Letter-to-the-Editor: Response to community PES meeting

"It is necessary to be fair to all victims."

Pixabay/stock photo

By: Gloria C. Endres

South Philly Resident 

Thanks to Grace Maiorano for her comprehensive report on the community meeting recently hosted by U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (published July 10) to discuss all the consequences of the closure of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery as well as possible solutions.

This issue is obviously too complicated for just one meeting. For the approximately 1,000 workers who have lost their jobs, the need for employment is urgent. For victims of years of refinery-based air pollution, the question is often about life and death. For environmentalists, it is about reducing the impact on earth’s climate. 

I have been a native of South Philly since before there was rock and roll. I recall incidents of refinery fires and explosions over the years, including the 1975 fire that took the lives of eight firemen. To most of us, living in this area has always had an element of risk. We might joke about the South Philly postnasal drip, but for those with chronic respiratory issues, it is not funny.

Thanks to Maiorano, especially for giving equal time to all points of view. We can sympathize with the families impacted by the loss of income, while also agreeing that the PES refinery is a source of serious pollution and a contributor to global warming. 

Most of us agree: There are no easy answers; there are guaranteed to be some losers. Too bad that Philadelphia Energy Solutions chose not to participate in the gathering nor comment for Maiorano’s article. But at least the conversation is happening. 

It is necessary to be fair to all victims. The workers have been guaranteed a salary until the end of August, after which there should be a month-by-month continuation of workers’ compensation. During that time, as many as possible should retrain for other positions. 

Meanwhile, victims of air pollution also need their concerns recognized. Will there be lawsuits? 

Politicians need to work diligently and be held accountable for finding practical solutions toward removing and replacing the refinery with a cleaner and safer alternative. This could become a real opportunity for growth in this area. 

This is a problem that can be solved if everyone pulls together.