As Philadelphia City Council prepares to vote on a controversial fossil fuel project this week, major environmental groups announced that a vote in support of this project will automatically disqualify incumbent councilmembers from receiving the organizations’ endorsements.
Representing many of Philadelphia’s largest citizen-based environmental organizations, PennEnvironment, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania, Clean Water Action, and the Sunrise Movement joined together to make today’s announcement.
“As scientific consensus continues to grow and the timeline for action continues to shrink, approving projects that increase climate pollution is not an option,” stated PennEnvironment’s Executive Director David Masur. “City Council has to decide: do they side with fossil fuel companies and climate polluters, or do they side with protecting our planet from the dire effects of global warming?”
The proposal garnering the environmental community’s ire is a project being pushed by PGW (Philadelphia Gas Works) to build a new Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) facility at the company’s Passyunk Avenue facilities.
Since the proposal was first put forth in the fall, opposition has only continued to grow. Twenty of the city’s largest environmental groups have signed a letter calling on City Council to oppose the project. And a letter signed by nearly two dozen of the city’s ward leaders, committee people, and state representatives calls on City Council to halt the short-sighted proposal.
“We don’t have time for lip service or a choir of predictable excuses from those who chose to support the LNG Plant” said Maurice Sampson, Eastern Pennsylvania Director, Clean Water Action. “There is a lot of work to do. We need to find out who is going to lead and who needs to be replaced in the May primaries”.
The plan is being put forward in partnership with Liberty Energy, a fossil fuel company owned by Russian oligarchs, and is expected to produce a whopping 120,000 gallons of fuel daily over the next twenty-five years, upon completion. If approved, the project is expected to include a 25-year contract, leaving the city on the hook to produce massive amounts of climate-causing pollution until at least 2044. The scientific community has stated that energy production must be completely off of fossil fuels by 2050, just six years after the PGW-Liberty contract would end.
“In this election year, Council members cannot tell voters that they support a clean environment, then sign Philadelphia up for decades of new pipelines, air pollution and being on the wrong side of history,” said Josh McNeil, Executive Director of Conservation Voters of PA. “In 2018, Democrats who vowed to lead on climate change won primary elections in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and across the Commonwealth - there’s no reason to think that won’t happen again this year.”
“City Council members who put campaign donations from fossil fuel billionaires and lobbyists over the health and safety of their constituents need to step up or step back” said Sophia Zaia, Pennsylvania State Director for the Sunrise Movement. “Young Philadelphians will be watching the LNG decision, and this spring we will vote out council people who fail to stand up and protect our futures.”
Ironically, Philadelphia officials have made repeated public pledges to dramatically reduce the city’s carbon footprint. Only eighteen months ago, Mayor Kenney and members of city council pledged to transition all electricity use in the city to 100 percent renewables by 2050. The Philadelphia Office of Sustainability’s August 2018 report Powering Our Future: A Clean Energy Vision for Philadelphia also stated that “to avoid the worst causes of climate change, scientists are increasingly concluding that global emissions must fall at a faster trajectory and potentially exceed 80 percent reductions by 2050.”
And in 2017 city officials pledged to transition all city energy consumption to 100 percent clean energy by 2035—a deadline they pledged to meet nearly 10 years prior to the expiration of the proposed PGW-Liberty fossil fuel contract. Over that period, PGW’s project could produce nearly 400 million gallons of fossil fuels.
Environmental groups argue that the addition of a massive fossil fuel project in the city will make it all but impossible for Philadelphia officials keep these promises.
“City officials love pointing the finger at President Trump and offering vague promises and platitudes to solve climate change,” Masur noted. “Now the city’s residents will see how serious our elected official are about being part of the climate solution or the climate problem.”