Reverend Horace Strand and his Covanta-funded Chester Environmental Partnership
Horace Strand, a reverend of Chester's Faith Temple Holy Church, positions himself as an environmental justice leader in the City of Chester, Pennsylvania, but has been a pawn of the city's biggest polluter for years.
Strand touts his early involvement as a leader in the Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL), the grassroots environmental justice organization founded in 1991 in the City of Chester. However, Strand resigned from CRCQL on 9/20/1994 after being caught trying to embezzle a $5,500 donation to the group.
In 2005, Strand formed the Chester Environmental Partnership, funded by the city's largest air polluter and #1 environmental criminal: the Covanta Delaware Valley trash incinerator, and has been Covanta's advocate ever since.
In 1994, a $5,500 donation to CRCQL was handed to Horace Strand. CRCQL had a fully functioning board with bylaws on how the group is to make decisions. Strand did not inform the group and was not the group's treasurer. CRCQL only learned of this when Zulene Mayfield was speaking in Swarthmore and a couple mentioned their contribution. CRCQL's treasurer did not know about it.
After confronting Strand, he tendered his letter of resignation to the group, as well as an itemized financial breakdown of expenses. Strand claimed (with no documentation) that the money had been spent to enhance property he owns adjacent to his church, claiming that 2500 West Second Street is the "Proposed side of New Office of Chester Residents." CRCQL never discussed or agreed to use Strand's property as the group's office. CRCQL had to put a lien on Strand's property to require Strand to pay the money back.
After meeting about it, we came to an agreement that Strand would pay the money back in installments by December 1996. The money wasn't fully paid back until 2000. See documentation here.
Chester Environmental Partnership (CEP)
In 2005, Strand formed the Chester Environmental Partnership. Their first meeting was run by PA Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staff. Meetings would normally be held at Strand's Faith Temple church at 10am on Wednesdays if not hosted at the offices of one of the larger polluters in the city. Attendees are typically corporate polluters and governmental representatives with average Chester residents not invited or present.
In 2006, Strand signed an agreement with Covanta for the trash incinerator company to pay $30,000 a year. Each page is initialed by Strand (HWS) and the Covanta rep, Gene Bonner (EVB). It spells out how that would be spent:
- $10,000 for college level scholarships (for multiple students)
- $5,000 toward the Chester Little League.
- $5,000 toward church youth groups, and/or town landscaping projects, depending on the need for funds in these particular areas.
- $10,000 for Chester Environmental Partnership
Covanta's letter proposed that Strand would be part of the process to identify who would get the scholarships and the funding to church and other groups. In a 2021 letter, Strand states that CEP provides the scholarships through a "community benefit agreement" with Covanta amounting to as much as $80,000/year (eight scholarships awarded each year to Chester High School students, providing each with $2,500/year for four years).
Chester Environmental Partnership's website lists their membership as including Chester's two largest air polluters: Covanta (operating the nation's largest trash incinerator in Chester) and DELCORA (operating the county's sewage treatment plant and sewage sludge incinerator in Chester, a block away from Covanta).
Covanta continues to fund Chester Environmental Partnership. When confronted about it, Covanta's senior vice president, Paul Gilman, admitted in this 2019 WHYY radio interview that "yes, we are asked to support the Partnership and we do." Covanta touts this relationship in communities around the country as an example of their commitment to environmental justice. Covanta gets what they pay for.
Horace Strand and Chester Environmental Partnership have consistently come to Covanta's defense and has showered them with praise and awards.
- 2006: Supporting expanded hours of trash truck traffic in Chester: In 2006, the first year of CEP's existence, Strand endorsed Covanta getting a permit from the PA Department of Environmental Protection to expand the allowable hours of waste truck deliveries to Covanta -- trucks that still travel down residential streets. DEP approved Covanta increasing the maximum daily volume of waste from 5,250 to 5,700 tons, allows trucks to start deliveries an hour earlier in the morning, and permitted waste trucks on Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day.
- 2011: Claiming Covanta is a model company: In 2011, Strand recommended to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that Covanta is an example of a "model corporate citizen" that should sponsor an environmental justice conference that EPA held in Detroit -- around the same time that Covanta (briefly) ran the huge trash incinerator there -- which led to EPA having Covanta be the "Environmental Justice" conference's sold corporate sponsor. This pissed off local Black zero waste activists in Detroit, who gave Strand hell for it.
- 2014: Supporting 2-3 decades of NYC trash coming to Chester: In 2014, when we mobilized Chester residents to pack city hall twice to oppose 2-3 decades of trash trains from New York City, Strand spoke in favor of the deal -- not in front of residents, but on the side to the media. Chester City's Planning Commission had recommended in a unanimous 5-0 vote that City Council not approve the trash trains, but City Council listened to (then State Representative) Thaddeus Kirkland and Horace Strand, whose position were widely opposed by all Chester residents who showed up at the meetings. Strand had promised the community would get the Manhattan trash by train instead of truck, but what actually happened is that the trains pass through Chester and are transloaded onto trucks in Wilmington and are trucked back into Chester, resulting in Chester residents bearing the pollution and nuisance of trains AND trucks for this waste. See:
- 6/12/2014: Editorial: Covanta project review a model of civic engagement (Delco Times)
- 8/13/2014: Chester’s new trash complex stirs debate (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- 2019: Supporting 7 more years of burning Philly waste in Chester: Chester Environmental Partnership provided a letter to the City of Philadelphia in 2019 supporting Philly sending trash to be burned at Covanta in Chester for another seven years, in opposition to 41 organizations who publicly opposed the contract.
- 2021: Supporting Covanta as a "good neighbor" before the Delaware County Solid Waste Authority: In April 2021, Strand wrote to the Delaware County Solid Waste Authority (DCSWA), in the midst of our organizing campaign to stop DCSWA from cutting a new contract to burn the county's trash in Chester, praising Covanta and bashing us and our allies, accusing volunteer activists of being "paid activist [sic], they profit off making Covanta look like a bad neighbor, and an environmentally unsafe facility."
- Strand and CEP have given multiple awards to Covanta and their employees:
- 7/7/2016: Covanta’s John G. Waffenschmidt Honored by the Chester Environmental Partnership for Efforts in Environmental Justice
- 5/11/2018: Covanta's Alex Piscitelli Honored by the Chester Environmental Partnership for Exceptional Record of Compliance
- 5/11/2018: Chester Environmental Partnership Honors 5 With 2018 CEP Awards
- 5/11/2018: Covanta’s Alex Piscitelli Honored by the Chester Environmental Partnership for Exceptional Record of Compliance