6 State Legislators Recognize Environmental Racism, Call To Rescind Air Permit for SEPTA Gas Plant

Just last week, before the 2nd appeal hearing before the L&I Review Board, 6 state legislators recognized environmental racism, and called on the Board to rescind the air permit for SEPTA’s polluting gas-fired power plant in Nicetown. Check out the text below, or download a PDF copy. And please thank your legislators!

June 8, 2018

Mr. Kenneth Woodson
Chairman, Board of License and Inspection Review
City of Philadelphia
1515 Arch Street, 18th Floor
Philadelphia PA 19102

Re: #32866, Appeal of AMS IP-17-000009, 4301 Wissahickon Ave

Dear Mr. Woodson:

After speaking with residents in Nicetown, Germantown and lower East Falls who are survivors of or have children with a range of diseases such as asthma, and after communicating in writing with officials from the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), we as the elected state legislators representing these neighborhoods have grave concerns about the potential adverse air quality impacts on the health of the immediate residential communities surrounding SEPTA’s proposed natural gas-fired power plant. We ask that the Licenses and Inspections Review Board rescind the air permit for the plant at its current location. 

The air quality in this area may already be considered environmentally unhealthy, largely due to diesel exhaust fumes caused by SEPTA’s largest bus depot located on the same Wissahickon Avenue property where this gas-fired power plant is being constructed. Our constituents already bear an extra burden of particulate matter and toxic gases from combustion engine exhaust, not just from SEPTA’s bus depot and street traffic, but also from Route 1 traffic. The exhaust rains particulates down throughout the area.

Dirty transportation methods are unfortunately already burdening the health of children and adults, who are living, attending school, and working in these historically rich but economically low-income and predominantly African-American communities. The development and utilization of an additional SEPTA property, particularly a gas plant, may cause further adverse health impacts. This is due to the gas plant’s release of potentially harmful chemicals, such as nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide. We are told that these health effects may consist of asthma, cardiac disease, dementia, brain disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Our constituents should not have to suffer these potential health risks disproportionately.

Because of the unusual location of this gas plant, we are concerned about the practice of environmental racism. According to the journal, “Environmental Racism: Race as a Primary Factor in the Selection of Hazardous Waste Sites,” environmental racism is the practice of placing toxic waste and other environmental hazards at sites in neighborhoods primarily populated by people of color (including African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans and Native Americans). In this specific case, SEPTA’s proposed natural gas-fired power plant is being constructed in and around communities of color when it could indisputably be constructed elsewhere. If it were built in another location of higher elevation, for example, there would be fewer permanent public health impacts. Therefore, it can be concluded that SEPTA may be unfairly targeting people of color. This kind of discrimination is particularly abhorrent, as the result is poorer public health and substandard air quality in neighborhoods where environmental damage is already acute and ongoing.

Our role as elected officials is to help provide an environment in the Commonwealth in which all Pennsylvanians can flourish and prosper. For these reasons, we request that this Board grant the stated appeals and revoke the permit for this construction.

Sharif Street, Senator 3rd District
Art Haywood, Senator 4th District
Rosita C Youngblood, State Representative 198th District
Christopher Rabb, State Representative 200th District
Stephen Kinsey, State Representative 201st District
Isabella Fitzgerald, State Representative 203rd District

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