As bidders submit documents, Philly City Council asks community to weigh in on PES refinery future

Pat Loeb
November 22, 2019 - 6:52 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Potential buyers for the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery submitted preliminary bid documents Friday, but who they are remains confidential information. The southwest Philadelphia refinery is in bankruptcy after the explosion and fire there in June, and City Council held a hearing Friday to let those interested in the plant's future give suggestions for reuse.

Neighbors and environmentalists blocked traffic in front of City Hall before the hearing to protest the secrecy surrounding the sale of PES. They don't want another refinery on the site but they have no control over what happens to it. 

Nonetheless, City Council members invited them to testify about what they would like to happen to the site. 

Tilia Wongcini, 13, was among the many arguing for a greener reuse.

Related: Philadelphia City Council considering new uses for PES refinery site

"If we replace the oil refinery with some kind of green energy facility, it would create many jobs that are safer than oil refinery jobs. It would also benefit Philadelphia's economy and health and allow us to prepare for climate change and be ready for the future," Wongcini said. 

Laid off refinery worker Ryan O'Callaghan disagreed. He thinks the refinery could be operated safely, with a responsible owner, and cited the economic impact of it.

"An analysis by the University of Texas estimates that for the loss of every 100 refinery jobs, the economic output to the region will be reduced by $1 billion. That comes to $16 billion," he said. 

City officials testified they have limited influence over what happens at the site but are studying ways to ensure that the community's health and safety are protected and that it benefits the city's economy.