Nov 22, 2019 testimony at Philadelphia City Council, video here.
My name is Meenal Raval, a Mt Airy resident and lead volunteer with the Sierra Club’s Rrady for 100 campaign, here in Philly and all of Southeast PA. I’m here today to speak on resolution 190676, to assess our options for the future of the refinery.
Yesterday, I mentioned that we cannot revive the refinery again, nor accept any industry that dumps into the atmosphere.
Being sensitive to near neighbors as well as creating family sustaining jobs, we’ve heard most people suggest something “green”.
We’ve heard mention of solar farms with energy storage. This means ground mounted solar panels generate electricity during the day, and saved in batteries for night time use.
Some people have mentioned geothermal fields offering district heating and cooling. This means pipes going deep in the ground, either horizontally or vertically, where temperatures remain a near-constant 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Bringing up air, water, or coolant from this near-constant 55 degrees means that in the winter, we only need to heat from 55 to 65 degrees. Laying pipes is something our laid-off refinery workers, and even the PGW workforce are skilled to take on.
Some others have dreamt of manufacturing turbines for offshore wind projects. With the nascent offshore wind industry, this idea was brought to Mayor Kenney’s attention by his first transition team, 5 years ago.
A new idea is manufacturing building materials from hemp — a renewable resource.
From hemp, we can make hemp-crete, a concrete alternative with 80% lower carbon emissions — because we have an insatiable desire for concrete.
From hemp we can make insulation, much needed as we bundle up our buildings for more comfort.
Also from hemp we can make paper & textiles. The Declaration of Independence was drafted on hemp; as were ship sails, ropes and clothing.
There are many budding industrial hemp growers across Pennsylvania, who could supply our local market. All of these have the potential to create family sustaining jobs in our city.
Whatever we decide to do, we need to clean up this site.
The past owners have abused this land. Though they have pledged to remediate the land, they have done little. Their plans are based on the assumption that there would continue to be a refinery here. Since this is no longer what Philadelphians want or need, this site needs to be cleaned, I think they call it remediation — for uses other than a refinery. So we ask Evergreen, Sunoco, and PES, to remediate to the highest standard — that of a green space.
With this level of remediation, we could design for public access to our riverfront. We could design for ground mounted solar farms surrounded by plants that invite pollinators — the bees and the butterflies.
We also need to consider flooding of this site due to rising sea levels — another result of a warming planet. I learned yesterday that basements at The Navy Yard get flooded regularly by the ground water seeping up, and that fish have been seen in these flooded basements. So, whether from an instant cloud burst, rising ground water, or rising sea levels — we will get flooded. We don’t need to worry about climate refugees from New York, but instead, from Eastwick, The Navy Yard and South Philadelphia.
With an awareness that some portions will be swallowed up by rising waters, these low lying spaces will need to be remediated to marshland.
The most cost effective way to remediate seems to be by using the mycelium network of mushrooms. I spoke about this at the first meeting of the refinery advisory group. That basically, mushrooms thrive on the hydrocarbons, breaking them down to hydrogen, oxygen and carbon.
Since then, we’ve heard about using bacteria to break down the spilled fossil fuels. From someone who does this type of remediation in Ohio, we learned that “cleanup could take anywhere from less than a year to 5 years depending on level of contamination.”
We’ll need to monitor the remediation costs, so that the insurance proceeds are adequate for the cleanup work required, before they disappear as bonuses to executives far away. Again, using bacteria and mushrooms to break down the hydrocarbons seem to be the most cost effective way of cleaning up.
We can research and expound on each of these…
creating family sustaining jobs,
remediation for a use other than a refinery,
consideration of rising sea levels
But we need you, Council, to remove all tax incentives and zoning that allowed this refinery for as long as it has. We once offered them all this because we thought we needed this industry. We no longer need the fossil fuel industry, and we need to make it financially unattractive for anyone to restart this refinery.