At PECO headquarters, activists fight for corporate action on climate change

Rasa Kaye
August 01, 2019 - 10:59 am
On a broiling mid-July afternoon, three activists from EQAT (pronounced "equate") were arrested for unfurling a banner from the roof of PECO's headquarters on Market Street declaring, "Climate is changing — Why isn't PECO?"

Courtesy of Kaytee Ray-Riek, EQAT

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Earth Quaker Action Team is turning up the heat on PECO.

On a broiling mid-July afternoon, three activists from EQAT (pronounced "equate") were arrested for unfurling a banner from the roof of PECO's headquarters on Market Street declaring, "Climate is changing — Why isn't PECO?" 

It's EQAT's most public demand as to why the energy company and its parent company Exelon are dragging their feet on taking action on climate change by creating local solar jobs.

EQAT's Power Local Green Jobs is the organization's second major faith-based economic justice campaign of nonviolent direct action. 

The campaign to pressure PECO to create jobs through solar expansion in communities with high unemployment was launched in 2015, after EQAT waged a similar years-long effort that led to PNC Bank changing its investment policy in corporations involved in mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia.

"Pennsylvania is lagging massively behind neighboring states in solar jobs," explained campaign director Tabitha Skervin. "In our research, we learned that local solar energy could provide well over 20% of our region's needs, and that getting there could create thousands of new jobs. Given the urgency of the state of our climate globally, and our economy locally, we're calling on PECO to make a plan and a commitment to sourcing 20% of its electricity from local solar projects by 2025 in a way that prioritizes community-ownership and local, livable-wage jobs for our neighbors that need them most, particularly the black and brown communities that are underserved in its service area."

According to The Solar Foundation, Pennsylvania ranks No. 39 for solar workers per capita; New Jersey ranks No. 15 and Delaware sits at No. 30.

PECO has a program to connect consumers to solar energy, but EQAT is holding PECO accountable to what it calls "a solar transition with justice in the details, not vanity metrics." 

Just what does that mean, exactly?

"Making sure PECO drafts a plan that doesn't offset the cost to ratepayers," Skervin explained, "has a pipeline that connects those trained in solar jobs to local employment, and includes measurable goals that name the underserved communities that PECO will prioritize jobs training for in its service area, as well as how many jobs it plans on creating."

EQAT's advocacy efforts aren't always as dramatic as banner-dropping and they're always looking for more rebels to fight for corporate action to fight climate change, particularly this current campaign.

"Solar energy is a rapidly growing industry that creates more safe, good paying jobs than the fossil fuels industry," Skervin stressed. "Given the emergency collision we're seeing between an overheating planet cooked by fossil fuels and a region facing extreme inequality, PECO's investment in 20% local solar projects is reasonable, possible, and necessary. The current heat wave we're experiencing is a reminder that the climate crisis is upon us, and we need to move fast."