Energy, the environment and the 2015 Philadephia Democratic Mayoral Primary: Where the candidates stand

natural gas

OTHER ISSUES IN THE MAYOR’S RACE: Technology and Innovation | Transportation | Education | Policing | Pot | Minimum Wage

With all this talk about Philadelphia becoming the next great energy hub, our next mayor will face big decisions around energy — especially after the failed sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works.

Here’s where each stands on issues of Philly becoming an energy hub:

Lynne Abraham

Highlights of her plan:

  • Support the Philadelphia Water Department’s Stormwater Regulations, including those regulations going into effect on July 1, 2015, that tighten standards and govern the quantity and quality of runoff.
  • Consider amendments to the Zoning Code to incentivize adaptive reuse of historic buildings and new buildings with LEED certifications.
  • Ensure that transportation corridors for energy—whether by rail, ship, pipeline or other means—do not create risk to our people.
  • Encourage new manufacturing facilities in the city and provide low-cost sources of power.

On the future of PGW: Abraham criticized the failed sale of PGW, and said, “The signal that city leadership sent to the business community in the region and throughout the nation is a toxic one.”

Nelson Diaz

Highlights of his plan:

  • Support developing new energy infrastructure only if the projects have, at the least, a net zero impact on local emissions in the short term and lead to a net reduction in local emissions in the long term
  • Aggressively partner with research institutions to create innovation incubators at key locations around the city
  • Pursue a “Cap and Reduce” energy policy
  • Aggressively lobby – and sue if necessary – to protect the current moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in the Delaware River watershed and make the ban permanent
  • Putting a small fee on plastic bags at the supermarket
  • Implement green transportation infrastructure through encouraging mass transit and improving on those services
  • Halve the number of vacant and abandoned buildings in Philadelphia within two terms in office

On the future of PGW: Diaz was critical of the failed sale of PGW, saying, “It is unsurprising that the City Council did not support a plan it had no say in developing.”

Jim Kenney

Highlights of his plan:

  • Locating, cultivating and maintaining access to green space in every Philadelphia neighborhood
  • Make investments in making city buildings increasingly energy efficient
  • Update the city’s vehicle fleet and ensure that the vehicles purchased and put in service are safer for both the occupants, and for Philadelphians. These vehicles will get better gas mileage and run cleaner and longer than city vehicles have before.
  • Institute a Green Procurement Policy for the purchase of city goods
  • Further incentivize renewable energy
  • Reduce use of single-use bags and containers
  • Implement more green roof infrastructure
  • Develop more pervious surfaces

On the future of PGW: Kenney was on the City Council that killed the PGW deal, and he’s defended his inaction on it saying that, “we probably should have had a hearing.”

Doug Oliver

Oliver, a former executive with Philadelphia Gas Works, talked with GRID Magazine about his environmental and sustainability policies. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Convert the city properties that use oil and steam to natural gas
  • Analyze energy usage in older buildings to ensure they are as efficient as possible
  • Begin converting the City fleet from gasoline to natural gas
  • Position the city as an energy hub and drive job creation without sacrificing air quality
  • Enhance the safety and access from communities to the city’s bike lanes and trails

On the future of PGW: Oliver, a former PGW executive, has endorsed the idea of selling off an privatizing the Gas Works.

T. Milton Street

Milton Street thinks that turning Philadelphia into an energy hub over the next four or eight years isn’t possible, and that other issues across the city should take precedent. However, Street did tell StateImpact that he would work toward “solar bike paths” adding that “if you want to fantasize, let’s fantasize.”

On the future of PGW: Street was critical of the failed PGW sale, saying “one of the worst, most critical mistakes made in years.”

Anthony Williams

Highlights of his plan:

  • Expand funding for the Office of Sustainability
  • Use new benchmarks to establish a common vision of a culture of sustainability in every municipal agency.
  • Leveraging Pennsylvania’s natural gas economy to benefit Philadelphia’s economy, creating well-paying jobs in an environmentally safe way, and using Philadelphia’s expertise in sustainability to attract business and investment.
  • Develop a “Green Fleet Initiative” for Philadelphia to become a national leader in fuel efficient and alternative fuel municipal vehicles.
  • Partner with the U.S. Department of Transportation, and our Philadelphia congressional delegation to advocate for rail car design standards and practices that ensure the health and safety of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods.
  • Ensure that the city’s Office of Emergency Management implements a contingency and containment plan in the event of an oil train derailment.

On the future of PGW: Williams hasn’t committed to selling off PGW explicitly, but said he would support using it however Council and Mayor can agree to, adding that it could help plug gaps in revenue and spending.

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