By: Michael Bradley
City ignores neighborhoods regarding new fuel facility in South Philly
Early Friday, June 21, a vat of butane ignited at the PES refinery located in South Philly, causing a massive fire and series of explosions that rocked the city. Earlier in the month, there was a barge fire at the same facility. What happened in between these two incidents is also alarming.
On June 13, City Council passed Bill # 181063. This bill will allow PGW to license land at its Passyunk Plant at 3100 W. Passyunk Ave. to Passyunk Energy Center, an entity created by Liberty Energy Trust, for a 25-year lease to build a liquefaction plant that is to receive, cool and transport by truck, liquid natural gas. City Council ignored direct emails from community leaders representing 17 neighborhood organizations that reported they received no word about the new facility to be built. PGW responded with rebuking the claim that it didn’t inform the community and produced a meeting date and place in which some community organizations were represented. Shortly after, two community representatives on the attendance list wrote to all the recipients on the communication denying they were ever at such meeting and asked PGW to remove them from the claim.
All City Council members were copied, including South Philly’s two representatives, Kenyatta Johnson and Mark Squilla. Speaking on behalf of the neighborhood organizations, the emails requested Council to postpone the vote until community meetings could be held and information could be distributed and understood. This seemed like a reasonable request. Not only did Bill # 181063 get approved but Councilman Johnson, who most directly represents the impacted area, voted to approve the new facility. The bill had enough votes to pass with or without Councilman Johnson’s vote. He could have voted “No” just to pretend he cared about the 17 neighborhood organizations requesting to pause for more information but he couldn’t muster even the semblance of consideration.
Living in South Philadelphia either as part of generations past or new neighbors, we are all keenly aware of the PES (Sunoco) Refinery that looms in the distance.
From the avid environmentalist to the blue-collar refinery worker and everyone else in between, we all understand the pros and cons of having facilities like that operating nearby. It would have been nice for the community to be involved in the decision process of building a new facility that has the potential of wide-reaching impacts. City Council district staff cannot effectively service the entire district, which is where neighborhood organizations help fill in the gaps. But honestly, if 17 of them are all upset about the same thing and our elected representatives can’t even feign interest….maybe we need new representation.
Michael Bradley lives in Grays Ferry, and is running as a Republican for the 2nd Councilmanic District in South Philadelphia.