Our City’s Energy Future


There’s a lot going on right now that will help determine our city’s energy future. It’s a mix of good and bad — let’s start with the bad.

Art from the “Power Toward a Just Future” parade in Center City. August 2018

The saga of the SEPTA gas-fired power plant at Wayne Junction continues. Ever since SEPTA proposed the plant three years ago it has been opposed by neighborhood and faith groups, environmental organizations and health professionals. The final permit issued by the Health Department has been under appeal before the L&I Review Board since April. The appeal hearing has been continued repeatedly, with a sixth session now scheduled for January 8th.

All five sessions to date have been attended by a standing room only crowd of citizens opposed to the plant. For more information go to www.350philadelphia.org/septa

ABOVE: Packed meeting for L&I Review of SEPTA gas plant at Wayne Junction. BELOW: Scenes from the “Power for a Just Future” parade in Center City, August 2018

In other bad news, Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) has presented a proposal to the Philadelphia Gas Commission to partner with a private company, Liberty Energy Trust, to build a new liquified natural gas (LNG) facility at PGW’s South Philadelphia plant that would operate for the next 25 years.

In exchange, PGW would be paid $1.35 million in fees per year–not a lot in an annual operating budget of $600+million.  LNG involves processing gas to remove impurities, using large amounts of energy to cool it to a liquid, using more energy to transport it to another location (in this case we are told New England) then more energy to warm it back to gas for delivery to end users. 

If you’re wondering how this makes sense when the city has pledged to reduce its carbon footprint, speak up! Our councilman, Curtis Jones, sits on the Gas Commission, and the proposal has to be approved by City Council, so your voice matters.  (Editor’s note: Unfortunately, the proposal was approved by the Philadelphia Gas Commission on December 4, 2018.)

Marchers outside SEPTA offices.

Here’s the good news: City Council has just approved a proposal to enter into a renewable energy Power Purchase Agreement that will provide 22% of the electricity used by Philadelphia’s 600 city-owned buildings and street lights. The power will be generated by a 70 megawatt solar farm to be constructed and operational by the end of next year. Located in Central PA, the solar array will be the largest in the state.

In other good news SEPTA has issued its own RFP for renewable energy, and recently received a grant for 10 electric buses. This is in addition to 25 electric buses already on order. Unfortunately, at the same time SEPTA has contracted for hundreds more diesel-hybrid buses to be delivered over the next several years. The hybrids are more fuel efficient than regular diesels, but their greenhouse gas emissions are only marginally lower.

We need all hands on deck in Philadelphia, with every agency working to reduce carbon emissions. SEPTA and PGW should get on board!

Mark Your Calendars

Public HearingHealth Effects from Pollution in At-Risk Neighborhoods. City Council Public Health & Human Services Committee (Organized by Cindy Bass, Chair).

Help 350Philly and other citizens concerned with environmental justice STOP SEPTA’S POLLUTING PLANT IN NICETOWN. The people of Philadelphia have the right to breathe clean air!  (Article 1, Section 27, PA Constitution)

Wednesday  December 12th — 10AM
City Hall, Rm 400

*Anyone can speak after the formal testimonies, but must email Angela Bowie to get registered, angela.bowie@phila.gov

For more information, please contact Neighbors Against the Gas Plants (NAGP), 215-888-1894 or email them

About Karen Melton 9 Articles
Karen is a long time Fallser and a full-time advocate for clean energy and a pollution-free environment.

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