Hey SEPTA, we want an emissions-free transit system!

Hey SEPTA! We want our trains, subways, trolleys and buses to be powered by 100% renewable energy. The City of Philadelphia has committed to ambitious renewable energy goals. Now it’s time for SEPTA to do the same. This was the message delivered by 350 Philly and 15 other organizations last week. See below.

350philadelphia.org * 350philadelphia@gmail.com * 267-338-3459

Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority
Chairman Pasquale T. Deon Sr. and General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel
1234 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19107

November 16, 2017

Dear Chairman Deon and General Manager Knueppel,

We are writing on behalf of organizations that are dedicated to public health, sustainability, and social justice to urge SEPTA to match the ambitious renewable energy goals that the City of Philadelphia has recently set forth.

SEPTA is developing a new Energy Action Plan, which will lay out targets for reducing SEPTA’s greenhouse gas emissions. We call on the Authority to:

  • Plan to obtain 100% of the electricity used to power our transit system—including subways, trolleys, trains, and buses as well as SEPTA’s buildings—from renewable sources by no later than 2030.
  • Procure at least 30% of SEPTA’s electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2018.
  • Prioritize energy investments that create local jobs, particularly for residents of the Philadelphia area who face barriers to securing living wage employment, while requiring that contractors provide a living wage and honor workers’ rights to organize.

City officials are urging other large energy consumers in the region–like SEPTA–to follow the City’s example.

With each month, the climate crisis grows more urgent, while renewable energy technology improves and becomes cheaper. In recognition of those facts, the City of Philadelphia committed, through its September 2017 Municipal Energy Master Plan, to procure 100% of the electricity used to power City-owned buildings and facilities from renewable sources by 2030 at the latest. The City has also issued a Request for Proposals to energy developers so that they can begin purchasing 20% to 40% of that electricity from renewable sources in the next year. City officials are urging other large energy consumers in the region–like SEPTA–to follow the City’s example.

During a conversation with a member of 350 Philadelphia after the October 26th SEPTA Board meeting, General Manager Knueppel stated that SEPTA could not make a large-scale commitment to renewable energy as a result of concerns about cost. We appreciate the need for careful management of SEPTA’s budget. As Philadelphia’s Municipal Energy Master Plan shows, however, renewable energy can now be sourced and deployed on a large scale with either no up-front cost increase or a long-term savings that pays for the project.

A recent Plan Philly article about the energy plan, “Environmentalists Cheer Philadelphia’s Plan for 100 Percent Clean Energy by 2030,” addresses the critical issue of energy costs. Adam Agolloco, the City’s Energy Manager, explains that their initial renewable energy purchase “could be budget neutral — potentially cost saving —  and, either way, it’s going to be risk mitigating: You know exactly what that section of your energy cost is going to because you’ve purchased that for a long time…”

We are leading by example….If we find a cost-competitive project, then there’s no reason to say it’s impossible. If we can, everyone can.

Agolloco explains further: “What we really want is other large institutions, businesses, and residents to see that there’s value in this. We need massive clean energy investment to change the grid the way we need it to be change[d] to reach our citywide goals.” In addition, Christine Knapp, the Director of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability, asserts that: “We are leading by example….If we find a cost-competitive project, then there’s no reason to say it’s impossible. If we can, everyone can.”

We call on SEPTA to follow the City’s lead. At a minimum, SEPTA should issue a Request for Information as soon as possible so that renewable energy developers can provide information to SEPTA about possibilities for supplying electricity from renewable sources to the Authority. SEPTA should also immediately begin planning to install solar panels on additional SEPTA properties once the installations at the Callowhill, Roberts, 2nd & Wyoming, and Fern Rock facilities are complete.

The climate crisis demands an urgent response. A rapid shift from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy is both necessary and feasible. Over the past year, SEPTA riders, health advocates, and environmental organizations have repeatedly called upon SEPTA to plan a rapid shift to renewable energy. Now that the City of Philadelphia has announced ambitious renewable energy plans, it is time for SEPTA to do the same.

We would be glad to discuss this request with you and with members of the SEPTA staff.

We look forward to your reply.


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