Activists, neighbors staging protest at site of PES refinery auction in NYC

Tim Jimenez
January 17, 2020 - 7:50 am
A community activist poses with signs to be used at a protest in New York City, where the PES action will occur.

Tim Jimenez/KYW Newsradio

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UPDATED: 10 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The bankrupt Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery, the site of a massive explosion and fire last summer, is being auctioned off in New York City Friday. Environmental activists and community members are there protesting outside of the law firm where the auction is happening.

The organization Philly Thrive put together a bus trip to get protesters from the city's Grays Ferry neighborhood to the Big Apple. Fundraising coordinator Rachel Merriman-Goldring says it's a shame they even have to travel at all for this.

"Affects all of our lives here in Philadelphia, but it's all the way up in New York," she said. "This is a fight and a struggle that affects us here, but it’s happening so far away from our homes."

Merriman-Goldring says the community, particularly people living by the refinery, should have been involved in the process of deciding what happens next on the site. She says the community surrounding the refinery site was kept in the dark about the auction and who was bidding, and that can lead to dire consequences.

"When the public isn’t involved in decisions, the result of that is death. So, we’re gonna do a die-in, and we’re gonna show the impacts of having closed door decisions on communities," she said.

None of the bidders have been publicly announced. Neighbor Sonya Sanders says that isn’t right.

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"I'm a community member also. We have been forgotten," Sanders said.

Philly Thrive members say they have lingering health concerns because of pollution from the refinery and they were ignored until the plant ignited last summer.

"It took the explosion to happen for (the city) to see how serious this is," Sanders said. She says her husband is sick, and several people she knew through the years have died because of the pollution from the refinery.

"We should fight until that refinery is closed for good, because we're not having it anymore."

Many neighbors, like Mark Clincy, say the refinery has made a lot of people they know sick, so they want to see something new and safe, focusing on renewable energy, not fossil fuels.

"We had enough of fossil fuels. So, we really don’t need another one. You can even turn it green, solar power," he said. "We’re gonna send a message to them that we’ve had enough, and we aren’t gonna take it anymore."

Bidders had until last Friday to submit a proposal.