East Falls resident Karen Melton reminds us there’s still time to fight a proposed SEPTA power plant that could contribute to air pollution in our neighborhood.
An online app that shows the distance between two points “as the crow flies” shows my block in East Falls is exactly a mile from the site of SEPTA’s proposed gas-fired electric generation plant at Wissahickon and Roberts Avenue.
SEPTA has said we don’t need to worry about the plant adding pollution in Nicetown because they’re going to build a really tall stack to disperse it, which I guess means to our neighborhood.
Health professionals tell us they keep learning more about how exquisitely sensitive human lungs are to pollution, particularly children, the elderly and those whose health is already compromised. So I am not reassured to read that the plant will “only” add 21.7 tons per year (tpy) of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and 16.3 tpy of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – two pollutants that the EPA reviews every five years, and keeps ratcheting down allowable levels.
Opponents of the plant dispute nearly every SEPTA talking point from pollution to cost to emissions, and they roundly reject SEPTA’s claim that in order to be resilient in a future of extreme weather (caused by burning fossil fuels) it makes sense to build a fossil fuel plant and commit to burning gas for at least 20 more years.
There is still time to speak out about the plant. SEPTA requires a permit from Air Management Services (AMS), a division of the Philadelphia Health Department. An AMS public hearing about the plant was held on June 27th at the Panati Playground where a packed room testified for more than 2 hours in opposition to the plant. Those testifying ranged from residents of Nicetown and local neighborhoods such as Germantown and East Falls, to physicians and scientists and environmental advocates.
Particularly in view of Mayor Kenney’s recent pledge to transition Philadelphia to 100% renewable energy, we would like to see SEPTA work on plans that align with that goal. Rather than building new long-term fossil fuel infrastructure, they should be gearing up for more solar projects (SEPTA recently signed a contract for solar installations at four sites) or entering into Power Purchase Agreements for electricity from renewable sources.
If you would like to speak out about the plant, we ask that you call and/or email Councilwoman Bass (firstname.lastname@example.org, 215-685-9182), Mayor Kenney (James.Kenney@phila.gov, 215-686-2181), and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley (215-686-5200).
To learn more or get involved go to www.350philadelphia.org/septa.
Karen Melton is a member of 350Philly, a group dedicated to building a global grassroots climate movement. She’s lived in East Falls for more than 25 years and, since retiring in 2012, has been a full time environmental advocate.