Four environmental groups in Philadelphia marked Earth Day by endorsing Jim Kenney for mayor.
While environmental groups normally steer clear of endorsing candidates, the leaders of PennEnvironment, the Sierra Club, Conservation Voters PA and Clean Water Action say this is an important election for Philadelphia.
The next mayor will follow an administration that has made a becoming “the greenest city in America” a top priority.
“Mayor [Michael] Nutter’s built up a lot of momentum around sustainability, and we need to keep that momentum and build on it,” said Josh McNeil, executive director of Conservation Voters PA. “We believe Jim Kenney has both good ideas for this city and a proven record of implementing good environmental ideas.”
The groups looked at responses to questionnaires from candidates Kenney, Lynne Abraham, Nelson Diaz and state Sen. Tony Williams.
“We looked at their voting record and history on environmental issues, and it became clear that Jim Kenney put his money where his mouth is,” said David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment.
Kenney created City Council’s Committee on Environment and sponsored bills encouraging solar projects and requiring energy-efficient “green roofs.”
Also at stake for environmentalists is their role when it comes to discussions about turning Philadelphia into a natural gas energy hub, something most of the Democratic candidates say they support.
But the groups’ endorsement of Kenney can also be seen as a vote against Williams who angered environmentalists when he supported Act 13, the controversial overhaul of the state’s rules for natural gas drilling. His wife, Shari Williams, works as a community outreach coordinator for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Pennsylvania’s top drilling trade group.
On the other hand, one of Kenney’s policy advisers is Phil Rinaldi, the CEO of the South Philadelphia oil refineries and the energy hub’s most powerful advocate.
But that doesn’t worry McNeil, who says Kenney has promised environmental groups a seat at the table.
“On any policy as complex as energy, getting advice from all sides is important, and I think what Kenney has shown is that he’s listening to us and he’s listening to Phil Rinaldi,” he said.