Public Airing of His Documentary on Refinery Fire Changed This Chester Native’s Life

Image of Bilal Motley via Emma Lee, WHYY.

Bilal Motley, a Muslim who grew up in Chester, saw his life change following a Feb. 3 public screening of his film, Midnight Oil, reports Catalina Jaramillo for WHYY.

The documentary chronicles events of the early-morning fire at the Philadelphia Energy Solutions refinery fire on Sept. 22.

The film uses news clips, security-camera footage, and reactions from workers who fought the fire and who later learned the refinery was being shut down.

Motley worked at the refinery for 13 years. When the documentary came out, his co-workers were not happy. They called him a traitor and dropped him from a Facebook group.

At the time, the former workers were lobbying to keep the refinery open. Motley didn’t think that was a good idea.

“It’s painful to say this but … I don’t think it should be, I don’t. The community doesn’t want it. We can’t just do everything based on jobs, jobs, jobs. Like, come on, let’s just be forward-thinking,” Motley said.

It’s been reported that a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge has approved sale of the refinery to a Chicago-based developer who wants to shut down the refinery and build warehouses and a logistics center instead.

Read more about Bilal Motley from WHYY here.

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