Pennsylvania is at its core an extractive economy. Across the state, dirty energy companies look to invest in expanded fossil fuel infrastructure. Unfortunately, companies that engage in fossil fuel extraction often don’t pay their fair share of taxes, and they employ workers without paying family-sustaining union wages.
Last fall, there were plans to significantly expand oil and gas extraction in the Philadelphia region, starting with a proposed oil import export facility at Southport on the Delaware River.
In September of 2016, One PA opened an office in Philadelphia. We began working with the Green Justice Philly Coalition on a campaign to stop the expansion of dirty fossil fuel infrastructure at Southport Marine Terminal site. Our short-term goal was to block dirty energy expansion at Southport. Our longterm goal was to restructure the Philadelphia economy away from dirty, poisoning energy sources toward renewable energy production and an economy that works for all Philadelphians. Integral to both goals was our commitment to bringing the most vulnerable and most affected members of the community to the front of the existing environmental justice coalition. We knew that 70% of black Americans live in counties where air quality does not meet EPA standards. We also knew that adding refinery capacity in Philadelphia would have continued to make our members sick. We were proud to bring a different voice to the table and to challenge those in power to understand the structural racism that so often puts dirty infrastructure in the heart of black and brown communities.
Southport represented two potential paths forward for the Philly economy: expand container shipping in the city, creating thousands of union jobs, or become an oil import/export facility. In November of 2016 the Governor and the Port Authority board rejected the refinery and chose increased shipping capacity. We won. Now, we are working to ensure that 30% of those new jobs come from the traditionally under-resourced communities in Philadelphia.