Looking back at 2018, it’s heartening to see all that our 350 Philly team accomplished as a group of volunteers! 350 aims to protect a livable planet by working with allies around the world to halt and reverse global warming, and to build a just and sustainable economy.
Last year, we worked to stop fossil fuel projects here in Philadelphia, to advance the shift to renewable energy locally and across the state, and to build the movement for a nationwide “Green New Deal.” We helped to organize mass demonstrations, circulated petitions, knocked on doors, lobbied officials, participated in non-violent direct action, conducted research, held educational events, and pursued legal action.
Throughout the year, we continued appealing the decision by the the City of Philadelphia to allow SEPTA to operate and build polluting gas-fired power plant in the Nicetown community. And we challenged SEPTA directly with a rally outside their headquarters and a march through Suburban Station, calling on them to stop construction of the gas plant and to plan a transition to 100% renewable energy. We also spoke up at meetings of the Philadelphia Gas Commission to oppose plans for a new Liquified Natural Gas facility in South Philadelphia, while mobilizing people to bring the same message to members of City Council.
We’ve also been actively engaged with several major regional policy initiatives, including the City of Philadelphia’s electric-vehicle policy, SEPTA’s Energy Action Plan, and the city’s Citywide Clean Energy Vision—reviewing proposal documents, making recommendations, encouraging members of the public to comment, and pressing for accountability. We canvassed for candidates who committed to challenging the fossil fuel industry and to ambitious climate action. And toward the end of the year, we worked with our friends at the Sunrise Movement to build support for a Green New Deal!
Read about these and many other things we worked on, along with wins we’re celebrating, below!
- Ground transportation (cars, trucks, and buses) accounts for 17% of Philadelphia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Transitioning to electric vehicles (EVs) would reduce each vehicle’s emissions by about 60%. If the vehicle is powered by electricity from renewable sources, each vehicle’s emissions are reduced by 100%. To encourage the adoption of EVs, especially in the city where people park along the curb, Philadelphia needs to invest in EV charging infrastructure.
We began the year by reviewing the draft electric vehicle (EV) policy document developed by our City’s EV Policy Task Force, and submitting comments. The City’s finalized report encourages more walking, cycling, and using transit (all important goals!), but doesn’t yet talk about how residents can charge EVs.
- In March, we reviewed SEPTA’s 2018 Energy Action Plan. We determined that SEPTA has not yet adopted ambitious enough goals or committed to make the needed changes. We repeated our call for SEPTA to commit to becoming nearly fossil free by 2030 and 100% fossil free by 2035, by transitioning to electric buses and obtaining electricity from renewable sources.
Resisting New Fossil Fuel Projects
- SEPTA’s gas-fired power plant in Nicetown
- Since 2016, we’ve been opposing SEPTA’s plan to build a polluting gas-fired power plant in Philadelphia’s Nicetown community. In November 2017, our City’s Air Management Services (AMS) office issued a permit that allowed SEPTA to build and operate the plant. In January, we announced that two ally groups, Neighbors Against the Gas Plants and The Center for Returning Citizens, had filed formal appeals challenging the permit. 350 Philly later joined them as a third appellant.
- On April 17th, June 12th, September 18th, October 16th and November 13th, we participated in five hearings that Philadelphia’s Licenses and Inspections Review Board conducted in response to our appeal. We worked with our lawyers and allies to plan the strategy and the testimonies for the hearings. Each time, we filled the room with supporters, and reached thousands of supporters via social media.
Our campaign to stop SEPTA’s gas plant was covered by nine press articles / interviews, and we produced blog posts on the topic. In addition, we were on three radio shows discussing transit equity (a way to promote public transit as a civil right & a strategy to combat climate change) as well as the need for a transit system powered by renewable energy.
- In October, we joined the Sunrise Movement to deliver letters from area residents about the gas plant to Mayor Kenney.
- In March, we invited public comments to the Delaware River Basin Commission against allowing the withdrawal of water from the Delaware River for fracking and the dumping of fracking waste water into the river. We canvassed neighborhoods and encouraged comments electronically. See: “Protect Our Water: No Fracking Waste in the Delaware River”
- In the fall, on October 16th, October 29th, November 13th, and December 4th, we spoke at Philadelphia Gas Commission meetings and hearings, voicing our opposition to the Passyunk Energy Center, a proposed liquified natural gas processing plant that a private company seeks to build in partnership with the city’s publicly owned gas utility. We helped to build a coalition that is asking members of City Council to reject the project.We must convince City Council to say “no” to this 25-year fossil fuel project, when we need to get ourselves off fossil fuels in less than 12 years. Read more here: 350philly.org/NoLNG, and please sign our petition and coalition letter.
Transition to 100% renewables, Getting our emissions to zero
- In March, we responded to the first draft of our City’s Clean Energy Vision, and then publicized responses from other key stakeholder groups. Most groups concurred
- that we need clearer goals with measurable milestones and specific timelines;
- that we need a faster timeline to getting to zero emissions;
- that we need a transition plan for PGW, our city-owned gas utility, a plan that includes a business model that’s no longer based on selling more gas.
- In August, we participated in organizing the “Power Toward a Just Future” parade and rally in Center City. This was a colorful spectacle to raise public awareness about the solarization of Philadelphia and to press the city to integrate social justice goals into its transition to renewable energy.As the Carnival de Resistance said “We marched from PECO headquarters to SEPTA headquarters to City Hall. Our parade called for the use of renewable and clean energy sources; an end to power generation using fossil fuels, including fracked gas; and support for locally generated solar energy.”
See more photos, all credit Tim Nafziger / Carnival de Resistance, here.
Envisioning a Better Path, and Demanding a Green New Deal
- In April, we went to a statewide rally in Harrisburg with the Better Path Coalition, which brought together people from across Pennsylvania. Some resisting a pipeline, some resisting fracking, some resisting fracked gas power plants, some resisting processing plants such as the Shell cracker plant, or the Epiphany waste plant. Some resisting injection wells, water extraction operations, and export facilities. And many resisting turning Philadelphia into a dirty energy hub, and the expansion of the shale gas industry in PA. As the coalition’s call to action stated: “Our efforts have been ignored, dismissed, criticized, side-stepped, and trivialized by our state government. Our government has spied on us, pushed legislation to criminalize us, and characterized us as eco-terrorists. Pennslvanians are choosing a better path. We choose a path to a government that is responsive to its people. We choose a path to elected officials who put the interests of the people they represent before those of the shale gas industry. We choose a path to elected officials who are climate leaders moving Pennsylvania toward a clean energy future.”
- In September we joined allies all over the world to Rise for Climate Jobs & Justice. Our message? No more stalling, no more delays: it’s time for a fast and just transition to 100% clean and renewable energy for all. Here in Philadelphia, hundreds of people marched from Love Park through Suburban Station to the First Unitarian Church, and participated in a town hall forum and a non-violent direct action training.
- On September 20th, we partnered with Philly DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) to host a discussion about “A Green New Deal: Why (& How) the Left Can Lead on Climate”. University of Pennsylvania Professor Daniel Aldana Cohen shared developments around the country, as many climate activists, labor organizers, socialists, progressives, and candidates for public office are calling for a Green New Deal. They envision a massive public investment program that:
- transforms our energy, transportation, and food systems
- slashes greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollution
- creates good jobs and healthy affordable housing
- builds racial and economic justice.
- In October and November, we canvassed and made calls for candidates who signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge, and who were committed to championing strong climate action. We worked with allies such as Sunrise Movement and Food and Water Watch.
- On November 20th, we joined up with the Sunrise Movement to visit Congressman Dwight Evans’ office, asking him to “Step up or Step aside – Support a #GreenNewDeal.”
- On December 19th, we spoke about the climate crisis on a live radio show on PhillyCAM’s People Power Lunch Hour on WPPM 106.5 FM.
- We ended the year by writing holiday cards to our elected representatives, asking each to support the #GreenNewDeal.
Some wins to remember as we head into the new year…
- We organized regular monthly meetings, serving up what we believe to be the best falafels in the city! Join us on the last Wednesday of each month at City Coho, 2401 Walnut St, Philadelphia at 6pm.
- Our transit agency is proceeding with installation of rooftop solar on 4 of their buildings. They are also reviewing proposals for off-site generation of renewable electricity, after denying for many months that it would possible for them to obtain clean energy in this way And they have ordered an additional 10 electric buses, slated to run out of the Midvale Bus Depot in Nicetown.
- The chair of the Philadelphia Gas Commission has scheduled hearings about the future of PGW.
Quite a list for a grassroots (un-funded) group, right? Click here to donate to our work, one time or as a recurring donation. Donations are NOT tax deductible.
Click here to join our mailing list. Also, please click here to find upcoming climate-related events in Greater Philadelphia, where you’re sure to meet others working to reverse the climate trend in our region.
Contact: 350philly.org / @350philly
A collaborative post by Meenal Raval, Ann Dixon, Jean McFarlane with Mitch Chanin & friends