Local Refinery’s Bankruptcy Docs Show Financial Interactions

Image caption: a cartoon mouse in a white button-down shirt, a black tie, and glasses holds a piece of paper and looks back at a factory across a river.

Story and art by Jack Grauer

U.S. law, in its discreet charm, indifferently releases arrestees’ identities even before they’re charged. Creditors’ identities, however, with some exceptions, stay private. Bankruptcy is one of those exceptions. Southwest Philly refinery Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) and some of its holding companies declared bankruptcy earlier this year. Some of the organizations with financial ties to PES, a major polluter damaging residents’ health and the environment, may come as a surprise.

A federal judge approved the refinery’s proposed reorganization plan in early April.

Most company bankruptcies fall under one of two parts of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code: Chapter 7 or Chapter 11. Chapter 7 means selling your company in pieces to repay your debts. PES declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Under Chapter 11, lawyers, judges, government and financially interested parties meet and negotiate a plan to make the company make money again.

It’s like how the sports teams in movies like The Sandlot and The Mighty Ducks always suck at first. Then someone goes, “Okay, we do X, Y and Z and then this team will be awesome.” The teams do all that and get awesome. That’s how a Chapter 11’s supposed to work.

PES released a “creditor matrix” in accordance with Chapter 11 rules. That document lists everyone with whom the bankrupt company had financial dealings.

The term “creditor” can mean different things. Unsurprisingly, names like Carlyle Group and Energy Transfer Partners, the refinery’s owners, appear on it. Somewhat surprisingly, Fairmount Park Conservancy and United Way of Pennsylvania also appear on the list.

The Philadelphia Partisan asked the latter two organizations about their involvement with PES.

The refinery “does not currently owe [United Way of Pennsylvania] money,” said organization president Kristen Rotz. “They sponsored an event we hosted two years ago, and paid their full amount of sponsorship at that time.”

The Fairmount Park Conservancy denies any financial relationship with the refiner.

This article’s online version links to the full text of PES’s creditor matrix.

Check it out. Who knows. Maybe your politically woke Reiki instructor or whatever is on there.

The Partisan will address the terms of PES’s bankruptcy in a later piece.

Drexel climate scientist Peter DeCarlo’s Powerpoint presentation, entitled “Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refinery – emissions and monitoring,” catalogs a lot of the publicly available data on what this refinery releases into Philadelphia’s air.

See also survey data available from the federal Center for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and Philadelphia Health Management Corporation’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey for evidence of elevated asthma levels in the region that surrounds PES’s refinery.

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