Saturday, November 28, 2015

Philly's coming oil wars

Philly's coming oil wars


The good news: The oil business in Philadelphia -- which was on the brink of disappearing just a couple of years ago -- is suddenly booming, creating jobs and bringing money into the city.

The bad news...may be the same thing. The old Sunoco refinery in South Philadelphia, a city landmark for decades, hired back as many as 1,000 people when it reopened last year as Philadelphia Energy Solutions -- but its rebirth has raised serious questions about whether Philadelphia's infrastructure is up to the task of handling at least 5 million barrels of crude oil shipped through the highly populated core of the city every month.

Less than 5 weeks after I wrote a front page story about the environmental issues surrounding the oil trains -- including out-of-date tanker cars and growing evidence that crude oil from North Dakota is highly flammable -- disaster was averted when oil cars derailed on an 128-year-old (that's not a typo) bridge over the Schulkill River but did not rupture. Just five days later, with little fanfare, this happened:

The U.S. Coast Guard reported Friday that it was overseeing the cleanup of 50 gallons of crude oil that spilled into the Delaware River from a Sunoco facility in South Philadelphia.

An estimated 2,000 gallons of crude oil had discharged Thursday from a broken pipe onto a parking lot at the Sunoco Logistics Terminal Facility. About 200 gallons spilled into a drain, of which 50 gallons went into the river.

The Coast Guard said that a private firm was recovering the oil from the water and cleaning the drain, and that the source of the spill was secured. "We are doing our best to ensure a thorough cleanup with minimal environmental impact," said Senior Chief Petty Officer Steven Dukes, a Coast Guard marine science technician.

Obviously, the environmental damage from these episodes was fairly minimal, unlike rail accidents that caused fires and spills in North Dakota and Alabama and mass casualties in Quebec, and for that we should be grateful. But are we dodging a bullet, with so much crude oil suddenly coursing through an aging infrastructure in a highly populated city -- wilth little advance warning or public debate? When I started reporting this story late last year. even the environmental community wasn't paying close attention.

They're paying attention now. Stay tuned.

We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

Comment policy: comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Read 0 comments
comments powered by Disqus
About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.


...but not with racial slurs, potentially libelous allegations, obscenities or other juvenile noise. Such comments will, at our discretion, be deleted in their entirety, and repeat offenders will be blocked from commenting. ALSO: Any commenter advocating killing any government official will be immediately banned.

Reach Will at

Will Bunch
Also on
letter icon Newsletter