The Philadelphia area just lost a project to build a new $500 million manufacturing plant and employ hundreds. Blame the William Penn Foundation.
Philadelphia has the potential to be the next Houston, as we’ve explained here more than once. An article in Philadelphia two years ago laid out the case in great detail. Unfortunately, there are obstacles, as we’ve also noted and one of them is the lack of pipeline capacity coming on line as fast as we need it. The always excellent Andrew Maykuth just reported how the region lost a major new manufacturing facility that is going to Texas instead. There’s more to the story, though. It’s a family of Philadelphia elites known as the William Penn Foundation who own the blame for this loss.
Maykuth, in his account of what happened, tells how it is that Braskem America chose Texas over Pennsylvania (emphasis added):
The Delaware County site, where the Brazilian company already operates a plant, boasts proximity to the Marcellus and Utica Shale formations, which produce the natural-gas liquids that make a key ingredient in polypropylene. Marcus Hook also is close to Braskem’s customers, who convert the plastic into products ranging from carpet to yogurt cups.
But Braskem decided earlier this year to build the new production unit at its plant in La Porte, Texas. The location near Houston had a critical advantage over Marcus Hook: a ready supply of raw material from a half-dozen nearby Gulf Coast petrochemical operations.
“I was disappointed to choose Texas, but we had to choose the place where we had easy access to feedstocks,” said Mark G. Nikolich, chief executive of Braskem America, based in Center City.
Nikolich’s message at an event Tuesday sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce was that this region has not developed sufficient energy-hub infrastructure, such as pipelines, to attract big downstream investments in the shale economy.
“Decisions are already being made by businesses like ours to move elsewhere because it has not evolved in Pennsylvania fast enough, completely enough, through the entire logistics chain,” Nikolich said during a panel discussion organized by the chamber at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
It was a recurring theme at the event: The window of opportunity is shrinking to build capacity here to take advantage of Pennsylvania’s abundant gas production before the capacity is developed elsewhere.
The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce is to be highly applauded for candidly discussing this issue and bringing it to public attention. What isn’t be said, though, is that the Haas family, those scions of Philadelphia who made their money in petrochemicals and use their very private William Penn Foundation to everywhere exercise influence, are the culprits in not having enough pipeline capacity quickly enough. They’re also Chamber members and funders of the organization, so maybe it’s time for some peer pressure.
We’ve detailed the anti-development activities of the William Penn Foundation on numerous occasions, but many would prefer to look the other way because, well, the organization has influence. They’re involved not only in the Chamber, but also with Drexel University. David Haas is on the board of the Philadelphia Inquirer. They fund the DRBC. They fund StateImpact Pennsylvania.
And, they fund every pipeline opponent imaginable; the multiple interconnected shill organizations who are doing anything they can possibly do to tie up pipeline projects in endless litigation and delays. Because the $2.3 billion William Penn Foundation is a private one, it’s not permitted to engage in any lobbying but it does so anyway by the mechanism of granting generous funding to highly political “charities” that are anything but. Just the latest 990 return filed with the IRS indicates the following grants:
Sierra Club Foundation – $350,000
(“Sierra Club’s New Jersey Director, Jeff Tittel, says… there are currently 15 proposed pipelines in the Delaware River Valley that threaten drinking water supplies and the environment, including Sunoco’s Mariner East project. He says that concerned citizens must stop fracking and keep fossil fuels in the ground.”)
Penn Future – $275,000
(“We call on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to reject the proposed PennEast Pipeline. This pipeline is environmentally destructive, unnecessary and unwanted. The pipeline would cut through preserved open spaces and sensitive waterways, result in an enormous surplus of gas that we don’t need, and is opposed by landowners and municipalities along its route. We urge you to reject this proposal.” – Message paid for in part by PennFuture and New Jersey Conservation Foundation)
Clean Air Council – $200,000
(“The Clean Air Council announced Thursday that it had filed a civil action against Sunoco Pipeline… “Sunoco Pipeline has attempted to build the public narrative that it has the right to take people’s land for this project,” said Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., executive director and chief counsel of CAC. ‘We believe, after a thorough review of the law, that they do not have that right, and should not be allowed to harass and bully their way into building this harmful pipeline.’”)
Delaware Riverkeeper Network – $290,000
(“Over 237 organizations from across America have… urged Congress to direct the Government Accountability office to investigate FERC and identify much-needed legal reforms… That is the path of today’s environmental movement. It reflects the growing opposition to drilling, fracking and all the infrastructure pipelines, compressor and LNG export facilities that are destroying communities and environments to service the fossil fuel industry. It isn’t going away.” – The Delaware Riverkeeper Network)
New Jersey Conservation Foundation – $205,000
(“The fracked gas rush west of New Jersey is creating a frenzy of utility companies proposing new lines – which would cut through the New Jersey Highlands, the Pine Barrens and the Delaware River watershed – and pose a serious threat to our state’s natural heritage… With the exponential increase in pipeline proposals, there is no predicting where the next project will be announced, putting every part of New Jersey at risk.” – The New Jersey Conservation Foundation)
PennEnvironment – $110,000
(“Oil and gas giant Sunoco is threatening to seize private property across southern Pennsylvania to build the Mariner East 2, a pipeline that would be used to export gas fracked in Pennsylvania overseas. Despite community opposition, Sunoco can use eminent domain to do this as a ‘utility company’ — even though Pennsylvanians would not be their customers… Tell Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection to stop this fracking land grab and reject Sunoco’s Mariner East 2 pipeline today.” – PennEnvironment call to action
EarthJustice – $200,000
(“StateImpact PA reports that the environmental law firm Earthjustice filed the lawsuit in D.C. circuit court on behalf of several groups, including the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Patuxent Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club. Among other claims, the suit charged that FERC circumvented the law by failing to consider how the LNG terminal “would trigger expanded fracking for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region, leading to significant new amounts of air, water and climate-disrupting pollution.”)
The EarthJustice grant description also exposes what all these William Penn Foundation grants are about:
Clean Air Council, Earthjustice, and Delaware Riverkeeper Network collaboration to minimize negative impacts from natural gas pipeline infrastructure in the Delaware River watershed.
The reader needs no explanation of what these groups mean by “collaboration” and “minimiz[ing] negative impacts.” They seek nothing less than completely halting all pipeline development. This is the agenda of the William Penn Foundation, a member and funder of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is rightly concerned about losing that $500 million Braskem America investment in the Philadelphia economy — an investment that depended on pipeline capacity. Unfortunately, just talking about the problem is not enough. It’s time for those who are serious about Philadelphia’s future to look in the mirror and tackle the problem within. There’s a traitor among them.