How to unplug from fossil fuels?

There are lots of ways to plug in to campaigns to unplug fossil fuels; efforts to Keep It In The Ground; to halt Fossil Fuel Transport; to say No to any new Fossil Fuel Infrastructure; to Electrify Everything; and to Power It All with Renewable Electricity, While Building Racial and Economic Justice.

But, you ask, what are folks in Greater Philadelphia doing about any of this?

Keep it in the Ground

image: Wikipedia

Seeing renewed interest in fracking the Delaware River watershed, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and many allies have built a coalition that demands a permanent ban on fracking in the Delaware watershed.

They’ve repeatedly filled the room at the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) public meetings, and lobbying Governor Wolf, the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as other members of the DRBC.

Fossil Fuel Transport

The Marcellus Shale (a huge shale gas formation the lies underneath parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia, and New York) has brought us fracking and pipelines to transport these fossil fuels. Much of this gas would be exported. Local residents concerned for their safety, and angered over their land destroyed by pipelines, have organized into pipeline resistance groups.

  • Near Philadelphia, the Mariner East II pipeline in Chester County is opposed
    Image: MCCS

    bymany. Most persistently by Middletown Coalition for Community Safety (MCCS) in Chester County. MCCS has support from their state senator, their state representative and several local mayors. This week’s breaking news is efforts of the MCCS, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, the Clean Air Council, the Mountain Watershed Association, and others have resulted in a 2 week halt on the Mariner East II pipeline.

  • The Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Lancaster County, our foodshed, has stirred up
    Image: Lancaster Online

    enough residents to form the Lancaster Against Pipelines group. The recent lawsuit by a group of nuns against the encroachment of the Atlantic Sunrise pipeline into their chapel has garnered much media recently.

Both pipeline resistance groups would like to replicate Bold Nebraska’s SolarXL locally, to build solar installations in the path of the proposed pipelines, to showcase a vision of a cleaner, more democratic future for all.

No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure

Image: 350 Philly

350 Philadelphia has opposed the fracked gas power plant proposed by SEPTA, our local transit agency, for the Nicetown neighborhood of Philadelphia. For the past year and a half, they have explained to SEPTA Board members and managers, and to elected officials, that this is a bad financial decision, that investing in fossil fuel infrastructure at this late stage is headed in the wrong direction, and that it’s bad for local air quality and public health. Instead, 350 Philly asks that SEPTA plan for a rapid transition to 100% renewable electricity for all their operations.

Electrify Everything…

Image: Forbes

350 Philly’s latest campaign is about transit buses. Currently, SEPTA replaces aging diesel buses with hybrid-diesel buses.With a functional lifespan of about 12 for each bus, 350 Philly asks that by 2019, all new bus purchases be for zero-emission electric buses, powered by 100% renewable electricity. This would result in all-electric bus fleet by 2030. Doing so will reduce our emissions and improve air quality in the city. Citizens in New York City and Los Angeles are working towards similar goals.

Image: CleanTechnica

350 Philly encourages the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) for private mobility also. Members are on a task force to develop world class policy for EV charging within the City. They also ask that you contact your state rep to support the PA Clean Transportation Infrastructure Act, HB 1446, for EV charging across the state.

…and Power It All with Renewable Electricity, While Building Racial and Economic Justice

The Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign is asking City Council to pass a resolution calling for the city to move to 100% clean electricity citywide by 2035, and 100% clean energy for all purposes (including heating & transportation) by 2050. They’re planning a launch event for the campaign this September. Just last month, members convinced Mayor Kenney to pledge support for 100% clean energy.

Power Local Green Jobs – The Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) and POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild) are using nonviolent direct action to pressure PECO, our local electric utility. They ask PECO to source 20% of the electricity they sell be from solar installations in the Philadelphia area by 2025. The campaign is also calling on PECO to spur solar installations on suitable roofs in high unemployment areas, starting in North Philadelphia, to economically benefit those communities, and to prioritize installation by local workers, especially from high unemployment areas.

The Climate Reality Project chapters at Drexel and Penn are calling for their universities to transition to 100% renewable electricity by by 2030.

Green Justice Philly plans to ask the City for 100% renewable electricity for municipal operations by 2030, with a 30% carve-out for local solar projects and a commitment for local hiring for those projects. Chicago & Atlanta are planning a transition to 100% renewable electricity for municipal operations by 2025.

Northwest Philly Solar Co-op is a Mt Airy based co-op that educates, encourages and organizes neighbors for residential solar. They also advocate for renewable energy, and assist DIY solar efforts in West Philadelphia. Related, Solarize Philly is a city-wide effort to encourage residential solar. This is a project of the Philadelphia Energy Authority, as is the Philadelphia Energy Campaign initiated by Council President Darrell Clarke.

Serenity Soular is an initiative to make solar affordable for North Philadelphia households and train local residents for jobs in the green economy. In the long run, Serenity Soular plans to launch a triple bottom line worker-owned solar installation company that would employ neighborhood residents to install solar in North Philadelphia.

The Parkside Community Development Corporation (CDC) “plans to develop 1,250kW of solar power to sell energy to the local cultural institutions. The power will benefit both the cultural institutions and the revenue derived from selling the power will be recycled back into the community to support programs and services that benefit residents of Parkside. This will be the first such project of its kind and scale in the city Philadelphia.” More here.

Divest from Fossil Fuels, Re-invest in Renewables

Local university students organize. If you’re a student at University of Pennsylvania, you ought to join the Fossil Free Penn team. If you’re a Drexel University student, there’s Fossil Free Drexel. Swarthmore College’s Swarthmore Mountain Justice has been active with coal extraction.


Philly Thrive’s #WeDecide campaign is working towards a September town hall about Philadelphia’s energy future. They’ve been gathering survey responses from environmental justice communities near the Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil  refinery. Survey found here.

Based on NYC’s Climate Works for All, we have a local coalition, Philly Climate Works, pulling together community, environmental justice, and labor organizations. The Southeastern PA chapter of the Sierra Club funds a staff position for Philly Climate Works, and refers to PCW on their website.

Where do you fit in?

What have we missed? How do we, as a City, get from emitting 21 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent down to zero? We want your ideas…. write to!


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