We wondered what Philadelphia’s Mayor Jim Kenney
had to say about our efforts at convincing SEPTA to reconsider their plans for a gas power plant in the already over-burdened community of Nicetown. Below is a letter by long-time Germantown resident Joanna Vaughan to Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney on December 1st, 2016.
December 1, 2016
Mayor James Kenney
City Hall, Office 215
Philadelphia, PA 19107
Dear Mayor Kenney,
Congratulations on your election to the office of Mayor.
As a resident of Philadelphia for over sixty years, I’m pleased to read that your Office of Sustainability is dedicated to renewable energy and green alternatives. In advancing solar and other non-fossil initiatives, we are, as a city, moving into the 21st century with a promise of health and security for ourselves and the generations to come.
As a resident of either Germantown or East Falls since 1964, I want to express my deep concern about SEPTA’s intended natural gas-fueled power plant to be constructed in Nicetown. Over 50 organizations have addressed the damage to the area, with asthma rates already at 30% and higher for school children in Philadelphia. Sad to say, it is in just such impoverished, vulnerable, and yes, non-white, neighborhoods as Nicetown that projects like these are most likely to be installed.
Members of 350 Philadelphia and other organizations have addressed the Board of SEPTA on several occasions with our concerns. At the November 17th board meeting, I was among 50+ citizens who asked to address the board, urge that alternative energy be explored, and request comprehensive health and environmental impact studies on the proposed site. Letters and vocal testimonies were presented in opposition, but the presentations were cut short by board member Robert Fox. At his direction, the board members, out of our hearing, voted to proceed with the project and left the room.
Disappointed, but undaunted, a group of us moved on to City Hall, to speak to (my and Nicetown’s) Councilwoman Cindy Bass, and were encouraged by her support. Her first question to the dozen of us there was, who among us was from the immediate neighborhood in Nicetown? Only two were, as it happened; I’m in Germantown. (I don’t really believe proximity is a requirement for concern.) But it struck me that most of us live a lot closer to Nicetown than the members of the board of SEPTA. I’ve since learned that Robert Fox is from Montgomery County. Moreover, he is linked professionally, through his law firm, with the Marcellus Shale Coalition and the natural gas and hydraulic fracturing industry.
I understand that each of us has interests to protect. I would submit that an investment in fossil-dependence for the next 25-50 years is so contrary to our common survival as to be unconscionable. We know what the carbon from fossil fuels is doing to the planet. Fracking itself is poisoning farms and water sources here in Pennsylvania; displacing whole communities in West Virginia; causing hundreds of earthquakes in Oklahoma. Those are just snapshots.
One of the most forward-looking and positive responses to the environmental crisis is investment in mass transit, and SEPTA is a great model. To make a multimillion-dollar investment in old energy would be a huge and tragic step backward.
I hope that you will bring the influence of your office to bear on this issue, for the sake of our city and its future.
Thank you for your consideration, and I’d appreciate hearing your views on this matter.
Very sincerely yours,