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An Open Letter to Would-be Shale Profiteers: Philadelphia Won’t Be Sacrificed

December 5, 2014
Kevin Poole, of Grays Ferry Neighbors Association, speaks at press conference while crowd, with Drexel students' climate justice banner, urges shale-boom investors to rethink their plan

Kevin Poole, of Grays Ferry Neighbors Association, speaks at press conference while crowd, with Drexel students’ climate justice banner, urges shale-boom investors to rethink their plan. Rally in Philadelphia Dec 5 2014. Photo: Iris Marie Bloom

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE ATTENDEES OF “GREATER PHILADELPHIA: THE NEXT ENERGY HUB”

This letter was written by the 19 organizations listed as signatories below and distributed today to would-be investors attending the invitation-only conference, “Greater Philadelphia: The Next Energy Hub.” About 200 demonstrators showed up to say “Philadelphia is Not For Sale.” The conference, hosted by Drexel University, refused admission to Drexel University students, who were escorted out by police when they asked if they could attend. The conference refused access to all reporters except two: Andy Maykuth of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Jon Hurdle. Other news media, including WHYY / StateImpact, were refused entry. Community, civic, neighborhood, environmental and sustainable business organizations were also turned away. Here are some of the unheard voices:

December 5, 2014

Ladies & Gentlemen:

Welcome to Philadelphia, home of the Declaration of Independence. We hope that in addition to attending the “Greater Philadelphia: The Next Energy Hub” conference, you will have an opportunity to enjoy our many historic and cultural attractions and go home with a clearer understanding of our community.

Our city has a long history of citizen activism, from the earliest days of our nation through the abolition movement to many contemporary movements for peace and justice. Philadelphia is a living web of neighborhood, civic, religious and issue organizations with a well-established and effective infrastructure of organizations working for social and environmental justice. A well-developed grassroots movement has for years been resisting shale gas development in our watershed, and facilities such as liquefied natural gas plants, frack wastewater processing plants, and Philadelphia infrastructure for fracked shale gas and oil including natural gas liquids (NGLs), pipelines and Bakken crude by rail. We have been developing plans since July, 2013 to resist this newly energized effort to develop our city as a fossil fuel energy hub.

Allow us to apprise you of a few purely geological and economic factors that should concern Marcellus, Utica and Bakken Shale investors:

1. The political climate is not as friendly as you may have been led to believe. Philadelphia City Council has already passed six (6) Resolutions protecting Philadelphia, the Delaware River Watershed, and Pennsylvania from fracking. These include Resolutions for the ongoing moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River Watershed; support for a Pennsylvania State Legislature moratorium on fracking until cumulative impacts are studied (this condition has not been met); a commitment to sue the Delaware River Basin Commission if the moratorium on shale gas development in the Delaware River Basin is lifted;(i) and opposition to Act 13’s municipal rights pre-emption clauseii(now declared null and void by Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court).

2. Philadelphia City Council has a demonstrated history of responding to community concerns regarding fossil fuel infrastructure in and around the city. For example, Council acted to defeat a 2006 proposal by Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW) to build a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export facility.(iii)  More recently, City Council acted to kill a proposal to sell PGW to a private company, despite intense lobbying by the oil and gas industry to move forward with the deal. (iv)

3. The extent and profitability of Marcellus Shale Play has been exaggerated according to the U. S. Geological Survey, the Potential Gas Committee and the Energy Information Administration. (v)  These projections are more objective than those of an industry that must project a rosy picture to attract investment.

4. The profitability of any natural gas investment is far from assured, and the Federal Reserve may end its program of near zero-percent short-term interest rates as early as 2015.vi

5. The growing awareness of the impact of climate change on business and infrastructure is raising the risk of stranded assets. (vii)

6. Booms go bust. Bakken Shale drilling, extraction, waste dumping and flaring will become better regulated as a result of the recent potent New York Times series, “The Downside of the Boom.” (viii)  In addition, operational standards and tank cars for the transport of domestic crude by rail are being upgraded by the federal government. Both processes mean increased expense and reduced profitability for Bakken Shale oil as the boom approaches its bust.

And of course, there is the growing popular resistance to the fossil fuel industry and the burgeoning support for sustainable and renewable energy and energy efficiency.

We realize that you are attracted to the prospect of significant profits and the idea that you would move forward smoothly with your plans once all the pieces were put in place by industry and elected officials. That is not going to happen.

The Keystone XL Pipeline project is an example of what a determined mass movement can do. In 2005 that project was considered a done deal. Almost ten years later it is still bleeding money and not much has been built except a bigger, stronger and more determined environmental movement. The same can be said for countless high-flying plans put in place without the knowledge or consent of those most affected by the impact of those plans.

We are here, today and tomorrow, to defend the health and safety of our communities and the health and welfare of future generations. We will knock on every door in impacted communities and talk to our neighbors face to face. We will spread the message from the pulpit and in the streets. We are the ones at risk for oil train explosions, asthma and cancer-causing emissions and devastating super-storms with the flooded streets and economic havoc they bring.

The Union of Concerned Scientists released a study this fall showing that if fossil fuel use continues on its present course, within a few decades Philadelphia will experience 200 flood events per year instead of the current 19. (ix) We will not allow you to destroy Philadelphia in order to “develop” it.

Meanwhile, we will continue building a vision for our city shaped by sustainable businesses, energy efficiency and renewable energy producers, our many cooperatives and civic associations, forward-thinking entrepreneurs, our outstanding schools and hospitals, our best scientists, educators, health professionals and the good people who live, work and invest here. We welcome the participation of anyone who would like to work with us in developing living-wage green jobs, affordable, energy efficient housing, the rehabilitation of existing inefficient buildings, the improvement and expansion of public transit, the repair of our existing infrastructure and the building of new, green infrastructure.

Sincerely,
350 Philadelphia
Berks Gas Truth
Clean Air Council
Clean Water Action
Delaware Riverkeeper Network
Food & Water Watch
Keystone Catholics
Maypop Collective
North of Washington Avenue Coalition
Penn Environment
Pennsylvania Federation BMWED – Teamsters
Philadelphia Area Student Fossil Fuel Divestment Campaigns
Philadelphia Be the Change
Philadelphia Interfaith Power and Light
Philadelphia Chapter Physicians for Social Responsibility
Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign
Protecting our Waters
Rising Tide Philly
Sierra Club, Beyond Natural Gas

i https://protectingourwaters.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/philadelphia-city-council-unanimously-passes-resolution-to-sue-drbc-demand-impact-studies-forbid-frackingfor-now/

ii http://planphilly.com/articles/2012/09/27/council-resolution-supports-commonwealth-court-e2-80-99s-decision-declare-act-13-unconstitutional

iii “Philadelphia City Council Opposes PGW’s Proposed LNG Import Terminal.” Natural Gas Intelligence. http://www.naturalgasintel.com/articles/14242-philadelphiacity-council-opposes-pgw-s-proposed-lng-import-terminal
February 20, 2006

iv DeHuff, Jenny “Council kills PGW deal.” Philadelphia Daily News. http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/cityhall/Council-kills-PGW-deal.html October 27, 2014.

v http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/25/us/25gas.html

vi Loder, Asjylyn. “Shale drillers feast on junk debt to stay on treadmill.” Bloomberg. April 30, 2014; Cunningham, Nick. “How rising interest rates could spell the end
of the U.S. energy boom.” Oilprice.com. September 25, 2014.

vii http://www.bloomberg.com/now/2013-12-05/introducing-our-carbon-risk-valuation-too

viii http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/11/23/us/north-dakota-oil-boom-downside.html?_r=0

ix http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2014/10/09/report-climate-change-will-worsen-flooding-all-along-east-coast/#.VHY-7BcbKaE.mailto

4 Comments
  1. Jonik permalink
    December 5, 2014 5:31 pm

    Jon Hurdle, mentioned above, is a freelance reporter…for Phila. City Paper, NY Times, etc.

  2. December 6, 2014 2:37 pm

    Jon Hurdle was probably refused access because of this recent article he wrote for the City Paper explaining the who, what, where & how of this dirty energy hub, which I’ve been circulating.

    http://citypaper.net/news/whats-at-stake-if-philly-becomes-an-energy-hub/

    Thanks, Jon!

    • Iris Marie Bloom permalink
      December 8, 2014 2:49 pm

      I believe Jon was able to get in to report on the conference, but not without difficulty. Jon Hurdle is an important reporter who also reported on fracking and health while working for Reuters. But it’s truly outrageous that WHYY and other media outlets, as well as ALL Drexel students and ALL community groups, were refused access. What is “investment” anyway? We are all infinitely more invested in the healthy sustainable future of our city, region, state and country than are the shale profiteers. And unlike them, we have a conscience and care about life in the shalefields. Bakken Shale fracking is particularly deadly, as this article, “A Death in the Bakken,” shows http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060009722

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