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Following the June 2019 explosion at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) refinery, the city of Philadelphia now confronts major challenges associated with the future of the refinery site. Whether the site is reopened as a refinery or other chemical-processing operation, or redeveloped for other uses, the city will face challenges endemic to all kinds of public policy issues: complexity, uncertainty, dynamism, tradeoffs, and value choices. This testimony, delivered to the City of Philadelphia Refinery Advisory Group’s Environment Committee, offers three main suggestions to help guide Philadelphia officials in dealing with the future of the PES refinery site. First, city officials will need to coordinate with the private sector organizations with a direct financial stake in the site as well as the various state and federal government agencies with regulatory oversight responsibilities related to the site’s future. Second, city officials will also need to keep in close communication with labor groups, local businesses, nonprofit and community groups, and city residents—not merely listening to their concerns but demonstrating that they have been heard. Finally, officials will need to evince compassion in understanding what is at stake for all those who live and work in Philadelphia who are affected by the future of the refinery site. Overall, this testimony emphasizes that the challenges confronting Philadelphia officials are similar to those raised by other complex risk management scenarios—and that any regulator or other public official confronting such challenges should be guided by principles of regulatory excellence.


Regulators, regulation, government, environmental, health, safety, hazardous chemicals, high-hazard industries, market conditions, economic development patterns, redevelopment, regulated entities.