Clean Air Council Points To Energy Solutions Refinery For Pollution Problem

Filed under: Featured News,South Philadelphia,South Philly,Subject Categories |

by Monica Robinson
The Clean Air Council points to the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery in Point Breeze as a major source of air pollution in the city.
It “has been in constant violation of the Clean Air Act for the past several years and is a high priority violator as defined by the EPA (The Environmental Protection Agency),” said Matt Walker, community-outreach director for the Clean Air Council. “The refinery is responsible for 67% of the air toxic releases,” in the city, said Walker, quoting the EPA.
The refinery has violated its operating permit two dozen times during 2013-2015. It recently settled with the City of Philadelphia for $689,307.

That settlement can be found on the EPA’s ECHOS website under the “Enforcement/Compliance Details” tab at http://echo.epa.gov/detailed-facility-report?fid=110000336994#pane3110000336994.
Air Management Services, a division of the Philadelphia Dept. of Public Health, enforces the regulations. “Note, not all the air-pollution violations contained in the Notices of Violation issued by the City to PES have an effect on public health and the environment.” said Jeff Moran, AMS director of communications. He said many of the violations cited were procedural in nature, and “does not mean that an air pollutant was illegally released into the atmosphere.

PHILA. Energy Solutions Refinery in Point Breeze did not appreciate these photos being taken. Security guards claimed our reporter was suspicious, citing claims of terrorism concerns and took her license-plate number. Photo by Monica Robinson

PHILA. Energy Solutions Refinery in Point Breeze did not appreciate these photos being taken. Security guards claimed our reporter was suspicious, citing claims of terrorism concerns and took her license-plate number. Photo by Monica Robinson

“In the event of a major facility or upset at the Philadelphia Refinery, PES is required to suspend operation of affected air-pollution sources/equipment until the necessary repairs are made. PES is also required to report to the City such incidents within 24 hours,” said Moran.
According to Walker, the Clean Air Council is calling on AMS to do a health analysis for the area around the refinery “to make sure the concentration of pollutants being emitted from the refinery is going to uphold public health goals.”

But Moran states the AMS is already doing an extensive health analysis. “AMS and Clean Air Council had a meeting a couple of months ago at which we outlined for them all analysis we are doing,” said Moran. “We monitor locations around the refinery (24th & Ritner Streets, PHA). We’ve installed Continuous Emission Monitors, Continuous Opacity at the refinery at many of large sources, and we conduct stack test analysis from each source. The EPA and a third party also conduct analysis and auditing.
“PES has recently installed air-pollution monitors along the Philadelphia Refinery’s fence line,” said Moran. “Data recorded by these fence-line monitors can be found on PES’s website (http://pes-companies.com/social-responsibility/environment-safety/)”
PES was contacted for this story but did not respond to our request for comment.

MATT WALKER, Community Outreach Director for Clean Air Council, claims Phila. Energy Solutions Refinery is in constant violation of EPA standards. Photo by Monica Robinson

MATT WALKER, Community Outreach Director for Clean Air Council, claims Phila. Energy Solutions Refinery is in constant violation of EPA standards. Photo by Monica Robinson

“Philadelphia received the letter grade ‘F’ from the American Lung Association in their annual Safe Air Report from this past year,” said Walker. “That means we did not reach the federal standards for air quality for the region related to ozone specifically. Our smog is pretty bad here.
In Philadelphia, we have 25% of the kids diagnosed with having asthma, which is a lot higher than the national average,” said Walker.
The Clean Air Council is a nonprofit group that’s one of 20 organizations that’s joined a new coalition called Green Justice Philly. The coalition wants to halt the expansion of the refinery as business interests in Philadelphia push for the city to become an energy hub, which involves bringing cheap natural gas from the Marcellus Shale via pipeline.
PES sits on the Delaware River. According to the company website, it’s the largest oil-refining complex on the East Coast, employing more than 1,000 people. It’s also in the 2nd Dist. of Councilman Kenyatta Johnson.

PHILA. Energy Solutions Refinery in Point Breeze was not happy to see a reporter near grounds. Photo by Monica Robinson

PHILA. Energy Solutions Refinery in Point Breeze was not happy to see a reporter near grounds. Photo by Monica Robinson

“I understand that a number of stakeholders have discussed the concept of an energy hub in Philadelphia, but those discussions have remained conceptual,” according to the Councilman. “Any conversation regarding specific plans or proposals must include a full assessment of any potential health or environmental impacts. I will make sure that health and environmental safety is a top priority in any discussions about an energy hub.”
Green Justice Philly coordinated a community meeting earlier this month at the Tasker Street Baptist Church in South Philadelphia to talk with residents about their health concerns. “Since I moved near the refinery I have been experiencing more and more health problems,” said Malique Diarra, a member of Action United, another group under Green Justice Philly.
The meeting also talked about the refinery’s plans to expand, and recruit other fossil-fuel businesses to the Philadelphia area. The forum was the second of a series of summits in Philadelphia neighborhoods impacted by current or proposed fossil fuel infrastructure.
“My office attended both of the recent meetings on this issue in South and Southwest Philadelphia and listened to the concerns of those in attendance,” said Johnson. “My office is in regular contact with the coalition about their concerns, and I look forward to working with everyone interested in this important issue.”
Green Justice Philly is planning more community events and workshops in the future. It’s also talking with City Council about developing more sustainable energy, like helping low-income communities retrofit apartment buildings and houses with solar panels. Thus, residents could reduce their heating bills.

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