Winter, 2017 Issue of Sierra Watch

In This Issue

Message from SPG Chair – Jim Wylie
  Happy New Year - Let's Get To Work


Happy New Year to everyone and thank you for your support of membership, volunteer time, donations, comments and just the effort of reading this newsletter.

The Southeastern PA Group of the Sierra Club is your local group here in the greater Philadelphia area including Phila., Delaware, Bucks, Montgomery and Chester counties. We are almost all volunteers and we take our mission seriously – to Explore, Enjoy and Protect Our Planet (starting with our community). We have a clubhouse in Philadelphia. We have many committees and activists in all 5 counties that are doing great things every day. Please visit our website for information on events, committees, outings, and more.

WELCOME NEW MEMBERS AND VOLUNTEERS - I've received so many great emails recently from people looking for ways to make a difference. Welcome.

SPG had many noteworthy accomplishments in 2016

  • A Pipeline Forum in West Chester
  • World Asthma Day Event
  • Joined Lobby Day in Harrisburg
  • Marched for Clean Energy before the Democratic National Convention
  • Supported the 350/Philly’s campaign to oppose the CHP gas plant in Nicetown
  • Tabling at Greenfest Philly – we connected with over 100 tree huggers
  • Stood w/Standing Rock rally at Sunoco HQ in Newtown Square
  • Arranged Education Programs at CCP: Philadelphia Sustainability, Carbon Tax, SUWA, Environmental Justice, Report from Paris COP21
  • Organized hikes and paddles on MeetUp with newly trained outings leaders. Join!
  • Started our Ready For 100 campaign
  • Two outing events with local veterans at Camp Elk Tannery
  • Endorsed and campaigned with local candidates that have led the way on environmental issues
  • Distributed Quarterly Newsletters that keep our members informed and provide a forum to express our concerns
  • We said goodbye to Gary Lytle, our Beyond Coal organizer for several years
  • and welcomed Charlie Isaacs, our new Philly Climate Works PA Chapter staff person

We plan to do more in 2017, much more. Since Nov 8 I’ve received so many emails from people asking to volunteer with the Sierra Club. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I am thankful. Here’s what I see us doing in 2017 – tell me what you think!

PLAY DEFENSE – We joined activists all across the country for a Day of Action on January 9 to protest Trump's cabinet nominations for EPA, State, Interior and Energy. This is just the first of many actions before and after Jan 20 when Trump officially takes office. Several hundred people marched from Senator Casey's office in Philadelphia to Senator Toomey's office calling on them to reject Trump's nominations.

LOCAL ORGANIZING - I’d like to see groups of people in Philadelphia neighborhoods, suburban townships and counties get together to talk about: politics, outings, environmental issues, promoting clean energy, etc. Contact me if you need help finding a meeting room, but you don’t need me.

EXPLORE and ENJOY – We have many wonderful natural areas in the greater Philadelphia region. We need to do more than read about them. We need to get wet, get dirty and have some fun in the process. We are going to have outings in all 5 counties. This is a great way to meet up with other local tree huggers who share your interests and priorities.

PUSH for TRANSITION to RENEWABLE ENERGY – We will advocate to increase clean energy solutions in our communities. We will resist the expansion of old, dirty solutions. We will try to bring people, governments, businesses and others together to find clean energy jobs and improve the lives of those living downwind and downstream of our industrial sites.

I invite you to watch this Weather Channel interview with Jodie Van Horn, the director of the Sierra Club’s Ready For 100 program. If you want to join this campaign in the Philadelphia area, contact me.

We would love to have your input and contributions. No commitments, only opportunities.

Thanks again.

Jim Wylie
Southeastern PA Group, Chair

Women’s march for human rights
  by Karen Melton


You may have heard about the Women’s March on Washington scheduled for January 21st. It is described this way by march organizers:

“In the spirit of democracy and honoring the champions of human rights, dignity, and justice who have come before us, we join in diversity to show our presence in numbers too great to ignore. The Women’s March on Washington will send a bold message to our new administration on its first day in office, and to the world that women's rights are human rights. We stand together, recognizing that defending the most marginalized among us is defending all of us.”

Solidarity marches are planned around the country on the 21st, including one in Philadelphia on the Ben Franklin Parkway. All are welcome – women and friends and family who support women.

You can find out more about the Washington march here, and you can find out more about the Philadelphia march here.

SPG and the Community College of Philadelphia Coalition for a Sustainable Future host


Monday January 23 2017at 6:45 PM
Center for Business and Industry, 18th & Callowhill Streets, Rm C2-28

Despite the fact that many of our elected representatives deny climate change, there are no deniers in the natural world. Nearly every species of plant, insect and wildlife that can move north or move up in elevation is already doing so. Retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Ed Perry will give examples of wildlife that climate change is already affecting and actions we need to take to avoid the worst of the warming.

Contact Bill Brainerd,

  by Bill Brainerd

In November 2016, Sierra Club and Community College of Philadelphia hosted two speakers on Sustainability: Aurora Winslade, Director of Sustainability for Swarthmore College, discussed Swarthmore's present and future plans to reduce energy costs through a carbon tax program. Also speaking was Christine Knapp, Director of Greenworks, A Vision for Sustainable Philadelphia, which launched a new framework under Mayor Kenney.

Aurora Winslade, Director of Sustainability for Swarthmore College since December 2015, supplements the work of her three-person office with that of 25 student green advisors based in residence halls and ten presidential sustainability research fellows. The College has approximately 1,500 students, 180 faculty, and several hundred staff. It aims to be carbon-neutral by 2035. Yale was the first school to adopt a carbon tax. Swarthmore is also an early adopter and approved their carbon charge in spring 2016. Vassar too is active and leading the way on applying a shadow price to construction projects.

Swarthmore chose to use the social cost of a ton of carbon to be initially set at roughly $40/CO2 ton equivalent. Replacing the College's old steam heating plant with high efficiency boilers heated by natural gas seemed a way to save money, but each ton of carbon those boilers produce triggers a $40 tax under lifecycle costing. The College previously discontinued use of heavy, carbon-intensive number 6 fuel oil. Through innovative energy efficiency measures and careful scheduling of buildings, Swarthmore has reduced energy use and achieved a low energy use intensity, but still needs to make major investments in infrastructure to achieve its goals.

The current carbon charge generates $300,000 in annual revenue, which works out to approximately 1.25% of operating budgets (excluding salaries). Swarthmore’s Carbon Charge Committee is exploring how to more closely align the charge with departmentally based emissions. For example, we are exploring whether we can start by charging for travel.

A carbon tax was approved by Swarthmore's Board of Managers in February 2016. This followed the Board's twice refusing to divest the College's endowment from fossil fuel companies. The national fossil fuel divestment movement was conceived by Swarthmore students from Mountain Justice in 2010. Middlebury may have been the first college actually to divest.

There is a growing effort from colleges and universities to encourage Congress to adopt a carbon tax. 30% of them have pledged to become carbon neutral under the “Climate Leadership Commitment”. On January 6th, 2017 the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium is holding a workshop at Swarthmore to share the model of internal carbon pricing with regional schools.

Winslade favors large investments now in energy efficiency to start saving money. The College has already done most of the smaller efficiency projects. Her principal responsibility is to accelerate change. Swarthmore strives to implement governance structures that allow us to rapidly pilot and scale good ideas to achieve sustainability goals.

Swarthmore has many student internship opportunities, including those offered by the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, which can support students to work with non-profits through summer research grants. Swarthmore students are also trying to reduce waste and increase recycling. Currently, approximately 32% of waste is diverted, including 10% that is composted, a quarter of what might be. Much of our recycling, however, is not recycled because it is contaminated.

Swarthmore College is eager to partner with our community to continue to advance sustainability and help solve society’s pressing problems.


Christine Knapp, Director of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability since January 2016, talked about Greenworks: A Vision for a Sustainable Philadelphia, the new sustainability framework recently launched under Mayor Jim Kenney. The new plan builds on the success of the last eight years, during which the City tripled the residential recycling rate from 5% to 18%; built 100 miles of bike lanes and trails; started the Indego bike share program; improved stormwater management on over 800 acres of City land by adding green infrastructure; added 300 new farmers markets, gardens and farms; reduced City greenhouse gas emissions 9% and citywide emissions 2-3%; planted 128,000 trees; and made 18,000 homes and the four largest City buildings more energy efficient.

The new Greenworks has eight key vision areas:

  1. Accessible to healthy, affordable and sustainable food and drinking water
  2. Healthy outdoor and indoor air
  3. Clean, efficient, affordable energy
  4. Climate-prepared and carbon-neutral communities
  5. Quality natural resources
  6. Accessible, affordable and safe transportation
  7. Zero waste and litter free communities
  8. Engaged students, stewards and workers

The new plan was written with significant input received through five community meetings, five stakeholder meetings with issue experts, an online survey in English and Spanish that received over 300 responses, an Earth Day Twitter Chat, and an Open House that 170 people signed up for. Feedback included that the plan should be simpler, and more engaging of a wider audience.

Each vision within the report covers four pages, describing co-benefits for social equity, health, environment, and the economy; how progress is measured; what the City is committed to doing to attain the vision; and what individuals, communities and institutions can do. For example, in Vision 1, benefits to increasing access to local food include that adequate food reduces disease, sustainable farming reduces global warming; and food purchases help the local economy. The Office of Sustainability manages the City’s Food Policy Advisory Council and has an EPA grant to assess the suitability of vacant lots for agriculture and stormwater management. Individuals and institutions can help achieve the vision by buying fairly-produced, locally-grown food, while communities can host a farmers market. Interested parties can learn more about what they can do to contribute by reading the Greenworks on the Ground resource guides for individuals, communities, and institutions.

A new Greenworks Dashboard was also launched to help provide metrics to track progress. More data will be added to the dashboard over time.

Lastly, this spring the Office of Sustainability will launch the Greenworks Equity Index, which will use data to identify neighborhoods where Philadelphians aren’t benefitting from sustainability. City agencies, non-profit organizations, and community members will design specific projects in those areas to improve outcomes. For example, an Equity Index project may lead to more trees being planted in the hottest communities, or bike share stations being located in areas with transportation access barriers.

Knapp also noted that being a part of the Managing Director’s office is helpful. All the City’s operating departments are part of the Managing Director’s office, so the Office of Sustainability is able to more easily work with departments and offer assistance.

Other areas of note:

  • The City would like to see building codes updated to increase the energy efficiency of new commercial buildings, but the state’s advisory board has declined updating codes since 2009. Philadelphia is looking into ways to adopt the newer codes separately from the state
  • The City currently purchases 20% of its energy from renewable sources
  • Though no longer profitable, recycling is still cheaper than sending waste to the landfill
  • Residents said they wanted a focus on quality over quantity when it came to parks and other natural resources. The “Rebuild” initiative, which aims to invest $500 million on parks, recreation centers and libraries, is an example of the focus on quality assets. Similarly, trees planted in hotter areas of the city would have a larger impact, and therefore be more valuable.

Spontaneous Snowshoeing with the Sierra Club!
by Amy Kwasnicki

Have you ever tried snowshoeing? It's been awhile? Just curious? Come fasten on a pair of snowshoes with the Sierra Club SPG at The Woodlands in West Philly!


In partnership with REI, we are providing snowshoes for 20-30 minutes of snowshoeing around the grounds of the beautiful historic cemetery and snowy landscape. Join the Sierra Club SPG's MeetUp to get a notification for updates on snowshoe outings, and start watching for snow!

Alerts will also be posted by The Woodlands on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Event Details:

  • Meet at the gates of 40th Street and Woodlands Avenue, across from SEPTA's 40th street portal, to sign a waiver and get your shoes.
  • A free, public event provided through the efforts of Sierra Club, the Woodlands, and REI - all are welcome.
  • An all ages event! Kids must be accompanied by a parent/guardian at all times for snowshoeing.
  • There will be NO bathroom facilities so plan accordingly.
  • Got your own snowshoes? Great! Just come join in the fun!
  • NO experience or special gear needed - snowshoes attach on to your regular shoes.
  • Yes, we will also have poles available!

You Can Make A Difference In 2017 - Local Elections In Pennsylvania This Year
  by John Butler


After the election of 2016 we need to start working to defend our environment at the local level by electing Sierra members or other like-minded persons. You can be an effective, winning candidate for local office if you start now.

The offices up this year are for state and local judges, school boards, local commissioners, supervisors, tax collectors, controllers, auditors and in Delaware County (a home rule county) there are three council members and row offices this year.

The important dates are February 14th to start circulating your nomination petitions and filing them by March 7th Many only require a total of ten signatures from the members of the party you want to run on. For school board and judge you can run on both the democratic and republican ballot and many times the race is won in the primary by winning on both ballots.

The last day to register to vote in the primary is April 17th and the primary is May 16th.. Many times there is no opposition in these races especially for school board.

If you are interested or know anyone who is contact an SPG Executive Committee member and we will try help you.

More updates on the SEPTA gas-fired power plant
  by Karen Melton


SE PA Sierra Club has been standing in solidarity for a number of months with more than 50 community, health, faith and environmental groups opposed to a natural gas power plant that SEPTA has proposed building in the Nicetown neighborhood. This is a community already suffering the effects of significant pollution from sources including a 300+ SEPTA diesel bus depot. The plant is intended to operate for at least 20 years.

Although SEPTA gave assurances that the local community would be kept informed about any actions related to the plant, the SEPTA board voted to approve the plant at their November meeting, with no notice other than an agenda item on the board’s webpage.

The day of the meeting it was standing room only, and more than 50 opposition speakers had registered to make statements to the board prior to their vote.

Board chair Pat Deon told the room there would be ample time for public testimony; however, Robert Fox, a board member whose law firm is a member of the Marcellus Shale Coalition and represents clients in the natural gas industry, interrupted the public testimony to give his own version of “facts” about the plant. When the audience erupted in disapproval, the board exited to a back room. According to minutes published a month later, they had voted to approve the plant.

We are nevertheless continuing efforts to stop the plant through appeals to City Council members, and particularly to Cindy Bass, whose district includes Nicetown.

To learn more or get involved go to

Academy Town Square 2017 Kicks off with Talk/Panel Discussion on Climate Change
  with Sen Bob Casey

The 2017 Academy Town Square series of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University kicks off Thursday, Jan. 26, with Sen. Bob Casey, in a talk and panel discussion co-hosted with PennEnvironment. Casey will discuss the effects of climate change on the health of Pennsylvanians, particularly children.

Casey and a panel of health and other officials will address these issues and initiatives to promote clean energy in the first Academy Town Square of the year. Among the panelists is Jerry Fagliano, chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health.

The Academy Town Square is free. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. at The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, 1900 Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The talk begins at 7:15 p.m

Registration is required. We are told that the program will also be streamed on the PennEnvironment facebook.


Thank You For Your Support
  by Pat Beaudet

Thank you for your financial support in Nov and Dec, 2016. Members and friends who contributed during our annual fundraising campaign did so genererously, enabling SPG to cover operating expenses, support conservation campaigns and provide membership services like education programs and outings. Our matching challenge was fulfilled - we are very grateful for that.

If you have never made a donation before or if you have, it's not too late to join the 2016 campaign. Click here or mail your check to "Sierra Club, SPG" at 2401 Walnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103.