The Passyunk Energy Center?! Just Say No!

In mid-September, the Philadelphia Inquirer alerted us that our city’s publicly owned gas utility, PGW, has signed a deal to move forward with a LNG (liquefied natural gas) facility at its Passyunk plant.  

350 Philly and allies are challenging this project, because it will expand the production and use of fossil fuels. The rapidly escalating climate crisis and the serious health problems caused by air pollution here in Philadelphia mean that we need to stop building fossil fuel infrastructure and plan a rapid shift to renewable energy.

The Philadelphia Gas Commission is now evaluating the project, and will soon decide whether or not to give their approval has evaluated and voted to approve this project. If the project is approved by the Gas Commission, it However, it will still need approval from City Council as well. You can take action to oppose the project by signing our No LNG petition, either as yourself or an organization you represent. submitting a comment to Anna Rowe at the Philadelphia Gas Commission copying Meenal Raval at 350 Philadelphia

PGW managers seem to think this public-private partnership is a no-brainer. A private company, Liberty Energy Trust, would invest $60 million to build a liquefaction plant at PGW’s facility on West Passyunk Avenue in South Philly. The plant would cool natural gas to 260 degrees below zero, creating LNG (liquified natural gas). PGW would lease the new plant, operate it, and store the liquified material in existing tanks.

photo credit PGW

A new company spun off by Liberty Energy Trust, Passyunk Energy Center (PEC), would market the LNG, which could be used to fuel ships, trucks, trains, and power plants. The liquefaction plant would produce about 36 million gallons per year. The utility could stand to earn $1.4 million to $4 million annually from the project, though critics do not believe the larger number is realistic. No customer commitments have been secured for this plant, but projected usage of the LNG facility includes combustion at gas power plants when electricity demand is high; supplying emergency heating needs during a polar vortex; and combustion at gas power plants to feed into The Navy Yard microgrid, so that people could work for 3 weeks without grid power.

Before the project can move forward, the Philadelphia Gas Commission and Philadelphia City Council would need to approve it.

On October 29th, 2018, the Philadelphia Gas Commission, which oversees PGW, held a public hearing about the proposal. Five people were on the agenda to offer testimony: Three officials from PGW, one representative from the engineering firm that would build the plant, and one lawyer from the public advocate’s office, representing the public’s interest. Each of their testimonies can be found here.

Scott Rubin, the public advocate, had concerns that there was not enough detail on financial viability, that there would be no recourse for PGW or the City since the newly formed Passyunk Energy Center didn’t have enough equity, and the partner Liberty Energy Trust didn’t have enough experience marketing an LNG product. He also had concerns about long-term investment in fossil fuels in light of current concerns about the climate crisis. Documents requested by the public advocate were to be published to the above page, notably papers on revenue calculations, cost estimates for stormwater management, and clarification of who would be responsible for additional costsbut those documents haven’t been made available yet.

We are the nation’s largest municipal utility. Let’s act that way. Our mission 
and vision don’t have anything to do with selling more gas. I think they reference enhanced quality of life, a thriving and cleaner future with innovative energy solutions; nothing to do with selling more gas. Let’s stop selling more gas.

From the public, five members offered testimony that challenged the project: Matt Walker of Clean Air Council, Meenal Raval & Ann Dixon of 350 Philly, Walter Tsou of Physicians for Social Responsibility & Lynn Robinson of Neighbors Against the Gas Plants. A full transcript of this hearing is available here.

Again, the Inquirer was quick to cover this hearing; see: Advocate doubts profits will gush from PGW’s new energy venture. Ann Dixon recorded a video of Meenal Raval’s testimony and shared it here. The text is below:

Hi. My name is Meenal Raval. I’m a Philadelphia resident and citizen.

The last time I was at this desk, you said any decisions you make have to be okayed by the PUC. Has this been checked in with the PUC? That’s one question.

I, too, was hoping that the public comment period would be extended possibly by two weeks.

The third is I would love to see this transcript published on the website so I can share it with others.

And just to put this in context, the revenue from this project is about 1 million a year compared to PGW’s annual revenue of about 600 million. Now, I don’t live in the world of millions so I had to like imagine what that really feels like and to put it to a personal salary level, if somebody had a salary of 60,000, that’s like a bonus of $100. It’s nothing to get excited about. I don’t think we should consider this project for a $100 bonus. 

If you consider the 2.7 million MMBtu, the volume of gas from this project, you should look at the carbon emissions and that is 143,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. Yes, it’s less than the oil it displaces, but 143,000 metric tons of CO2 is about what our entire municipal operations emits, all 600 buildings managed by the City of Philadelphia. So in that sense it is a lot 
and I think our Office of Sustainability is trying to get that to zero. So this is 
going in the wrong direction. And, again, not in line with the City’s climate goals. I already suggested we back out of this project; that we need to have a public dialogue on transitioning away from selling more gas. 

We are the nation’s largest municipal utility. Let’s act that way. Our mission 
and vision don’t have anything to do with selling more gas. I think they reference enhanced quality of life, a thriving and cleaner future with innovative energy solutions; nothing to do with selling more gas. Let’s stop selling more gas. Thank you very much.

This project is was expected to be the topic of discussion at the upcoming Philadelphia Gas Commission meetings at 1515 Arch St, 18th Floor, Philadelphia PA at 10am on: 

  • Tuesday November 13 2018, and also on
  • Tuesday December 4th 2018Please join us to Just Say No!

We have had until Wednesday, Nov 28th 2018 to send our written testimony about this project, which should help with City Council’s decision. Please send to Anna Rowe of the PHL Gas Commission, copying Meenal Raval of 350 Philadelphia. A few people have already done so, and their comments are shared below.

October 30 2018, Chloe Wang

The Southwest Philadelphia community deserves reparations for over a century of public health impacts, not more of the same shortsighted development that contributes to pollution and climate change

November 5 2018, Walter Tsou

the Gas Commission needs to be part of this solution and have a serious discussion of how we plan to electrify our buildings and move us away from gas

November 6 2018, Alana Tartaro

A true environmental analysis of this liquid natural gas project would take all of the negative impacts of fracking and climate change into consideration, and I believe it would find that this project is much too costly for the environment, and for humanity to go forward. 

2 thoughts on “The Passyunk Energy Center?! Just Say No!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s