Contact: Alexa Ross, [email protected], 215-987-5972


Statement in Response to June 21st Fire, Explosion at PES Refinery


This morning’s explosion at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) oil refinery is the second incident at the plant in a week and half; the first occurred on June 10th.  Philadelphia Energy Solutions is the largest stationary polluter in Philadelphia and the largest refinery on the east coast. The company has been in violation of the Clean Air Act nine of the last twelve quarters. Philly Thrive is a community organization made up of residents who live near the refinery, and have been protesting PES’s deadly pollution since 2015.


It is unacceptable that Philadelphia residents had to wake up in the middle of the night fearing for their lives from the explosion at PES. We have been protesting at the refinery since the June 10th fire, and still have a lot of unanswered questions as this explosion shook the neighborhood.


Enough is enough- we have to act before half the people in South and Southwest Philly are dead,” said Sonya Sanders, Philly Thrive member and Grays Ferry resident. “Do you know how scared I was this morning to be shaken out of my sleep by the explosion? I do everything I can to close my windows and keep this pollution out of my house. But when these fires happen it shows there really is nothing we can do to protect ourselves.”

The flames, fireballs, and thick smoke spewing from the refinery bring attention to the imminent danger this facility poses to residents every day. Philadelphians living near the refinery are dealing with a health epidemic of asthma, cancer, heart disease, and other complications related to heavy air pollution..


Says Ms. Sylvia Bennett, Grays Ferry resident and Philly Thrive member: “The pollution from the Refinery is a silent killer, and we’re breathing that in. It’s taken the lives of babies, elders, and everyone between, and enough is enough! We have the right to breathe clean air and we need to hold the refinery accountable for what they’re putting out into the community.”


Since the PES refinery declared bankruptcy in 2017, Philly Thrive has been demanding City Council fund and commission a study for the decommissioning and repurposing of the facility. The refinery’s old infrastructure is prone to dangerous accidents like the two this month, and PES’s continued financial struggles have led to neglect of necessary maintenance and the laying off of personnel.


We will hold a press conference on the east side of City Hall at 1pm with Councilmember Helen  Gym. Philly Thrive’s demands are:

  • Philadelphia City Council & Mayor Kenney: Commission and fund a public study to transition the PES oil refinery to restored public land and community-owned energy projects.
  • Air Management Services & Environmental Protection Agency:
    • Strongest enforcement action possible, including fines going towards neighborhood projects and PES covering medical bills for hospital visits
    • Do not renew Title Air V permit in July
    • One public meeting from all agencies coordinated through Philly Thrive to report on toxic releases & enforcement actions for greatest accessibility to residents.