March: Comings & Goings

Pipeline Granted Clean Water Certification, Environmentalists Dub it ‘Premature’
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PA DEP) granted 401 Clean Water Act certification to the PennEast Pipeline project on Feb. 13, an action criticized by some environmentalists because PA DEP has not fully reviewed the regulations to determine if PennEast is entitled to the certification. The pipeline’s final Environmental Impact Statement has not been released yet.

“It is a total sellout of the community, an abdication of responsibility and a giveaway of the little bit of power the state has over fracked gas pipeline projects and is clearly being done at the direction of, and under the watchful and approving eye, of Gov. Wolf,” said Maya van Rossum, head of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, in a statement. Gov. Wolf’s office could not be reached for comment.

Pat Kornick, PennEast spokesperson, told NPR’s StateImpact, “The department’s yearlong review and conclusion provides additional assurance that PennEast can protect the environment—specifically water resources. PennEast has reviewed hundreds of route options and made dozens of modifications to the pipeline to minimize impact on the environment.”

SEPTA Dismisses Complaint from 350 Philadelphia, Nicetown Residents
350 Philadelphia and three Nicetown-Tioga residents have filed a lawsuit against SEPTA in response to the transit agency’s failure to provide public notice before approving a contract to build a fracked-gas power plant in Nicetown-Tioga.

SEPTA has rejected the lawsuit, citing “lack of capacity to sue” under Pennsylvania Rule of Civil Procedure 1028(a)(5)—among other objections.

The complaint was filed in December and invokes the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act—which requires that government agencies give public notice before they take a vote—as well as Pennsylvania’s Guaranteed Energy Savings Act, which states that these agencies must also give at least 10 days notice before voting on a contract.

“We believe that SEPTA’s refusal to provide adequate notice before voting on the gas plant is part of a larger pattern,” said Mitch Chanin of 350 Philadelphia.

SEPTA declined to comment for this story, and plaintiffs are reviewing SEPTA’s objection to the lawsuit and will respond with an amended complaint.

Leadership Changes Among Area Nonprofits
Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance announced in February that PACA co-founder and board member Jamila Medley is its new executive director. The organization’s former executive director, Peter Frank, will remain with PACA in a part-time role so he can spend more time with his family.

Women’s Way, a nonprofit organization for the advancement of women, girls and gender equality, named Diane Cornman-Levy as its new executive director.

At the William Penn Foundation, long-time program director and Interim Executive Director Shawn McCaney will now officially fill the organization’s top post. He’ll oversee a $112 million annual grantmaking budget focused on increasing high-quality educational opportunities for economically disadvantaged children; protecting the Delaware River watershed; and supporting arts, culture and the development of public spaces.

Mussel Hatchery Opens in Fairmount Park
Fairmount Water Works opened the Mussel Hatchery on Feb. 17, described as “part science lab for breeding mussel babies—part art, film, video, technology and hands-on exhibit.”

Visitors can watch educational animated shorts, take a personality quiz, take part in environmental art projects, explore an interactive digital exhibit and learn how mussels positively impact the environment.

Public Outcry Puts Hold on Law Requiring Permits for Sidewalk Planters
Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell introduced a bill in February that would have, in effect, required a permit from Licenses and Inspections and a sign-off from a council member to place a “bench, planter, fixture or other street furniture” on the sidewalk in front of a home. Blackwell said she’s putting the brakes on the bill due to blowback (urbanist PAC 5th Square collected more than 1,000 signatures in a matter of days, and many Philadelphia news outlets have covered the story), but critics remain wary that Bill No. 170087 could be reintroduced.

Protesters Rally in Response to Trump Admin’s Approval of Dakota Access Pipeline
Protesters gathered Valentine’s Day morning at Thomas Paine Plaza to call for an end to construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The Army Corps of Engineers approved the final permit needed to complete the 1,172-mile pipeline—as instructed by the Trump administration—in early February.

Philly #NoDAPL Solidarity was joined by members of the Red Warrior Society and Mothers Against Meth Alliance.

West Philly Community Mourns Loss of Advocate
Winnie Harris, a longtime and beloved civic activist, was shot and killed Feb. 3 in her home in the Powelton section of Philadelphia; no arrests have been made. She was 65.

Harris, the programming director and acting executive director at UC Green, managed biannual street tree plantings, a weekly summer tree pruning club and many other projects. She was also involved with Drexel University alumni, the nonprofit food program Share, and worked with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Philadelphia Green program and Philadelphia Flower Show.

At Harris’ funeral, it was announced that Holly Street Garden, which Harris built, decorated and maintained on a vacant lot, would be preserved from development. Among many comments from civic leaders honoring Harris’ work—including Mayor Jim Kenney—Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown included a quotation from Maya Angelou’s poem “When Great Trees Fall.”