BY: ANDREA SEARS
PHILADELPHIA, – Interfaith protests and arrests marked the week before Easter as clergy and congregants demanded investment in a clean-energy grid for Philadelphia’s low-income communities.
Twenty-five people with the Power Local Green Jobs campaign were arrested for acts of peaceful civil disobedience over three days this week as they demanded more investment in local solar energy.
Greg Holt, communications manager for the Earth Quaker Action Team, points out that PECO, the Philadelphia Electric Company, gets almost two-thirds of its power from fossil fuels in a city where dirty air contributes to high rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases.
“Solar is an opportunity that can bring a lot of jobs and other economic benefits, and health and life benefits, to residents,” says Holt, “and PECO needs to lead the way.”
The demonstrators want the company to aim for getting 20 percent of its energy from solar by 2025. PECO says it agrees with the goals of the campaign, but questions the timeline.
PECO did give a grant for solar jobs training in North Philadelphia last year. But Holt notes that the company is still only getting one-half of one percent of its power from solar, the state-mandated minimum.
“When one in four families are experiencing deep poverty in Philadelphia, that’s not a time to wait,” says Holt. “That’s a time when action is needed, when vision is needed, and investment.”
The campaign organized the three demonstrations this week under the title “We Won’t Wait.”
While the protests are over for now, Holt says they will return, putting their bodies on the line for clean energy and economic opportunity.
“The company’s dirty energy business won’t go unchallenged,” says Holt. “And we will stand in the way until it’s changed direction and commits to a future for green jobs and for justice in our communities.”