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We predicted the nation's largest city bankruptcy -- 8 years ago


Pennsylvania's capital city is now filing for bankruptcy. We hate to say it, but we told them so... eight years ago. In 2003, Energy Justice founder, Mike Ewall, testified before Harrisburg City Council at the request of the coalition of black clergy in the region, warning them that if they borrowed another $125 million to rebuilt the nation's oldest and most toxic trash incinerator, it would lead the city into bankruptcy. After presenting each slide in a presentation detailing how the project's economics were not as rosy as the consultants led the city to believe, Ewall repeated: "I'm telling you, this will put the city into bankruptcy."

It was clear that the city could not dig themselves out of their massive incinerator-related debt by rebuilding the incinerator (necessary to comply with new regulations on toxic emissions that the incinerator couldn't meet, since they had off-the-charts dioxin emissions -- the worst in the nation, responsible for 28% of the entire industry's dioxin pollution). After campaigning for a few years to seek the closure of the incinerator, the heavy corruption in the city won the day and the city borrowed more money to sink into the doomed project. Not only has this caused economic hardship for the (largely minority) city residents who must pay ever-increasing taxes and utility rates in the city and suffer from the selling off of public property, but they continue to suffer from a glaring case of environmental racism -- with the nation's longest-running trash incinerator and its highly toxic ash dump not far from the city's public housing projects.

The website of the Coalition Against the Incinerator -- a grassroots group we started in 2000 -- is archived here:

A copy of the economic presentation we gave is here:
You can follow along to the audio files of the 2003 City Council meeting where it was presented.

A few articles vindicating our warning:

For further news on the city's bankruptcy, see:


"We told you so."