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Articles by Jon Hurdle

Jon Hurdle is a freelance journalist and a regular contributor to The New York Times on a variety of topics. He also writes for news sites in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, focusing on environmental coverage. He previously worked at Reuters, for which he was the correspondent for the U.S. mid-Atlantic states, and at Bloomberg News in London.

Featured Article

A helicopter overlooks the Philadelphia Energy Solutions Refining Complex after explosions in 2019.

This story was originally published by Yale Environment 360 and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

From the Passyunk Avenue Bridge in South Philadelphia, the view to the southeast is dominated by a massive oil refinery that once produced more petroleum products than any other on the U.S. East Coast. But the complex is now permanently closed because of a catastrophic explosion and fire in June 2019, and the subsequent bankruptcy of its former owner, Philadelphia Energy Solutions.

This vast tangle of pipes, tanks, and smokestacks forms a bleak industrial landscape on some 1,300 acres adjoining tightly packed residential neighborhoods only three miles from downtown Philadelphia.

The refinery, which began operating in 1870, was notorious as the largest single source of air pollution in the city, and for years it was blamed by nearby residents — many of them Black and poor — for high rates of asthma and cancer. They have also accused successive owners of excluding them from decisions that could affect their lives, and of providing few jobs to the surrounding community — important concerns for environmental justice, whi... Read more