Philadelphia Energy Solutions harms our health, economy, and future.

Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) is a fossil fuel refinery in South Philadelphia, the largest on the East Coast and one of the oldest in the world. Fossil fuel refining is a toxic business that poisons Philadelphia’s air and water, threatens nearby community’s health and safety, and fuels global climate change.

The refinery is responsible for over 50% of the toxic air emissions in Philadelphia, placing PES among the top toxic polluters in the petroleum industry nationwide (i). As a result, the American Lung Association regularly gives Philly an F for air quality (ii). The dangerous air quality has led to a citywide childhood asthma rate that is 2-3 times the national average (iii). Toxins released from the refinery include Ammonia, Hydrogen cyanide, Benzene, and Sulfuric acid, which cause effects ranging from headaches to cancer. In addition to contaminating the air, PES pollutes Philadelphia’s water with significant amounts of phenol, lead compounds, and antimony compounds, to name a few (iv).


 How is it legal for PES to pollute the city to such an extreme degree? It’s not. Since 2012, the EPA has often classified PES as a “High Priority Violator” and in “significant noncompliance” with the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act (iv).

PES is the largest processor of Bakken crude oil, which is transported by explosive oil trains throughout the city 2-3 times a day (v). Bakken crude oil is extremely corrosive, resulting in disasters like Lac-Megantic, Quebec where 47 were killed and the town was destroyed because of an oil train derailment (vi). 700,000 Philadelphians live within the blast zone- one half mile- of the oil trains. There are little to no emergency response plans in place if a train were to explode (vii).

If we continue to burn fossil fuels 10% of Philadelphia’s population, or 156,000 people, would be displaced by sea level rise. We can also expect dramatic increases in the number of extremely hot days. Climate change exacerbates air pollution, irritating and increasing the same respiratory illnesses caused by the refinery (viii).

Those most impacted by PES’s operations- including who lives near the refinery (ix), in the oil train blast zone (x), and who is disproportionately impacted by climate change (xi)- are working families, communities of color, and women.

Philadelphia should not build its energy future on fuels that exacerbate environmental and economic disaster. Nor should it sacrifice the long term security of residents and workers for the short term gains of fossil fuel corporations.



i. US Environmental Protection Agency, 2013 Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) Program Data.

ii. American Lung Association.

iii. Will Bunch,

iv. US Environmental Protection Agency, Enforcement and Compliance History Online, Detailed Facility Report.

v. Jon Hurdle, Philadelphia Citypaper.

vi. Benjamin Shingler. Huffington Post.

vii. Esri; Pa. Dept. of Transportation via Philadelphia Inquirer.

viii. Jon Hurdle. NewsWorks.

ix. "Haunted by an Industrial Future." Grid Magazine.

x. "Environmental Justice and Oil Trains in Pennsylvania," ACTION United, ForestEthics, PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center.

xi. Steven Hsieh. The Nation.

Photo credit: Tyler Sprague. Flickr.

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  • Luís Cardoso
    commented 2016-08-14 12:11:41 -0400
    It’s really true:“The refinery is responsible for 72% of the toxic air emissions in Philadelphia, placing PES among the top toxic polluters in the petroleum industry nationwide.”