Hello and welcome
Hello and welcome to Philly Talks Climate — where we talk about the climate crisis, how it affects Philadelphia, and how we solve this for our region. I’m Meenal Raval, and I’ll be your host. I’m joined this week by my long-time friend Tanya Seaman.
This episode is a little different in that we tried recording it offsite, each from our own living rooms, each from beneath ceiling fans.
Last week, we talked about street cleaning: Why we need to clean our streets. How the Kenney administration has approached street cleaning. How we should clean our streets. Where do our Council members stand on the subject of street cleaning. And, how do other cities keep their streets clean?
This week, we’ll talk about our Mayor and his track record on the climate crisis.
But first, we wanted to share that last Thursday, the full City Council voted 13-4 and approved a $60 million project, expanding the reach of fracked gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania. This, despite citizens voicing their concerns about PGW’s proposed liquid natural gas (or LNG) facility, the Passyunk Energy Center. Citizens have been resisting this project since last October’s meeting of the Philadelphia Gas Commission. At last week’s vote, two additional City Council members surprised us with their opposing vote.
Details about the resistance can be found on 350philly.org/NoLNG.
A bigger concern is that Mayor Kenney’s administration supported this project. At a hearing on February 27 of this year, the Kenney administration expressed grave concern about climate change, then gave a muddled explanation about PGW’s proposed LNG plant, and end by offering the administration’s support for this project. Testifying is Chris Puchalsky, Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives in the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability:
City – Currently, 25 percent of Philadelphia’s installed electric capacity is oil-fired.
Meenal – Electricity? Isn’t that the realm of PECO?
City – The use of oil for heating contributes to air quality issues, including ozone. The issue is particularly problematic during cold snaps when oil is used as a backup.
Meenal – Now they switch from electricity to heating. We know we can’t just replace fuels (oil with gas) with the flick of a switch without replacing furnace, so it’s unclear why this is brought up.
City – LNG can be used to replace dirty diesel and transportation for which no cleaner fuel is currently available.
Meenal – Electricity, heating, and now maybe a transportation-related application for the LNG? As with replacing oil furnaces with gas, trucks, trains and ships in the transportation sector need to be fitted out for a different fuel. Can’t just fill ‘er up with a different fuel.
City – This project can help address these issues by using LNG as a back-up source during peak times rather than oil.
Meenal – Remember, LNG isn’t for our homes. So it’s unclear where exactly they intend to use this – maybe electricity generation? Maybe heating? Maybe transportation? They just don’t know. And they don’t have any customers. But they know they need to expand the reach of fracked gas?!
City – Because the LNG facility will run on its processes through electricity, the local emissions will be only that equivalent to a few homes being built.
Meenal – Ah, they’re really planning to export the LNG.
Yup. The clincher was this last statement, which was repeated at the pre-vote summary last week. That there would be no additional emissions, since the liquified natural gas (LNG) wouldn’t be utilized locally. So we, as Pennsylvania, don’t count the emissions from extracting (many call this fracking), from transporting (we call it building unwanted pipelines and devastating the Pennsylvania countryside), the methane leaks along the way, nor when exporting the material — since the resultant emissions would be the burden of other countries that choose to buy the stuff.
This is the impetus for our show today.
Jim Kenney was elected mayor the year Donald Trump was elected President. Soon afterward, Trump decided to back down from the Paris Climate Accord. Kenney responded by taking a strong stance on climate — along with hundreds of other mayors across the US who became part of an organization called Climate Mayors. Kenney also joined the Global Covenant of Mayors, an international group, which sets and tracks progress on emissions goals.
Hear Mayor Kenney’s stance on climate change on June 21, 2017, after President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.
When the US Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA) decided to remove all mention of climate change from its website, Kenney stepped up to host the Climate Change section on the City’s website — and that’s where you can still find it today.
The Kenney Administration’s Office of Sustainability published a report — Powering Our Future, a Clean Energy Vision for Philadelphia — last August. We’ll read the introduction by Mayor Kenney… [editors note: Emphasis added.]
In Greenworks: A Vision for a Sustainable Philadelphia, my administration set forth a vision for our city where all Philadelphians efficiently use clean energy that they can afford. Using less energy and getting it from cleaner sources is critical to facing the challenges of climate change, which is already bringing wetter and hotter weather to Philadelphia. But moving towards clean energy has other benefits, such as creating local jobs, lowering utility bills, and improving air quality for all Philadelphians.
This work has become all the more critical in the wake of the Trump Administration’s decision to with-draw from the Paris Climate Agreement and proposal to rescind the Clean Power Plan. Without leader-ship from the federal government, cities, residents, and businesses are continuing the important work of reducing the carbon pollution warming our planet. That’s why I’ve pledged to meet a 100 percent clean energy goal as part of Philadelphia’s long-term commitment to reduce citywide carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.
Powering Our Future: A Clean Energy Vision for Philadelphia is a roadmap for our city that highlights opportunities for all Philadelphians to contribute to and benefit from a clean, affordable, and efficient energy future by reducing carbon emissions from our buildings and industry. While the Vision does not set a prescribed path to meet this future, we must take action across each of the focus areas in this report to meet our energy and climate goals.
To lead by example, my administration has already issued a Municipal Energy Master Plan that outlines how the City will better manage our own assets (including buildings and street lighting) while reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. In the next year, we will build on these and other strategic planning efforts by issuing a climate action plan encompassing energy and the built environment, waste, and transportation.
Turning this vision to reality will require action from every one of us. I look forward to working together to move Philadelphia toward a clean, affordable, and healthy energy future.
Mayor Jim Kenney
For a little background on where we stand today, 79 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions come from our buildings and industry, 17 percent come from transportation, and 3 percent from waste.
The goals laid out in Powering Our Future are to cut our total emissions 25 percent by 2025 — 25% from our 2006 levels. Also, that we reduce the carbon emissions from City-owned buildings 50 percent by 2030 — 11 years from now. And finally, by 2050 we should be using ONLY renewable energy — citywide!
How does the City plan to accomplish this?
Here are a few ways:
- First, shift toward a clean electricity supply. This requires encouraging our regional suppliers to generate electricity with renewable energy sources.
- Second, encourage businesses and homeowners to conserve energy
- Third, transition to low-carbon heating systems by switching from oil and gas furnaces to renewable energy solutions – such as microgrids, heat pumps, geothermal, solar heating.
Simply put… the administration is saying that we need to electrify everything and clean up the grid.
Aside from the important climate benefits of these transitions, these programs are intended to build equity, public health, improve the environment, and create economic development.
In terms of equity, a clean grid will result in lower energy costs, which is important for our city’s most low-income residents. A clean grid will also improve our air quality, reducing incidences of respiratory illnesses like asthma. So better for public health. The environment will benefit as we reduce the burning of fossil fuels will demand less extraction of these fuels, and therefore allow the improvement in the health of our rivers and other natural systems. And finally, transitioning to a clean grid will be an employment opportunity at many smaller-scale, locations throughout the region.
There have been a few accomplishments toward these goals…
First, all new Residential construction and renovation must be conducted using the 2015 International Building Code, which includes a lot of energy efficiency. Commercial building and renovation must follow the 2018 International Building Code.
The City has plans to retrofit its buildings for energy efficiency, and has already done the Philadelphia Art Museum. It has incorporated geothermal power for a Streets Department facility, and it has installed LED lights at Parks and Recreation facilities.
The Philadelphia Energy Authority has also launched Solarize Philly, promoting residential rooftop solar.
Recently, thanks to the efforts of the Phila Energy Authority, C-PACE was introduced in Philadelphia. C-PACE, or Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, is a great way for commercial customers to finance energy efficiency and / or renewable energy, by paying for the projects via their City tax bills.
Last year, the Port of Philadelphia received state funding to electrify its cranes, which were diesel-powered before.
Contract for 70 megawatt solar farm to power City buildings, to begin to reach the goal of 100% renewable energy for City buildings by 2030.
These are all good projects. What’s missing is an effort to prioritize — or triage — our work ahead, so we can focus on reducing the most emissions, and improving air quality for the most people, like ASAP.
Also, we sense that the Kenney Administration has purposely thwarted serious progress on the climate crisis.
When citizens questioned our transit agency’s interest in long-term dependence on fracked gas, the Kenney Administration supported the agency instead of the citizens. We’re talking about the SEPTA gas power plant.
When citizens questioned our municipal utility’s interest in another long-term investment in fracked gas, the Kenney Administration supported the utility instead of the citizens. We’re talking about PGW’s LNG project.
When citizens questioned our contracts to incinerate our trash, the Kenney Administration went ahead with signing the contract, without a blink, without a discussion about how incineration could ever be included in our zero-waste goals.
Mayor Kenney, it’s easy enough to be bash President Trump when he proudly opted out of the Paris Accord, but that’s too low a bar.
We can do better. We must do better. And to do so, we need you to take a position on new fossil fuel projects. Our position is that — there can be no new fossil fuel projects. We need you on our side.
Then we could, together, learn from best practices in other cities. Then we could, together, craft a Green New Deal for Philadelphia.
Now for some News You Can Use…
Earlier this week, we went to a press conference about a new report just published. It’s called Clean Jobs PA. The Philadelphia Inquirer and KYW News Radio covered this press conference. Some highlights from this press conference were…
— Enviro Entrepreneurs (@e2org) June 19, 2019
Great read from @PhillyInquirer on yesterday’s release of the @e2org jobs report! DYK that since 2014, PA’s #cleanenergy economy has growth nearly 60% from 57K workers to over 90,000?https://t.co/TEZsN8kL5W pic.twitter.com/BflmSDhuYx
— KEEA (@KEEAlliance) June 19, 2019
“Pennsylvania’s clean jobs increased 6 percent last year, five times faster than statewide job growth.”
— PEA (@philaenergy) June 19, 2019
Here’s one we’re most interested in…
PROGRESS: Pennsylvania’s 90,000+ clean energy workers now outnumber the state’s fossil fuel workers by over 47,000. That’s 2X MORE jobs than the entire FF industry!
— Enviro Entrepreneurs (@e2org) June 18, 2019
So why are we still talking about jobs for the fossil fuel industry at each hearing where we raise concerns about new fossil fuel projects? Concerns about our environment, about our air quality, and concerns about the end-of-life clean up costs? Could it be pressure from an industry grasping at straws to remain viable?
Absent at this press conference was Mayor Kenney. So afterwards, we reached out to him on Twitter, where we said…
We’ve yet to hear back from Mayor Kenney. So…
Now it’s time to Engage with your Elected Reps
Today, we focused on Mayor Kenney. If you liked any of the above tweets, please retweet. You’ll find the thread at @PHLTalksClimate, our Twitter acct.
We like tweeting because it’s a very direct way of buzzing in the Mayor’s pocket.
Don’t tweet? You could also try calling or emailing the Mayor or emailing the Mayor. Ask him about…
- Why are you OK’ing gas projects despite public opposition?
- Will you veto Council’s decision on PGW’s proposed LNG facility?
- How do we electrify everything if no one’s trained to do the work?
- You signed the Mayors for 100% Clean Energy Pledge 2 yrs ago, yet you approved SEPTA gas plant & your admin supported PGW’s LNG plant. See the contradiction?
Connect with Concerned Others
We want to connect with you! What are your biggest concerns about the climate? What would you like us to cover on our show? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Philly Talks Climate.
Thanks for listening! We’re Meenal and Tanya at Philly Talks Climate.
Music – Fossil Fools animated karaoke – https://vimeo.com/46160957
- Nov 1, 2018, City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia: Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge Winner
- “Now more than ever, local governments must lead on climate action,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said. “Philadelphia is proud to partner with Bloomberg Philanthropies to scale up our climate action to protect our most vulnerable residents and create a healthy, vibrant, and just city for the future.”
- Sep 12, 2018, WHYY, Philadelphia signs new climate action agenda
- Aug 24, 2018, Philly Mag, Kenney Releases Master Plan to Fight Climate Change in Philly — The mayor has an ambitious goal to create a 100 percent carbon-free electricity grid by 2050.
- “Climate change is real, and it’s already affecting Philadelphians,” Kenney said in a statement. “Philadelphia will continue to identify and implement strategies to cut carbon pollution and protect our most vulnerable residents from the changing climate.”
- Aug 22, 2018, Philly Mayor tweet – Climate change is real and already affecting Philadelphians. No matter what happens in Washington, we’re preparing for it and working to reduce carbon emissions 80% by 2050. We just released a report on how to do it.
- Aug 22 2018 “Climate change is real, and it’s already affecting Philadelphians,” said MayorJim Kenney in a statement. “Philadelphia will continue to identify and implement strategies to cut carbon pollution and protect our most vulnerable residents from the changing climate.”
- Aug 22, 2018, Generosity, Read the City of Philadelphia’s just-released report on its clean energy goals — “Powering Our Future: A Clean Energy Vision for Philadelphia” is a roadmap for reducing the city’s carbon footprint.
- Aug 4, 2018, Philly Mayor tweet
- Sep 28, 2017, Philly Mag, Here’s Mayor Kenney’s Plan to Save the Planet — He unveiled his climate change agenda on Wednesday.
- “If we are to ask residents and the business community to do their part in fighting climate change, the city must lead by example,” Kenney said in a release. “That’s why we are starting with this – a comprehensive blueprint to better manage our own assets to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in line with our commitments.”
- Aug 15, 2017, Mom’s Clean Air Force, Interview with Philadelphia’s Mayor Jim Kenney
- Are you concerned about the effects of climate change on the children of your city? As a human being I’m concerned. Climate change affects everyone, but it hurts our vulnerable populations, like older adults, young children, and people with health problems, more. Excessive heat makes diseases like asthma and hypertension worse, which means our residents with those issues miss more days of work and have to stay in the hospital longer. Addressing climate change will help make our city a more just place for everyone.
- Jun 1, 2017, Curbed Philly, Mayor Kenney says Philly will honor Paris climate accord after U.S. pulls out — Kenney and Tom Wolf respond to the news that the Trump administration will abandon the landmark agreement to fight climate change
- Apr 22, 2015, Penn Environment, Environmental groups endorse Jim Kenney for Philadelphia Mayor
- This marks the first time that any of these citizen-based environmental groups has made an endorsement in the Philadelphia mayoral election. These groups endorsed Kenney because his record and his plans offer a unique opportunity to protect the health of millions of Philadelphians and their environment.
- “I’m very excited to have the endorsement of these dedicated environmentalists,” said Kenney. “One of my proudest moments in City Council was creating the first Committee on the Environment so that we could protect our air and water from pollution and ensure that our natural resources would be there for generations to come. As mayor, I look forward to working with these groups to make public transportation more energy efficient, increase the city’s green spaces, and reduce the City’s carbon footprint.”
- Feb 15, 2017, Curbed, How cities can stand up to climate change — As the White House aims to stifle climate science, cities cooperate globally and plan locally