier’s equipment will emit zero air pollutants. On fugitive emissions alone, this seems unlikely, but there is no data here to weigh.
On page 4, Langan correctly notes that the threshold for a federal Title V air permit license is 25 tons of VOCs or NOx per year in Philadelphia because of its nonattainment status for ground-level ozone. However, after page 4, Langan drops all references to VOCs and only includes NOx in its analysis and charts. VOC emissions are a primary pollutant of concern in natural gas operations. Without any mention of them, it’s impossible to tell whether Langan is correct in stating that the Plant will continue to operate below Title V thresholds.
In contrast, Langan goes to great lengths to dismiss the emissions it does acknowledge. On page 9, Langan says that the liquefier could “displace” a large quantity of diesel-fuel equivalent, or 6 tons of NOx from the refineries that produce diesel fuel, or 46,000 diesel pickup trucks or SUVs that produce even more NOx. It is unclear what NOx emissions from SUVs have to do with an LNG liquefier.
Langan also states on page 9 that the project has applied for a PRACP grant to “finance the installation of renewable energy electricity generation for the new liquefaction plant, which would further reduce plant emissions.” But the emissions from electricity generation are not factored into its earlier analysis—how can the project take credit for anticipating reducing emissions that it denies exist?
Water, Wastewater, and Stormwater
An onsite treatment system is mentioned on page 9. What is the capacity of that system, and are there any risks of exceeding its capacity during construction or from the increase in impervious area?
The Passyunk Plant has an internal sanitary system that connects to the Passyunk Ave sewer line and an “independent stormwater sewer system” that drains towards an outfall on the Schuylkill River. Does stormwater and groundwater pass through the treatment system before entering either of these, or only one?
Langan asserts that new stormwater management practices will result in less runoff entering the city sewer system despite the increase in impervious area. What about the independent stormwater system?
Hazardous and Residual Waste
Again, Langan skirts details or analysis of the most obvious concerns: the existing contamination of the site’s soil and groundwater is relegated to one paragraph on page 14. The two sentences: “During the construction process, PGW may encounter hazardous soil and wastewater due to the site’s historic use as a manufactured gas plant. Per PGW’s operational procedures, chemical sampling and analysis will be performed and a soil management plan will be developed for construction activities and residual or hazardous waste disposal, as needed.” Furthermore, on page 16, Langan actually uses the site’s industrial history to assert that the site has “no natural resources within the property boundary.”
The tight lines Langan draws around its analysis do not reflect physical or consequential reality. This project’s construction involves disturbing heavily contaminated soil and groundwater on a site adjacent to the Schuylkill River and residential neighborhoods already heavily overburdened with air pollution. Once operational, this project involves a significant increase in natural gas infrastructure and transportation by pipeline and truck, with potential additional increases in the future. The air pollution and risks from natural gas operations are well-documented elsewhere, but Langan barely details why they believe that pollution will not occur here.
In the almost 120 years since gas works began on the site, Philadelphia has begun to realize the impacts of air pollution and the world has been given a critical deadline to address our dependence on fuels such as natural gas. Yet PGW and the Philadelphia Gas Commission seem intent to remain in the 1800s, holding a confusing, rushed approval process that by design or indifference excludes public involvement, and stirring up almost 120 years of contaminated soil to build more archaic, climate-destructive infrastructure.
Climate change will have a major impact on flooding at this site, which is in the floodplain. It will also reduce demand for natural gas in the winter and increase the health impacts from pollution on already overburdened neighborhoods near the LNG facility. Proposed policies to fight climate change will also have unpredictable and potentially dramatic impacts on the financial success of this project.
A summary of climate change impacts on Philadelphia appear in this 2015 article, which itself links to citations. I’ve also linked them below.
My name is Mark Clincy and I’m a member of Philly Thrive. We are an organization that has been organizing in South Philadelphia for 3 years and we are fighting for our Right to Breathe clean air. This means we want the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) oil refinery to be held accountable for the pollution they cause. I live in Wilson Park, right on the fenceline of the PES refinery and very close to the proposed liquified natural gas (LNG) site as well. Living in this neighborhood, I’ve seen the negative effects of fossil fuel pollution, and I am here to speak for those who suffer from asthma, cancer, and other respiratory ailments.
When Philly Thrive conducted a survey in south Philadelphia in 2017, we found that 33.7% of residents living near the refinery have asthma, which is over 3 times the national average of 7.7%. One fossil fuel company in this neighborhood is more than enough. We don’t want any more!
Councilman Johnson, as my councilperson you are responsible for defending my rights and doing what is best for the neighborhood. I ask that you stop this project, at least until the city has conducted its own impacts assessment (rather than the one that the company paid to have done). Thank you.
Hello, my name is Meenal Raval, a resident of Mt Airy, Philadelphia.
On October 16th, I spoke at a [Philadelphia] Gas Commission meeting stating simply that… the recent IPCC report asks us to reduce our emissions as soon as possible. PGW’s product, whether you call it natural gas or fracked gas or methane) emits about 25% of our City’s emissions. How do we get these emissions to zero? And how to do this without laying off anyone? And still continue to heat our homes? We need a different business model for PGW.
Since then, we met with Council member Derek Green, chair of the Gas Commission. And believed that he too wanted a different business model for PGW, one that didn’t involve selling more & more gas. Our understanding was that we’d have a public hearing about the future of PGW before we fast-tracked another fossil-fuel project.
Yet here we are.
Seeing PGW’s marketing budget spent on ads promoting this project; we wonder — wouldn’t these be better spent educating us about energy efficiency measures such as setback thermostats, insulation, and electrification?
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Gas Commission blatantly ignored vehement public opposition when they voted to OK this project in December.
Why aren’t we working this hard to fast-track new clean energy projects?
We take pride that PGW is the nation’s largest municipally owned utility. Yet, there appears no way that citizens can participate in steering this utility that we own.
Even when signing up to testify for this hearing, the chair of the committee defered all coordination to the champion of this project. People signing up to speak of their opposition to this project are being advised, by the project’s champion, that the speakers representing fossil fuel interests have no time limit, while there are too many in opposition to fit into the schedule. Perhaps a conflict of interest here?
If our goal is public health and a livable planet, we’re headed in the wrong direction by further developing a reliance on gas. Our Mayor and Council have so far only offered lip service. I suggest you all read Charles Ellison’s article: Reality Check – Voting Green in The Philadelphia Citizen, where he asks: Why aren’t our elected officials talking more about climate change and pollution? This election, voters will demand it.
We’re demanding it today. And ask that Council passes on gas.
Thanks for the opportunity to testify today on bill #181063. My name is Mitch Chanin, and I serve on the steering committee of 350 Philadelphia.We who are challenging the LNG project have several reasons for believing that it would be a step in the wrong direction. I want to focus on one issue that may not receive as much attention today. I also want to make a couple of requests.Before I do that, I want to say how frustrating it is to be at odds today with unions and labor leaders who support the project, especially since I come from a union family. I hope we can all work together to create a plan for a Green New Deal that moves us quickly from fossil fuels to renewable energy; ensures that everyone can afford to heat their home; and creates living wage, unionized jobs. Councilman Green and others have argued that PGW needs revenue from [this] LNG project in order to limit future rate increases, thereby protecting Philadelphians who are struggling to pay their utility bills. But counting on revenue from this project amounts to betting against effective policies to protect a livable climate. Proponents seem to be assuming that there will be strong demand for liquified natural gas over a period of 25 years. If we’re serious about responding to climate change, however, demand for gas will have to decline rapidly.In order to limit the risk of catastrophic climate change, we need to all but eliminate the use of fossil fuels—including natural gas—as quickly as possible. Noted UK climate researcher Kevin Anderson has concluded that countries like the US will need to nearly end the use of gas no later than 2035 if we want to have even a 2/3 chance of holding global warming to the 2 degree limit our country has committed to. If we’re serious about climate protection, the proposed LNG project is not likely to be viable, since strong climate policies will cause customers to disappear.
We’re already seeing policies and programs that call Liberty [Energy Trusts]’s plan into question. Liberty [Energy Trust] has said that they can sell LNG to utilities in New England at a high price. Those utilities are willing to pay a premium during times of peak demand, like severe cold snaps, when it’s difficult or impossible to obtain gas from other sources.
But Massachusetts has begun implementing policies that are designed to reduce demand for gas during those times. The state has just implemented a “Clean Peak” standard, which will provide incentives for replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy during peak times. It has also created a big new program to finance energy efficiency projects and other demand reduction projects. Other states are implementing policies to reduce demand for gas as well. This is just the beginning. If there is a serious attempt to avoid a climate catastrophe, we’ll need much more ambitious policies very soon.
The success of those initiatives threaten to eliminate customers for the LNG that this facility would produce.
Energy insecurity is serious problem in Philadelphia. Large numbers of Philadelphians struggle to pay their utility bills. But this project is a false solution.
What do we need instead? We need a real plan to ensure that all Philadelphians have safe, comfortable, healthy homes, and that everyone can afford their energy costs. And we need a plan to use renewable energy to heat our buildings, rather than gas.
Across the country, there is a growing call for a Green New Deal, which would involve a massive investment by the federal government in renewable energy projects, retrofitting buildings so that they can be heated with renewable energy, and more. I am asking members of City Council to add their voices to that call, to express support for a Green New Deal to our Congressional delegation. (Congressman Boyle has already signed on.) And we need to begin planning here in Philly for the local implementation of a Green New Deal.
We also need to identify how the City can use resources that are currently available to accelerate the repair and weatherization of low-income residents’ homes, and to provide utility bill assistance to people are not eligible for existing programs but who need help. I’d also suggest revisiting PGW’s plan to replace gas mains. If we need to transition off of gas within a decade or two, it may not make sense to install brand new pipelines that are designed to last for many decades. Instead, we could repair problems that are imminently dangerous at lower cost, while carefully monitoring the network.
It’s incredibly frustrating that City Council is holding a hearing about plans to build a new fossil fuel project at a time when we need talk about moving off a fossil fuels. I ask you to reject this project and to hold hearings about real solutions to the problems that we face.
Tammy Murphy, M.A., LL.M., Medical Advocacy Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility – Pennsylvania, 1501 Cherry Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102, email@example.com
According to Horn & Wilson, liquefied natural gas vessels and facilities are “costly and present the risk of potentially large accidents.”
This very questionable proposed public-private project has not proven that it is safe for our community or wise in terms of the city’s limited finances. Cities have been burned by so-called public-private-partnerships and the magic revenue from the fossil fuel industry promises are likely to burn this city in more ways than one. Election campaigns are too often used to lure policy makers into these seemingly lucrative deals but long term results are costly and dangerous.
Major safety concerns have not been satisfactorily resolved regarding the flammability of vapor clouds; accidents including leaks, spills, explosions, and risk of sabotage; and the danger posed to the dense population along the tanker routes and terminal site.
Risks to the immediate population are massive. Accidents are deadly to workers, residents, and the community at large. Houston’s recent tragedies should be at the forefront of your minds while deciding on the fate of our city. The frequency of devastating storms such as Sandy, Florence, and Harvey threaten lives and cost immense amounts of money in recovery. This threat of devastation is multiplied many times over with the presence of dangerous fossil fuel infrastructure that will last for decades as such severe storms are predicted to increase in both strength and frequency.
This proposed project is a central part of the industry that causes the increase in dangerous storms and is a major risk to the community as the strength and frequency of such storms come to fruition.
The location in the densely populated area of the proposed site is utterly irresponsible. It should not even be considered. Putting the community along the tanker route and the terminal at risk of potential leaks, spills, explosions, and potential risk of sabotage is deadly.
It is time for PGW and the City of Philadelphia to lead the transition of our economic and energy projects to transition rapidly to renewable sources.
 A. J. Van Horn and R.Wilson, The Potential Risks of Liquefied Natural Gas, Energy, Vol. 2. pp. 375-389. Pergamon, 1977, Energy and Environmental Policy Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.