On Thursday February 13th, the sale of the PES refinery site was confirmed to Hilco Redevelopment Partners in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Hilco’s bid on the site involves permanent closure of the refinery, and therefore a major victory for Philly Thrive’s organizing for the Right to Breathe.
The end to 150 years of oil refining in Philadelphia was brought about through people power. The leadership of South Philadelphians who have survived the fossil fuel industry for generations galvanized people & political will never seen before on this issue. Residents told stories of the direct impact of the refinery on human life and the veil was pulled back on the largest oil refinery on the East Coast. The truth about the issue as a matter of racism, classism, & ecological destruction- instead of just “the environment”- birthed a new force for climate justice in Philadelphia that shook the foundation of power relations in our city.
Statement in Response to Auction Results of PES Refinery
On Tuesday January 21st Reuters reported that Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) was expected to sell the oil refinery site to Hilco Redevelopment Partners- a Chicago real estate firm that specializes in repurposing industrial land. Later that day, the Philadelphia Inquirer confirmed the sale plan with a statement from PES’s chief executive.
It is significant to us that the announcement about PES’s sale fell on the 7-month anniversary of the refinery explosion last summer. Philadelphians haven’t taken for granted that every single one of us could have lost our lives that day, adding to the death toll that South & Southwest Philly have shouldered for generations. Therefore we will not forget the date: June 21st, 2019.
Philadelphians have been organizing for our Right to Breathe every day since- building on years of campaigning before that- with the opportunity to end 150 years of injustice at hand. As a result, we have seen public opinion and political consensus in Philadelphia shift on the refinery issue, a strong beginning to an urgent and long-term shift away from fossil fuels towards an equitable, sustainable energy system in our state and country.Read more
On September 25th, the sixth & final public meeting of Mayor Jim Kenney's Refinery Advisory Group was held. Philadelphia residents participated in each meeting, traveling straight from work, missing school, finding childcare, & coming out despite illnesses from the refinery's pollution. One resident had an asthma attack in the hallway of the first meeting & left in an ambulance. At last night's final "Open House" meeting, residents staged a die-in because we're not sure the Advisory Group has fully received the message that fossil fuels & pollution simply are not compatible with human life- whether you're a steelworker, a Grays Ferry resident, or the Managing Director. Read the statement Thrive member Pamela Grant delivered over the bodies spread across the gymnasium floor...
Over the past several weeks, Philly Thrive members have participated in a series of public meetings organized by the Mayor Jim Kenney’s Refinery Advisory Group. The stated purpose of these meetings has been to gather information from key stakeholders about the future of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) oil refinery.
The way the process has been organized and the meetings have been facilitated has unfortunately exacerbated the centuries-old tactic of dividing working class people and pitting us against each other. In this case, the Mayor’s Advisory Group meetings have encouraged the divisions between two groups of people sorely hurting: workers who have been forced out of their union job at PES and residents whose community’s have long suffered the impacts of polluting industry with little-to-no benefit. With the complete absence of PES representatives in the room, fear, anger, and grief have found likely targets in each other instead of the companies and executives responsible for the refinery.Read more
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.Read more
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 26, 2019
Contact: Alexa Ross, [email protected], 215-987-5972
Statement on Closure of Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery
The news that Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) will begin to the process of refinery closure comes after generations of Philadelphians have tirelessly drawn the connections between the health epidemic in surrounding neighborhoods and the refinery’s pollution- even when the City wouldn’t listen.
“This has been a genocide,” says Rodney Everrett, South Philadelphia resident and Philly Thrive member “They’ve been killing people and we’ve been paying for it. And with this news the only thing I can say is: victory comes with work. We got what we wanted. If we organize and we struggle for it, it will be done.”
The June 21st explosion at the refinery was the event that broke through the City’s refusal to take seriously residents’ concerns, and presented a platform to finally expose PES’s history of unregulated violations, environmental racism, and financial extraction from Philadelphia.
We want to be very clear that the June 21st explosion was a direct result of long-time corporate mismanagement, and we continue to applaud workers for ensuring the accident was not the catastrophe it could have been. Philly Thrive’s utmost concern is for the City of Philadelphia and the State of Pennsylvania to step up to hold the hedge funds and corporations behind PES accountable for paying into a fund for workers’ pensions and healthcare, for complete remediation of the site, and for the debt PES owes to the City and State.
Sylvia Bennett, South Philadelphia resident and Philly Thrive member says: “Philadelphians no longer breathing PES’s toxic air is a big first step towards Philly Thrive’s four-year fight for the Right to Breathe. But it’s not the end- we have to stay focused and make sure it actually happens. We know fossil fuel companies other places have walked away from what they owe and we won’t stand for that here.”
We demand the 1,300 acres of land be restored to the public, for City Council to fund studies into development of community-owned renewable energy on the land, and for City government to commit to a moratorium on new fossil fuel development- starting with the Mayor vetoing the LNG plant which is planned to be built across from PES.
We demand that PES’s owners, Credit Suisse Asset Management and Bardin Hill, provide funding for a thorough clean-up of the site, while fully funding pensions for PES workers and retirees and providing severance pay and retraining assistance.
In addition, we call on the City of Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to hold accountable the past owners of the refinery: Sunoco and the Carlyle Group.
Sunoco has legal responsibility to clean up land and water polluted by the refinery, but it has created inadequate remediation plans without the public input that is required by law. The Carlyle Group, a $200 billion private equity company, took more than $500 million out of PES when it owned the company earlier in this decade. The City and State governments must press for the Carlyle Group to pay back this money in bankruptcy court so that it can be used for the benefit of the community, PES workers, and the environment.
With continued vigilant organizing, we see the potential for the transition of PES, the largest oil refinery on the east coast, to be part of the journey towards winning a federal Green New Deal- transitioning fossil fuel infrastructure across the country and investing massively in clean energy job creation to address inequality & poverty head on.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 21, 2019
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 Green New Deal is a comprehensive platform seeking to transition the United States to a sustainable economy while creating millions of jobs in the process. It represents a shift in the national debate around environmental policy toward a solution that simultaneously addresses climate change and economic inequality. A resolution demanding that Congress create a plan for a Green New Deal was presented in the US House of Representatives by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez earlier this year. While the resolution has not yet passed, over 100 representatives have signed on. National media attention has come in large part because the resolution reflects the goals and organizing work of the Sunrise Movement, a nationwide organization of young people fighting against climate change, and racial and economic inequality. As Sunrise considers ways to implement a Green New Deal both at a federal and local level, Philly Thrive has decided to ally itself as an organization with its mission. Listed below is a summary of major points in the resolution and ways in which Thrive’s work in Philadelphia aligns with these specific goals.Read more
Philadelphia Energy Solutions has been a long-standing fixture of Philadelphia industry. With this comes a backlog of environmental negligence and pollution. PES is the number one contributor of air pollution in Philadelphia. A September 2018 report from the Kleinman Center For Energy Policy at UPENN, “Beyond Bankruptcy” by Christina Simeone, takes us through their legacy of pollution, lack of public involvement in remediation projects (stakeholders and communities not having the opportunity to get involved), and how they navigated bankruptcy in order to keep operations running while casting off some debt.Read more
Thrive held a successful public hearing training in preparation for speaking out against the proposed PES affiliated biogas plant. This training was designed as a resource to help community members feel comfortable with public speaking and share their personal testimonies with confidence in the setting of a public hearing.
It was a chilly November evening but this did not stop many familiar and new faces from filling DiSilvestro Hall. Lifelong Philadelphia residents, now far into adulthood chuckled about how when they were kids, they thought the flames from the oil refinery were cool, how the plumes of smoke looked beautiful to them. As they grew older they began to realize this industrial, factory looking splendor was actually spewing poisonous chemicals into the air leaving an involuntary imprint on their livesRead more