Dear SEPTA Board members
We are writing this letter in opposition to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s (SEPTA) proposed natural gas power plant to be located in Philadelphia’s Nicetown neighborhood. The plant’s emissions and other impacts would place an undue environmental burden on the residents of Nicetown and the surrounding communities without providing them with any economic benefit. While we support many of the initiatives proposed in SEPTA’s 2018 Energy Action Plan, we believe that the Nicetown plant represents a step backwards and a commitment to continued dependence on fossil fuels.
Our priorities are reflected in House Bill 2132, which was referred to the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee on March 9, 2018. In line with the goals of this proposed legislation, we encourage SEPTA to pursue policies that would allow the agency to obtain 100% of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2035 and 100% of its overall energy needs from renewable sources by 2050. The Nicetown plant would run in opposition to that goal.
To that end, we urge SEPTA to suspend plans to build the proposed power plant. This project would lock in many years of toxic air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Nicetown and the surrounding neighborhoods are predominately black, minority communities that already struggle with pollution and environmental degradation, with some of the worst air quality in Philadelphia.
The plant is opposed by residents, dozens of organizations across the region, and numerous elected officials. Opponents have expressed serious concerns about the health and environmental impact of the project, and SEPTA has failed to allay those concerns. While SEPTA has produced air quality projections as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this action alone does not sufficiently address the potential long-term health impacts of placing a fossil fuel plant in a densely-populated, urban, residential environment. Moreover, SEPTA has failed to demonstrate that the plant is necessary to address an urgent need and has declined to look into alternatives.
Fossil fuels are not the way forward. We call on SEPTA to step back from this project, conduct a thorough assessment of its energy needs, and examine a full range of options for addressing those needs that prioritize transitioning to renewable energy sources. The residents of Nicetown and the surrounding communities deserve better. We all deserve better.
Christopher Rabb, State Representative, 200th District