Posted in clean renewable energy, decarbonization, electrify everything, EV, goals, policy, solutions, transport

Testimony on 10/2/19

Below is my testimony on 10/2/2019 at a meeting of PHL Council’s Environment Committee. Video available here.

Hello! I’m Meenal Raval, an active member of Philly’s Ready for 100! I also write an Energy column for GRID magazine and produce a weekly radio show Philly Talks Climate.

Today is October 2nd. Mahatma Gandhi was born 150 years ago today. Gandhi is known for satyagraha — sticking to the truth, and ahimsa — non-violence toward all living things. In the US, ahimsa, or non-violence has been used by many activists. I’d like to expand non-violence to the climate movement, to saving the ecosystem we all call home.

In light of this, I support bill 190600, also known as the building energy performance policy. Regularly checking on thermostats, motion sensors, HVAC systems and more could save the owners money, use less energy & water, and reduce emissions. They also make the space more comfortable. How many times have you complained about an auditorium, a library or an office space being too warm or too cold?

In reading this bill, it seems our Office of Sustainability would be reviewing the energy usage of 2000 or more large buildings. If you want this bill to succeed, this office may require additional staffing.

I’d like to remind this committee that the building energy performance policy is but one component of our bigger ask — to transition our entire city to renewable energy as soon as possible, that all of Council voted upon last week — bill 190728, AKA the Ready for 100 resolution.

A recent report titled Halfway There, shows how the US can reduce emissions by 50% by just being smart — by focusing on energy efficiency. We’ll be looking at the policy suggestions on this report, and plan to have a list ready for when this committee meets next with a new chair.

A hint of what those could be are…

Zero energy buildings could reduce emissions by 11%. This is for new buildings, whether residential or commercial, which can be built so that they don’t need much energy. How? Make ‘em tight, make ‘em electric, and what little energy they need would be electricity from rooftop solar panels. Policy-wise, this translates to all new construction being electric only, with no gas hookups and of course, rooftop solar.

Building improvements account for about 14% emissions reduction — whether tuneups like being discussed today, or smart buildings, or heating with electricity instead of gas.

About 30% emissions reduction can be had by encouraging more fuel efficient cars. The most fuel efficient cars are, of course — electric cars. Policy-wise, this means massive buildout of public EV charging stations at under-utilized parking lots — churches, schools, and of course, grocery stores and hospitals. Yesterday’s article in the Inquirer, with me showing off my electric car, was a start towards this policy.

We could have 16% emissions reductions by reducing our vehicle miles traveled and flying less. This means encouraging walking, cycling, using SEPTA, and… tele-commuting! It also calls for being smart about how we move our stuff around.

As we loop in other groups, we’re hearing that we need to move faster on this timeline.

So, though we’ve agreed on 2030, 2035, and 2050 as milestones, when we put our ear to the ground, we hear that we’ll need to move fast, with much sooner milestones, like 2030 — to do away with all emissions, and power only with clean renewable energy sources.

Are you ready? We sure are Ready for 100% !!

In closing, I’d like to thank Council and the entire behind the scene team, for running with us, for getting the Ready for 100 resolution introduced & passed in Council. I look forward to working with you all come January!

Wed Oct 2, 2019, Sierra Club press release: Philadelphia Commits to 100% Clean, Renewable Energy


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 policy, solutions

Transparency about our energy future

Yesterday’s post in the Inquirer titled U.S. won’t weaken oil-train public disclosure rules was heartening.  The Federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration referred to transparency when they denied the railroads request to keep railroad data about large volumes of crude oil exempt from Freedom of Information Act and not even tell first responders, let alone the public. They said that

“transparency is a critical piece of the federal government’s comprehensive approach to safety,” the agency said it supported “the public disclosure of this information to the extent allowed by applicable state, local, and tribal laws.”

Another heartening piece of news is the energy policy of Jim Kenney, the Democratic candidate for Mayor of Philadelphia. His May 4th press release refers to an

“open and democratic process for any decisions made about the economic development and energy future of our city, a process that is based on the best data available and that includes our neighborhood associations, local businesses, working people and citizen groups.”

Here Mr Kenney also noted that

“We do not need to pit good jobs and a thriving economy against clean air, clean water and the health of our children. We can and must have both.”

On that note, we’d like to share what New York City groups have done.

ALIGN (Alliance for a Greater New York) had a forum this past December called Climate Works for All where they released a document called Climate Works for All: A Platform for Reducing Emissions, Protecting Our Communities, and Creating Good Jobs for New Yorkers.  We particularly like their focus on reducing emissions. And involvement with unions. And would love to implement Large Building Energy Efficiency Retrofits, as explained in Chapter 2, and installing Solar on the 100 largest schools, as explained on Chapter 5.

Three of the people behind the NYC effort will be speaking here in Philadelphia this Tuesday, the evening of June 2nd. We’d like to invite all to this event, to initiate discussions about our energy future. Details below.

Event: Labor, Community & the Climate Crisis: Building Alliances for Economic & Environmental Justice
When: Tue June 2 6:30-8:30pm – Doors open at 6:00 pm – Snacks will be provided.
IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) Local 98, 1719 Spring Garden St, Philadelphia, PA 19130
What: Learn about Climate Works for All – the groundbreaking effort out of New York City where unions, environmental and community groups have joined in coalition to create policies that will create thousands of good jobs, dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions, promote racial justice, and make the city more resilient. Thanks to their organizing, the city government is already making important changes, and Mayor de Blasio has announced an ambitious plan for promoting economic and environmental justice.

The Climate Works for All coalition has created a 10-point platform that calls for retrofitting all of NYC’s large buildings to be more energy efficient, installing solar panels on 100 public schools, expanding public transportation, and seven other projects. Together, these initiatives would create nearly 40,000 living wage jobs and move NYC one third of the way toward the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050.

Who: Key leaders from NYC have generously offered to share their plans, ideas, and experience with us. We will learn about their inspiring work and discuss what we can do here in Philly.

  • Jon Forster — Co-chair of the People’s Climate Movement-NY; Vice President of District Council 37, AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees); City Research Scientist at the Bureau of Environmental Emergency Preparedness and Response, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
  • Josh Kellermann — Senior Policy and Research Analyst at ALIGN: The Alliance for a Greater New York (an affiliate of Jobs with Justice), and lead author of Climate Works for All: A Platform for Reducing Emissions, Protecting Our Communities, and Creating Good Jobs for New Yorkers.
  • Eddie Bautista — Executive Director of the New York City Environmental Justice Alliance

Co-sponsors: 15 Now Philadelphia; 215 People’s Alliance; 350 PhillyAction United; American Vegan Society; Be the Change; Bread and Roses Community Fund; Caucus of Working Educators; Clean Air CouncilClean Water Action Pennsylvania; Coalition for Peace Action – Pennsylvania; Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition; Eco-Justice Working Group of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting; Faculty & Staff Federation of Community College of Phila., AFT 2026, Executive Committee; Food and Water Watch-Pennsylvania; Jewish Labor Committee – Philadelphia Chapter; Maypop Collective for Climate and Economic Justice; PASNAP (Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals); Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air; Pennsylvania Federation of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees/International Brotherhood of Teamsters; Philadelphia Chapter of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light; Philadelphia Jewish Climate Action Network; Philadelphia Jobs with Justice; Philadelphia MoveOn Council; Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks; PhilaPOSH (Philadelphia Project on Occupational Safety and Health); Philly Coalition of Labor Union Women; Physicians for Social Responsibility – Philadelphia ChapterProtecting Our Waters; Put People First PA; Sierra Club Southeastern Pennsylvania Group; The Shalom Center; United Autoworkers Local 1981; United Steelworkers Local 404
: IBEW Local 98
RSVP here:
Contact: To co-sponsor or questions, Mitch Chanin |

As you can see, it brings together quite a diverse mix of local groups. I’m both surprised and pleased to read this quote from Ban Ki-Moon “If we can’t all swim together, we will sink. There is no Plan B because there is no Planet B” in this post.

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!

Posted in policy, solutions

The Power of Cities

Cities have a major role to play in the global mobilization to mitigate and avert climate disasters, and cities world-wide are stepping up to the task.

The Scientific American writes Cities will solve climate change, not nations.

As does The Guardian, in this article Cities bypass slow government to lead the way on climate change.

Even John Kerry knows cities hold the key to fighting climate change, where he says “A lot of mayors around the world are ahead of their national governments, and a lot of local citizens are well ahead of their elected leaders,”, reminding us that “..cities are responsible for 70 percent of the world’s carbon emissions. And cities are simply better equipped to turn talk into action.” This article has a reference to Mayor’s National Climate Action Agenda signed by Philadelphia Mayor Nutter, and platform of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

What are other cities are doing? Let’s see…

  • New York City’s Climate Works for All
    We particularly like their focus on reducing emissions. And involvement with unions. See chapter 2 – Large Building Energy Efficiency Retrofits. And chapter 5 – Solar on 100 largest schools.
  • New York City’s One City, Built to Last 
    A plan for 80% carbon emissions reduction by 2050
  • NYC again, aiming for 90% carbon reduction by 2050
  • Seattle’s Getting to Zero: A Pathway to a Carbon Neutral Seattle 
  • Oakland Climate Action Coalition – Aiming for 85% by 2050
  • Boulder
    Per Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything, the citizens voted for a public energy utility so they could bring more renewables on board.
  • San Francisco’s push for Renewable Energy
    Take a look at the CleanPowerSF program, SF’s community Choice Aggregation Program, which allows cities and counties to pool their citizens’ purchasing power to buy electricity. And their GreenFinanceSF program, which allows commercial property owners to finance renewable energy projects, as well as energy and water efficiency, through a municipal bond and repay the debt via their property tax account.
  • Chicago’s Climate Action Plan

What next after benchmarking energy use for large buildings?

The US Dept of Energy (DOE) has a Better Buildings challenge, and there are a number of cities signed up as partners (DC, Pittsburgh, many others).  These cities are not committing to reductions for space they don’t control, but are committing to work with owners to facilitate that upgrades happen.

See, for example, DC’s entry:  The District has long-term commitment to energy efficiency programs and policies that support the Better Buildings Challenge, including a benchmarking and disclosure regulation for over 3,000 private commercial buildings, making the Sustainable Energy Utility (SEU) a one-stop shop for the District’s energy efficiency solutions and resources and the creation of energy efficiency financing tools targeted at commercial building owners. These financing tools and products will provide at least $225million in competitively-priced capital to commercial owners over the next nine years to fund energy efficiency improvements. The DowntownDC Business Improvement District (“BID”) and the DowntownDC ecoDistrict have accepted the Better Buildings Challenge in partnership with the District of Columbia and Mayor Vincent Gray.

Posted in policy, solutions

But what about Jobs?

A green economy is a job-friendly economy and accounts for more jobs than a fossil fuel based economy. Dollar for dollar, investments in conservation, renewable energy and other sustainable strategies produce far more stable, living wage jobs and more economic opportunity than investments in the polluting industries of the past. Doubling down on fossil fuel infrastructure puts our city at financial risk for stranded assets, staggering health costs and clean-up costs in the event of a rail, pipeline or refinery disaster such as we have seen in other cities and towns. We have already had several alarming near-misses with derailed trains and refinery accidents, including a deadly accident in March, 2015.

If you still believe the Jobs myth touted by the oil & gas industry, read on…

And for a more local perspective…

At what cost jobs?