A carbon pledge, a bag ban, a tree plan: Philly’s year in environmental news and what’s next

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January 5, 2022 - 12:34pm

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This article highlights the biggest environmental news coming from Philadelphia in the year 2021. 

  • "Philadelphia vowed to be carbon neutral by 2050. One strategy for meeting this goal comes from Philly's Building Energy Performance Program, which requires all non-residential buildings over 50,000 square feet to do energy efficiency “tuneups” unless they certify as “high performance” or get an exemption. When in full effect, this program could reduce carbon emissions in Philadelphia by the equivalent of taking 40,000 cars off the roads
  • community groups in South and Southwest Philadelphia formed a coalition to negotiate a community benefits agreement with the redeveloper of the sprawling former Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery complex. Organizers of the United South/Southwest Coalition for Healthy Communities hope to reach a legally binding agreement with the developer that includes commitments around environmental health, employment, anti-displacement, and community assets. Hilco has indicated a willingness to negotiate, but the company has not said when it will start to hammer out a deal or which community groups will be involved
  • The Philly Tree Plan is expected to chart a course to increase the city’s tree coverage to 30% within 30 years, targeting areas with high levels of poverty, poor air quality, and poor health outcomes. As of 2018, 20% of the city was covered by trees.The public comment period for the Philly Tree Plan closed earlier this month. The final report is expected in early 2022.
  • The city was severely flooded by Hurricane Ida, signaling the necessity of adapting infrastructure to respond to severe weather events induced by climate change. The city hopes to get money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for planning projects that would help the city understand its risk from hazards like flooding and how to mitigate that risk. he city also plans to work with communities, particularly the low-lying, flood-prone neighborhood of Eastwick, to make residents whole from prior flooding events like Tropical Storm Isaias. The city intends to focus flood mitigation and planning efforts around the lower part of the Schuylkill, where development is slated for the former PES refinery site, the Navy Yard, and Philadelphia International Airport, Knapp said.
  • Philadelphia’s plastic bag ban, originally passed by City Council in 2019, finally went into effect in October 2021. Philadelphia businesses will need to ditch single-use plastic bags entirely by April 1, 2022, to avoid penalties.
  • The much-anticipated PGW Business Diversification Study came out in December. It aims to tackle the contradiction between the city’s carbon neutrality goal and its ownership of PGW. What's next is more studies. The report released this month does not prescribe a single path forward for PGW, but recommends pilot programs exploring “decarbonized gas,” weatherization, and geothermal energy — the path favored by advocates.More studies. The report released this month does not prescribe a single path forward for PGW, but recommends pilot programs exploring “decarbonized gas,” weatherization, and geothermal energy — the path favored by advocates.
  • This year, the city began forming a commission to make recommendations to the mayor, City Council, and city agencies around environmental justice issues. The group will consist of 10 to 15 members expected to serve two-year terms. City officials say they will prioritize Philadelphia residents who have personally experienced environmental injustice, including people living in areas burdened with high heat, flooding, or industrial pollution. The application period to serve on the commission has closed, and the city plans to announce the individuals chosen in February, said Knapp, of the city’s Office of Sustainability. 
  • The infrastructure bill President Biden signed into law in November includes money for water quality, transportation, and a record investment in climate resilience. Some residents of Eastwick want the city to go after this federal money to pay for a “land swap” that would relocate flood-threatened residents to safer spots within the neighborhood. City officials are awaiting details on other specific pots of money that will be available — how and when the city can apply for it, Knapp said. The city wants to pursue funding for weatherization, electric vehicles, flood and heat mitigation, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and building and energy codes." (Schmidt 2021)

Cite as

Sophia Schmidt, "A carbon pledge, a bag ban, a tree plan: Philly’s year in environmental news and what’s next", contributed by Morgan Sarao, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 5 January 2022, accessed 17 August 2022. https://energyrights.info/content/carbon-pledge-bag-ban-tree-plan-philly’s-year-environmental-news-and-what’s-next