Mayor Jim Kenney’s PES Refinery Advisory Group held the first of five public meetings Tuesday to gather input on the future of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery complex, which announced its closure and filed for bankruptcy after suffering an explosion and fire on June 21.
Neighborhood and environmental groups opposed to the refinery comprised the majority of about 175 people who attended the meeting, at Preparatory Charter School in Point Breeze. The city’s 26-member advisory group draws from labor, academia, business interests, and city government, as well as environmental and community groups.
When the advisory group’s work is finished, it will issue a public report.
The refinery operations are virtually shut down, and the plant, under the supervision of state and federal regulators, is neutralizing 30,000 gallons of hydrofluoric acid used in the refining process that are still stored on the site. Most of the 950 employees still on the payroll are scheduled to be laid off Aug. 25.
Though most speakers advocated closing the refinery, which they blame for imperiling their health, a city attorney explained that the city’s power to influence the restart or reuse of the 1,400-acre site is “very limited” because the land is privately owned and is zoned and permitted for heavy industrial use.
The city has filed papers in PES’ bankruptcy proceeding, but “we don’t have very much power there,” said Patrick K. O’Neill, the divisional deputy city solicitor for environmental law.
PES’ owners, which took over the property last year after the business went through a previous bankruptcy, are seeking to sell the property.
Here’s the schedule for the PES Refinery Advisory Group (all meetings will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Preparatory Charter School at 25th and McKean Streets):
The community committee will meet Aug. 20; the labor committee will meet Aug. 21; the environmental and academic committee will meet Aug. 27; and the business committee will meet Sept. 9.