100 miles for solar jobs
PHILADELPHIA- Well-worn but jubilant, a band of interfaith walkers converged with around 200 citizens, prominent Philadelphia clergy, and the national activists Bill McKibben and Bishop Dwayne Royster to walk from City Hall to PECO today. This was the last mile of the 100-mile Walk for Green Jobs and Justice, which left from North Philly two weeks ago and circled through PECO’s service territory, calling for solar job growth and economic justice.
The 5-county region has plentiful sunshine. But many areas also grapple with high unemployment and poor respiratory health. This makes Southeast PA fertile ground to experience twin benefits of local solar power: good jobs and clean air.
"When I see a new industry emerging and it doesn't include people of color, my heart cries out again," said Rev. Gregory Holston of POWER. "This utility has a responsibility to the public to transform and change for justice."
On their trek, the walkers passed through 30 boroughs to connect to communities that are moving green jobs forward. They are calling for 20% of PECO’s electricity to be from local solar by 2025.
PECO gets only 0.25% of its power from solar, but diverse groups are finding benefits from the technology.
“The best way to fund redevelopment in a community is through solar energy. We recycle money back into the community, reinvesting in affordable housing,” said Jean Mitchell, a board member at Centennial Parkside CDC, which is finalizing plans to generate revenue through solar installations.
Led by Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) and Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER), the walk left on May 8 from Morris Chapel Baptist Church, a congregation in North Philly fundraising for solar and to train local youth. For the next 100 miles, walkers slowly made their way through each county of PECO’s territory saying it is time for PECO to move faster and farther for local solar.
PECO’s oil- and gas-fired power is much more expensive when the damages of its carbon pollution are recognized. Although utilities in PA have papered over those costs in their calculations, utilities in NY and other states have seen that leading the move to renewables will produce billions in net savings, as well as thousands of jobs.
Power Local Green Jobs is a faith-based economic justice campaign led by Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) and Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild (POWER). Begun in 2015, the campaign uses nonviolent direct action to pressure PECO, the largest utility in PA, to spur job growth through solar expansion in areas with high unemployment. Learn more at www.powerinterfaith.org and www.eqat.org.