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PGW Sale is Dead. So Green Up, Philly!

October 31, 2014

HERE is some great news: The attempt to sell Philadelphia’s public gas utility, Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), to the highest bidder is dead.

Philadelphia City Council announced on October 27th that PGW will not be privatized because the “risks outweigh the benefits.”

Philadelphia City Council announced on October 27th that its “exhaustive” assessment of the proposed $1.86B sale is that the “risks outweigh the benefits.”

A coalition including Protecting Our Waters, Food and Water Watch, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and other organizations joined in with labor leaders and workers in a campaign for over a year to stop the sale.

We emphasized the vital need to protect good-paying jobs, low-income residents in Philadelphia, and a positive asset for the city while also fighting fracking, pushing back against the terrible impact of methane on climate, and protecting communities throughout the Marcellus Shale region from fracking pollution.

In this case, protecting our people and protecting our waters literally came together. Labor organizers, both longtime allies and newfound allies, learned more about our coalition’s objections to shale gas development, and we enjoyed standing up for, and campaigning alongside, the PGW workers’ union.

City Council’s decision is significant in the fight against fracking. The PGW sale was explicitly coupled with an attempt to “sweeten the deal” by expanding liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities in Philadelphia and otherwise ramp up the shale “energy hub” for Philly.
The Philadelphia Inquirer says as much in its major story this week about the deal-breaker.
In “$1.86B sale of Philadelphia Gas Works is Dead,” the Inquirer highlighted the fracking enthusiasm behind the privatization push:

“Business leaders had endorsed privatization as a critical part of the effort to build the region as an energy hub, connecting Philadelphia’s ports and businesses with the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom in Western and northern Pennsylvania.”

Green Up, Philly!

The people of Philadelphia have been well represented by our City Council in the crux of this decision, although we believe a more democratic process by City Council would have served the public interest better.

We hope the general public now has more of a grip on the link between keeping PGW public and fending off the voracious, polluting and climate-destroying shale gas industry. More workers and grassroots environmentalists got to know each other during this campaign; we hope those links stay strong.

Because we’ve got so much work to do together now, Philly! We need now to push for a sustainable economy transitioning as rapidly as possible away from fossil fuel extraction, transportation, processing, export, and use. That includes pushing for good-paying jobs in the transition economy, but it’s a lot more than that.

We face a mountain of work. To name just two vital areas, our goals include stopping Sunoco’s Mariner East Pipeline (which would export NGL, natural gas liquids fracked from the Marcellus Shale, overseas to Norway and Sweden from the Delaware River, if allowed); and stopping mile-long Bakken Shale oil “bomb trains” still coming through Philadelphia and endangering hundreds of thousands of people twice a day, every day.

The starting is as important as the stopping, we know.  Green Energy Transition: It’s Time! GET IT?

We can celebrate the death of the privatization deal all Halloween weekend. But come Monday, let’s push for jobs manufacturing triple-pane windows for energy efficiency, instead of plastics factories using fracked gas. Let’s push for the nonviolent path of energy audits, insulation, solar hot water heaters, and urban organic farms and gardens, instead of the violence of fossil fuel extraction, transport, and export.

There is absolutely no “silver bullet” or technocratic solution to the planetary crisis facing us. We can’t just plug in wind and solar to our existing economy, which is built on a dead model of permanent growth.

The change we need is much deeper. But as part of transition, we MUST start looking more like Germany, which generated 75% of its energy from wind and solar on some days last summer.

Let’s make Philadelphia an energy hub, all right — but not a shale energy hub! GET IT? Green Energy Transition: It’s Time.

We are grateful for the public’s outpouring of support, for over a year, for the coalition work which helped win the day for Philadelphia. Closing this door helps us open the doors to a sustainable future in which we do what we must do for the biosphere: learn how to flourish while living far more gently on this beautiful earth.
The death of this PGW sale is one death to celebrate. Happy Halloween!
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