April: Comings & Goings

Fracking Lawsuit Rules in Families’ Favor
Cabot Oil & Gas will have to pay more than $4.2 million to two Dimock Township couples after six jurors in federal court deemed that fracking operations contaminated the groundwater of their central Pennsylvania homes.

According to an NPR StateImpact report, the company has already acquired more than 130 drilling violations at its Dimock wells. A state investigation, according to The Associated Press, found that Cabot had allowed gas to escape into the region’s groundwater supplies, and at least 18 residential wells were contaminated. Residents had been voicing their concerns since 2008.

City Recycling Director Takes New Job in Virginia
Phil Bresee left his position as the city’s recycling director March 25 to take a job in the Arlington County, Virginia, Environmental Management Division. 

In an email to colleagues, Bresee said he welcomes the change with “both excitement and some sadness,” after serving Philadelphia for nearly four years. 

In a statement, the city of Philadelphia thanked Bresee “for his dedicated service in making Philadelphia a leader in environmental sustainability. Under Phil’s leadership, Philadelphia recycling rates remained at the top of most cities in the country. Phil was an innovative thinker, and he was well versed with the recycling markets and economy around the world.” They plan a targeted recruitment search to fill the position.

Deadline Approaches for TIGER Funding Application
The deadline to apply for Transportation Investment Granting Economic Recovery (TIGER) funding is April 29 at 8 p.m. The Department of Transportation will award $500 million total to projects across the U.S. to improve safety and service in transportation.

Philadelphia has benefitted from TIGER grants in the past few years, receiving money for critical improvements to SEPTA’s West Trenton Regional Rail Line, as well as bridge repairs near Grays Ferry. The minimum award has been reduced to $5 million from last year’s $10 million, and the maximum reward has been reduced to $100 million from $200 million.

ACE Mentor Program Names Nnadozie Ibeh to Board of Directors
The Eastern Pennsylvania chapter of the national ACE Mentor Program has named Nnadozie Ibeh to its board of directors. Since 2006, Ibeh has been a mentor at the nonprofit, which encourages high school students to consider careers in design and construction through mentoring, scholarships and grants.

“Ibeh brings an institutional perspective to his role as an ACE mentor,” said ACE Eastern Pennsylvania Affiliate Director Tiffany Millner in a press release. “That combined with his decade of mentorship experience will serve the board well.”

Ibeh holds a master’s degree in construction management from Drexel University. He is a LEED accredited professional and is a member of the National Organization of Minority Architects.

House Unanimously Passes Heritage Areas Bill  
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill in February that formally establishes a Heritage Area program to identify, protect, enhance and promote the historic, recreational, natural, cultural and scenic resources of the state. 

In Pennsylvania, there are 12 designated Heritage Areas—defined as geographic regions or corridors that span two or more counties and contain historic, recreational, natural and scenic resources. The bill, HB1605, is awaiting passage in the state Senate. 

According to one study, in 2014, tourists spent an estimated 7.5 million days and nights in Pennsylvania’s Heritage Areas, where they purchased $2 billion worth of goods and services. This spending supported 25,708 jobs and generated $798 million in labor income.

EAT Café Poised to Open in Spring with Sliding-Scale Menu
A pay-what-you-can café in West Philly is hoping to change the way the city talks about food insecurity. 

Short for “Everyone At the Table,” EAT Café on Lancaster Avenue will serve a rapidly rotating menu of three-course meals using fresh, healthful ingredients, and anyone can partake. Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities and Vetri Community Partnership are bringing the concept to fruition, and educational events and activities are slotted to focus on culinary arts and workforce readiness training.

Future of La Finquita in Legal Limbo
Members of a longstanding South Kensington community-based organization filed litigation in order to establish its ownership and gain permanent control of La Finquita, the urban farm they have cultivated since 1988. 

Philadelphia Catholic Worker filed the suit in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, after gardeners discovered in January that an unknown party placed a lock on the entrance to the fence surrounding the garden, which is located at the corner of North Lawrence and Master streets in Kensington.

Records show the land was last owned by Pyramid Tire & Rubber Co., which has been inactive as a corporation since 1956. 

“When we first started the garden, our goal was to have a positive impact on the neighborhood and deal with the unsightly, trash-strewn, abandoned lot. Those are still our goals today,” said Beth Centz of the Philadelphia Catholic Worker in a press release. “More than two decades of residents contributed their sweat equity to care for this space; it is time for the Catholic Worker to formally establish our legal ownership.” 

Under Pennsylvania state law, an entity can claim adverse possession of a property if they can demonstrate unbroken possession for more than 21 years.