Statement to Philadelphia Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities Regarding the Future of Municipal Fossil Fuel Policies and PGW
Submitted on April 26, 2019, to the Philadelphia City Council Committee on Transportation and Public Utilities Hearing.
While it is in the interest of the customers for gas to be provided safely and at a reasonable price, it is also in the long-term best interest of PGW, their customers, and the broader community to transition to net-zero carbon by 2050 or sooner. It will be no easier or cheaper to do so justly if we wait to do so in thirty years when the impacts of climate change are more severe and inequities more extreme. We at 500 Women Scientists Philadelphia Pod stress the importance of a decisive and quick transition away from fossil fuel use.
Philadelphia is already experiencing the effects of climate change, with negative effects on our health and built infrastructure. We are seeing warmer winters and more rainfall in our city, and these impacts will continue to grow. Heatwaves in summers will disproportionately affect urban areas that are heat islands like Philadelphia — exacerbating air pollution and straining infrastructure. How extreme the impacts become will depend on how quickly we, along with the world, decarbonize. Meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, as the City agreed to do, will require that all buildings in Philadelphia are heated without fossil fuels within just a few decades. This will be a massive undertaking and will require that PGW’s business model diversify beyond natural gas distribution and sales as discussed in the Philadelphia Clean Energy Vision.
The urgency described by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report late last year means that we can not conduct business as usual and wait for market assessments of externalities to catch up with reality. Far from investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure, we need to be actively working to transition away from natural gas and towards carbon-free energy and increased efficiency. We urge the city and Philadelphia Gas Works to put forth clear, proactive plans for a mid-century transition away from fossil fuels not just for the company, but for the people of Philadelphia.