Corporate interests in Philadelphia have announced big plans to build more natural gas pipelines in Philadelphia. Some want to use this clearly hazardous system to position Philadelphia as “America’s Next Energy Hub” – at the same time forgetting the dangerous and antiquated pipeline system already in place and in dire need of repair.
We need to pay attention to what this could really mean.
Philadelphia City Council has announced public hearings this week surrounding the city’s energy future. They are accepting in person and written testimony. I urge you to consider attending or writing a letter on your own behalf.
Here is mine.
Dear City Council Committee:
I am writing to submit my testimony on Philadelphia’s energy future.
Building an additional natural gas pipeline in Philadelphia is an unsustainable and hazardous approach to energy growth, both economically and environmentally.
Philadelphia is held up as a model green city, having made great strides forward in various industries. A further investment in new natural gas infrastructure would be a huge step backward for this city, its workers, and its families.
Pennsylvania currently averages one natural gas leak for every three miles of distribution pipe, making the Pennsylvania one of the leakiest systems in the country. The highest concentration of risky pipe is under Philadelphia, with 89 leaks per hundred miles of mains — eight times the national average.
One in five miles of Pennsylvania pipeline — nearly twice the national average — is older than 1960, federal data shows. During the past 10 years, gas explosions killed 10 people and injured 21 in the state. A look beneath the surface of Philadelphia’s streets reveals a PGW system where potentially fatal hazards are commonplace
Governor Corbett has been quoted in saying this pipe needs to be repaired, but that funding it, “isn’t as nice as building a park or building a bridge, is it? Oftentimes, isn’t it the emergency that causes movement, rather than planning?”
I argue that we are, in fact, in a state of emergency.
Natural gas is not only a contributor to climate change, it significantly effects air quality. The Philadelphia area already has some of the worst air in the nation. The biggest single reason the region’s air quality is so bad is the South Philadelphia Refinery, which currently generates more than 73 percent of the toxic air emissions in Philadelphia, and 31 percent of all toxic emissions in the five-county region.
Perhaps that is why my five year old has severe asthma – and almost every single child in his preschool class carries an inhaler.
We know that true significant and sustainable job creation can be built on clean energy jobs. Philadelphia companies are innovators in solar, wind, geothermal, and other alternative energy sources. Researchers have shown time and again that it is possible to fuel the entire world on alternative energy, if we could only surpass the political barriers.
Make no mistake – it is the financial interest and false promises of natural gas companies that is holding us back. The number of long-term lucrative jobs created by natural gas drilling has been greatly exaggerated, and the economic benefit to Pennsylvanians has yet to be seen. And the plans to export the fuel overseas will do nothing for the energy bills of Philadelphians.
However, the jobs created by energy-efficiency (auditing and implementation through various means) and alternative energy production and installation are thriving.
Philadelphia can set an example of not only sustainability but of innovation. And, most importantly, this city can stand up for its most important asset – the health of our workers, our citizens, our families.
I hope that Philadelphia will be on the right side of history for the futures of our families. Please allow our children to breathe clean air, our innovators to thrive, and our city to grow in a way we can all be proud of.