December: Comings & Goings

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Public Pushes Back on Fossil Fuel Infrastructure
The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority Board of Directors voted to reject a proposal from Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) that would have used the terminal to expand the South Philadelphia oil refinery. Instead, the board chose to invest $300 million in a proposal from Liberty Property Trust for a shipping container development slated to produced 2,000 direct port jobs. The vote comes after a sustained campaign by Philly Thrive and other advocacy groups citing health, safety and economic sustainability concerns of expanding PES operations.

The PennEast Pipeline has been delayed after a route change. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in November opened a 30-day comment period from environmental organizations concerned that the pipeline would damage the Delaware River and other waterways. The New Jersey Sierra Club has been asking FERC to deny PennEast’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement—a requirement through the Department of Environmental Protection for major projects—due to incomplete details and PennEast’s inability to prove it qualifies for necessary construction and operation permits. A review of comments will begin in February 2017.

A proposed natural gas plant at the Midvale Regional Rail depot in Philadelphia will proceed despite vocal opposition from Nicetown residents and advocates of a Fossil Fuel Free SEPTA campaign organized by 350 Philadelphia. The SEPTA board approved the plant at its November meeting as advocates chanted “No vote.” SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel will now either approve or reject the plan. Advocates had demanded a health study, analysis of alternatives, a public hearing and a renewable energy plan.

Green Building Orgs Strike Alliance
The Delaware Valley Green Building Council (DVGBC) is joining forces with the Greater Philadelphia Passive House Association and the Living Building Challenge Collaborative to create a unified green building organization. Together these groups seek to strengthen the green building movement by working collaboratively on common objectives, sharing resources, and streamlining membership, education and volunteer opportunities.

“While green building has come a long way since DVGBC was formed in 2002, the urgency in creating a healthy, resilient built environment has never been more clear. Buildings are still the single largest and most controllable source of carbon emissions in Philadelphia, and therefore key to local climate mitigation and adaptation strategies,” says Alex Dews, executive director of DVGBC. The newly formed community is focused on advancing green building using all of the tools at their disposal (LEED, Passive House, Living Building Challenge, Energy Star) and will hold an open briefing and meeting Jan. 20, 2017.

William Penn Foundation Pledges $100 Million to City
The William Penn Foundation has made a landmark donation of $100 million to the City of Philadelphia. It’s the largest grant in the foundation’s history, and it will be used to invest in renovations of parks, libraries and recreational centers as part of Mayor Kenney’s Rebuilding Community Infrastructure plan, aka Rebuild. The price tag on the entire seven-year project is $500 million. Other funds for the initiative will come from a recently passed sugary beverage tax, city bonds, private donations, and state and federal funding.

Law to Ban Stores from Charging for Plastic Bags Defeated
In a 112-75 vote in late October, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives rejected HB 1280, which would have barred stores from charging customers for plastic bags at checkout.

Opponents of the bill are trying to introduce a plastic bag fee to Philadelphia City Council in spring to persuade consumers to bring reusable bags to the grocery store, and they argued that HB 1280 was a way of coddling the plastic bag manufacturing industry and contributing to more litter and waste.

Bicycle Coalition Petitions for Vision Zero Safety Measures
The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (BCGP) is seeking 1,000 signatures for its online petition to persuade the city to adopt “vision zero” policies to reduce traffic accidents.

The petition calls for redesigned corridors, a commitment to install 30 or more miles of protected bike lanes, public education about traffic safety and other measures.

BCGP is not affiliated with city government, but it has a seat on Philadelphia’s Vision Zero Task Force, which was approved in November via executive order by Mayor Jim Kenney.

NKCDC Executive Director Retires
Sandy Salzman will retire after 21 years with New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC).

One of the main goals of NKCDC during her tenure was reclaiming the neighborhood’s many vacant lots while garnering community support. A retirement celebration will be held

Dec. 8, and Salzman will remain in her position until a replacement is appointed.

Land Health Institute Receives $15,000 for Urban Revitalization
Land Health Institute, a nonprofit for environmental education and land revitalization, now has the funding to expand its Urban Arboreta project, which began in 2015 with the revitalization of a 3-acre vacant lot across from West Fairmount Park.

$15,000 from the Knight Foundation Donor-Advised Fund of The Philadelphia Foundation will go toward transforming more vacant lots into green space.

South Philly Food Co-op to Open Grocery Store in the New Year
After a three-year search for a location, South Philly Food Co-op will open a 3,400-square-foot grocery store at 2031 S. Juniper St. in 2017. The store will also offer food-education programs once construction is completed by South Philadelphia developer Blake Barabuscio.

South Philly Food Co-op was founded in 2010 and currently has more than 660 member-owner households.