It is with great relief the PES oil refinery has currently shut down operations after over 100 years. The refinery, outdated in technology, as well as principle, closed due to a massive explosion felt for miles that rendered part of the plant unusable. The explosion and fire that burned for days plagued the city with poor air quality as well as the possibility that hydrogen fluoride, a super deadly gas used in the refining process could have been released during the disaster. Thankfully, Philadelphia dodged that bullet, but we as a city,- as a planet-  should not be  using energy sources that require deadly chemicals to function while also destroying the environment with their output.

The refinery will still be looming in the south Philly neighborhood, but instead of living in its toxic shadow, now is the moment to plant seeds for a truly green economy. Local politicians may drag their feet and offer resistance to the practicality of a green economy. That reaction can be interpreted as laziness and a monetary allegiance to long standing polluting industries.

This is a time to bring all actors, stakeholders, and especially fenceline community members together to have a policy dialogue and make it happen. A PES Refinery Advisory Group will have several meetings this August to hear what local voices want with the future of the site.  Residents are and have been calling for the site to be returned as public lands and used for producing renewable energy. However, Union workers from the refinery want to find a buyer and reopen the plant for business.

There are frameworks, strategies, and consultants available for a transition to a green economy. While we are busy trying to convince Congress that a Green New Deal is a viable necessity, the rest of the world is moving forward. According to    The International Labour Organization, “ A shift to a greener economy could create 24 million new jobs globally by 2030..” They also dispel the narrative      that, “…greening the economy will result in job losses and economic deterioration.” Some fossil fuel industry jobs will be lost but millions more than that will be created.  The UN promotes green economies as a vital component to a sustainable planet. Their group, Partnership For Action in Green Economy (PAGE), advises entire countries on how to adopt the right policies to create a green economy. 

From Bold Business article about a project in Annapolis where brownfields are converted into brightfields.

If whole countries are taking the plunge to align their economic goals with sustainable development, surely Philadelphia can grab the reins and fill the void from the oil refinery with renewables. Philly has real potential to boost its energy sector with solar. According to the May 2019 issue of Grid Magazine, “ Philadelphia was ranked the fourth fastest- growing solar energy market in the US,” in 2017. Philadelphia Solar Energy Association reports that Philadelphia Energy Authority will be offering solar PV installer training for youth ages 18-24 because this job is expanding across PA. NW Philly Solar Co-op has been rallying Harrisburg to support community solar projects to give residents (especially renters) and businesses better access to solar energy. This past July, a nationwide gathering of  businesses and non profits of the solar field was held in Philly at an industry gathering called the Community Solar Power Summit.

The things we choose to fund and invest in are the things that come to fruition. Philly Thrive is a committed voice for a just transition. Rather than sit back and watch the world burn around us while our families get sicker, Thrive will continue to build relationships and people power to navigate the complicated path towards a green economy.