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Council votes for PGW’s liquid natural gas plant in South Philly

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Amid strong opposition and support

ONTARIO, CA- 041613- A UPS driver fills up a UPS truck with liquid natural gas, at the Ontario, CA UPS West Coast Hub
Corbis via Getty Images

After a contentious meeting that saw testimonies from environmental activists and representatives from Philadelphia Gas Works (PGW), council voted to approve the plan for a natural gas production facility in South Philly.

The vote for a PGW liquified natural gas plant (LNG), which would go in at the gas company’s site off West Passyunk, passed 13-4 Thursday, with council members Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Blondell Reynolds Brown, Helen Gym, and Curtis Jones voting against the bill.

The council endorsement helps push forward the $60 million Passyunk Energy Center forward. The plant is financed by Liberty Energy Trust, which will pay around $1.35 million in annual fees and profits to the city-owned facility, writes WHYY.

LNG is produced by cooling natural gas to -260 degrees Fahrenheit, making it transportable without the need for a pipeline, according to the U.S. Energy Information Association. The combustion of natural gas emits water vapor and some carbon, but less carbon than produced by other combustible fuels, says Elengy.

The facility has been a point of contention since the bill was first announced in the fall. Clean air activists claim residents and council members don’t know the full environmental impact of the plant, while supporters of PGW claim the LNG can replace fuels that are worse for the environment like diesel and oil, according to Other supporters of the plant say it will create new jobs for the area.

Discussions about the effects of the LNG plant were divided along the same lines Thursday, as multiple Philly residents addressed council.

“Protect the people who live and breathe in Philadelphia,” said Marta Gutenberg, speaking against the proposed plant and arguing that the emissions from the plant could negatively affect residents in the area.

Another speaker, Nate Holt, called the plant a, “direct attack on the city’s desire for a new green deal,” saying that the facility will emit greenhouse gasses. “If you don’t believe climate change is real, then your eyes are not open...History will reflect your record today.”

Still another opponent of the bill, Greg Holston from POWER, said his group has long supported workers’ rights and creating new jobs in the city, but said, “this is about the health of our city and not about jobs.” How long will council members rely on PGW employees to say the plant is carbon neutral, he asked.

“You don’t really know what the truth is. Vote no for a safer Philadelphia.”

But PGW representatives and supporters pushed back against the accusations, contending that the plant would create very few carbon emissions, according to PGW President and CEO, Craig White, who said the emissions from the plant are equivalent to that of seven new homes in the city.

Another supporter of the plant, Danny Bauder, who spoke at the meeting, called PGW an asset to the city and said council should support an investment in “infrastructure and good union jobs.”