Concerned Residents, Port Authority and Governor’s Office Gather for Town Hall on Oil Refinery Expansion
Community activists demanded an end to the expansion of the Southport Marine Terminal during a town hall meeting at Kingsessing Recreation Center on May 19, two weeks after more than 350 people shut down the gates of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery in protest of plans to turn the city into a fossil fuel “energy hub.”
At the meeting, members of ACTION United and Green Justice Philly demanded that the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority and the governor’s office disqualify Philadelphia Energy Solutions from the short list of proposals for Southport. Residents spoke about the health and climate impacts of fossil fuel expansion, as well as the thousands of jobs that could be created from investment in container shipping and warehousing at the site.
Earlier that week, the Green Justice Philly coalition submitted a letter to the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority citing Philadelphia Energy Solutions’ history of noncompliance with the federal Clean Air Act and its health impacts of local residents as reasons to block any expansion.
“It is disrespectful that you put Philadelphia Energy Solutions on the short list. They are poisoning people—and a company that pays to pollute and is in violation of federal laws should not be allowed to expand,” said resident Myra Clemons. “Just because we’re poor doesn’t mean that you have the right to pollute us.”
Department of Environmental Protection Appoints New Acting Secretary After Hasty Resignation
John Quigley resigned as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on May 20 while criticizing his staff and the environmental community for insufficient action on oil and gas regulations. An email obtained by PennLive and dated April 13 shows the former Hazelton mayor using colorful language to voice his frustration over a perceived failure to fight back and create a media presence against the Legislature’s rejection of tougher oil and gas regulations. Patrick McDonnell, the DEP’s policy director, has been appointed acting secretary.
March for a Clean Energy Revolution to be Held on Eve of DNC
Americans Against Fracking and Pennsylvanians Against Fracking are organizing a protest on July 24, the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Hundreds of aligned organizations from around the country and local organizations—including religious groups such as Philadelphia’s Shalom Center—are collectively calling for a ban on fracking for natural gas and a “quick and just” transition to an economy run on 100 percent renewable energy. Other local groups that have signed on to the coalition include Bucks County Concerned Citizens Against the Pipelines, Coalition for Peace Action Pennsylvania, Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Northeast Philly for Peace and Justice. Thousands of advocates from across the country are expected for the event.
Passive House Windows Approved by Historic Commission, Solar Roadblocks Removed by State
On May 13 the Philadelphia Historical Commission approved a proposal by BluPath Design and owners Laura Blau and Paul Thompson to use “passive house” certified windows at their property on the 1700 block of Pine Street. The pair shepherded the proposal through two rounds of hearings. This project sets a precedent for efficiency-minded owners of historic properties, which until now were required to use double-hung windows.
At the state level, a commission has removed roadblocks to solar installation options. The Independent Regulatory Review Commission voted in May to disapprove new regulations that would have limited the size of solar systems and other sources of renewable energy generation systems that customers could install, which some argue could have increased the administrative burden on solar installers who may then pass fees down to consumers.
“Like a solution in search of a problem, the [Public Utility Commission] sought to place unnecessary limits on clean renewable generation like solar power,” said Rob Altenburg, PennFuture Energy Center director, who testified at the hearing. “Homeowners deserve more energy options, not less.”
Al-Aqsa Islamic Society Holds Peace Mural Dedication and Community Celebration
Al-Aqsa Islamic Society, ArtWell and the Mural Arts Program hosted a community celebration May 21 along with a dedication to the “Windows to Peace” mural—a sequel project to the 2004 collaboration that brought together the three partners to create the “Doorways to Peace” mural.
The organizations reunited with original school partners John Moffet Elementary and La Salle Academy to refurbish the original work and create new work on the walls of Al-Aqsa. Artists Parris Stancell, Joe Brenman and Cathy Cohen led the poetry and tile-making workshops that brought the project to fruition. The community renewed its support of Al-Aqsa after the mosque was desecrated last year in an act that drew the attention of federal authorities because of its potential as a hate crime.
Pop-Up Beer Gardens will Dot 14 Parks this Summer
Starting from June 29 to July 4 at Schuylkill Banks at Walnut Street Bridge, Philadelphia’s parks will host pop-up beer gardens. The gardens will include food trucks, craft beer, nonalcoholic beverages and outdoor seating. The pilot program is a partnership with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Fairmount Park Conservancy and FCM Hospitality; locations are listed at parksontap.com.
Clean Air Council Honors Clean Commuters
Yards Brewing Company and SEPTA rider Ted Cary were presented with Clean Air Council’s second annual Clean Air Commute Awards. Yards Brewing Company was selected as the Clean Air Commute Employer of the Year for offering employees sheltered bike storage, lockers, showers and a pre-tax benefit for mass transit riders.
Green Roof will Top Off Temple’s New Library
Temple University’s new library will feature a 46,000 square foot green roof, which will include planting beds, rainwater harvesting cisterns and stormwater piping, made possible in part by a $6.7 million, low-interest loan from the state. The library is scheduled for a 2018 opening.