A City Divided: Philadelphia' Energy Hub

A City Divided: Philadelphia' Energy Hub

This is a 16-minute documentary film about controversies around turning Philadelphia into a so-called "energy hub", a term first used by oil and gas companies 3 years ago to boost fossil fuel production in the Philadelphia region by building new pipelines and expanding existing infrastructure.

There has been a shroud of mystery about the tangible plans of this "energy hub" because proponents have tried to keep its details under wraps in case opponents were to find out and protest. There's been a lot of shouting, dredging, and propaganda, but both sides have at best only been talking past each other.

I figured a film would be an effective way of bringing the proponents and opponents of the energy hub into a debate to shed light on the likely impacts of the energy hub on health, safety, and jobs for Philadelphians. Hear the passionate opinions from the experts on energy policy. See the refinery in breathtaking detail through the optics of a 300mm telephoto lens. Feel the seriousness of what is at stake for our city, our nation, our generation.


Mark Alan Hughes, Ph.D.
Professor of Practice, PennDesign
Faculty Director, Kleinman Center for Energy Policy

Andrew Levine, Esq.
Co-chair, Environmental Practice Group
Stradley Ronon

David Masur
Executive Director

Diane Sicotte, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology, Drexel University

Joseph Minott, Esq.
Executive Director and Chief Counsel
Clean Air Council

Walter Tsou, M.D.
Former Philadelphia Health Commissioner
Physicians for Social Responsibility

John Conley
Vice President, Commercial Sales

Additional Readings

Get Involved

  • Philly Thrive: "Our campaign's goal is to unite Philadelphians around our Right to Breathe and win political support against toxic energy hub projects."
  • Clean Air Council: "The Council is Philadelphia's oldest environmental non-rofit. Founded before the EPA, before Earth Day, and before the modern Clean Air Act, we have been fighting for everyone's right to breathe clean air since 1967."
  • PennEnvironment: "Through PennEnvironment, thousands of citizen members are teaming up with a professional staff to stand up for the places we love and the environmental values we share."
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility: "PSR promotes social responsibility by protecting health, the environment, and communities through education, training, direct service, and advocacy."


Special Thanks

Ben Kalina, Me, Joe Minott, and Xiaofei Ye pose for a selfie as an oil train chugs by on February 22, 2016.

I want to thank the following people who've helped me in putting this film together:

Xiaofei Ye was my partner in this project. He was with me on every interview shoot and phone call. After he finished his LLM from Penn, he went back to Beijing and I completed the post-production.

Michael Burri was my previous writing seminar professor who told me about Professor Regina Austin's amazing Visual Legal Advocacy course in the Penn Law School, and then gave me the idea for the energy hub as a topic.

Ben Kalina was our incredible mentor who guided us through the entire documentary filmmaking process, from getting on phone calls with journalists to conducting interviews to crafting an interesting narrative.

Juliet Shen was of incredible help at the end of editing. She helped polish the story, music, and feel of the film.

Bryan Green edited the earlier version of the film into good shape for the Rough Cut Screening in November 2016. Zein Nakhoda helped shoot several of the train tracks and Philadelphia community B-roll. Vince DeJesus and Neal Swisher from Penn Law ITS, as well as Kelly Farraday from Penn Law Administrative Support, handled a lot of the logistics of renting out equipment, planning the rough cut screening, etc.

Adam Corson-Finnety and Andrea C. Anastasi brought me into their research and pointed me in the right direction very early on. Others who gave us insights via phone call include Zoe Cina-Sklar, Susan Phillips, James Christopher Mizes, Garrett Ettinger, and Molly Gott. Also special thanks to Alexa Ross and Dinah DeWald from Philly Thrive who gave me permission to shoot video footage in their community meeting in South Philly.

Mariam Durrani, Ph.D. and Arjun Shankar, Ph.D. were my mentors from Penn CAMRA and they really helped strengthen the story structure of the film. Professor Peter Decherney gave me a lot to think about in terms of distribution.

Thank you also to my friends - Anthony Anchelowitz, Matthew Mizbani, Josh Lauder, Angelo Munafo, Ryan Chun, Binu Nair - who patiently watched versions of my film and gave me very expert-like feedback. The final version of the film is a result of their opinions on a wide variety of story structure, music, B-roll, and visual issues.

Lastly, thank you to my family who were supportive of my dream to create a documentary film.