Mom’s values and methane

Joy at EPAOn July 10, several Pennsylvania religious leaders traveled to Washington DC to offer in-person testimony to the EPA regarding delay of implementation of New Source Performance Standards for Methane emissions from oil and gas operations.  EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0505

My name is Joy Bergey, and I testify today as the director of the Environmental Justice Center at Chestnut Hill United Church. We are based in Philadelphia, PA.

As I was preparing this testimony, I heard clearly in my mind the life lessons my mother taught me decades ago:

  • Clean up after yourself.
  •  Spend your money wisely.
  • Leave things better than you found them.
  •  Don’t procrastinate.
  • And most of all, always be fair.

These simple messages embody our testimony on delaying the proposed rule.

Let’s start with the most important: Always be fair. This is at the heart of our work at the Environmental Justice Center. We are particularly concerned about environmental racism, which occurs when communities of color are hurt disproportionately by pollution. That’s not fair, or just.

Refusing to regulate methane pollution exacerbates climate change. And this hurts first and worst our most vulnerable populations: the very young, the very old, those living in poverty, those in fragile health, and almost invariably, communities of color.

In Philadelphia, the asthma rate is 21.5 percent, more than twice the national average[1]. In the Continue reading

Speaking the Truth in Love, within and beyond the walls

Alison CornishOn July 10, several Pennsylvania religious leaders traveled to Washington DC to offer in-person testimony to the EPA regarding delay of implementation of New Source Performance Standards for Methane emissions from oil and gas operations.  EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0505

I am Rev. Alison Cornish. I serve as the Executive Director of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power& Light. We are a community of congregations, faith-based organizations and individuals of faith responding to climate change as a moral issue, through advocacy, energy conservation, energy efficiency, and the use of clean, renewable energy.  I am ordained minister in the Unitarian Universalist tradition.

When I accepted my call to ministry, I made a commitment to always speak the truth in love.  I also accepted the charge to remember the needs of those beyond any one congregation’s walls.  It is this charge and commitment that have compelled me to travel to Washington DC today to be here.

I am here to speak this truth: there is abundant documentation that methane, including the methane that is released by the oil and natural gas industry, is a danger to public health.  In recent years, researchers, industrialists, citizens and governments have learned a great deal about the extent of emissions from oil and gas operations.   The New Source rule, the subject of today’s hearing, would cover 836 wells in PA, which is Continue reading

Green Justice Philadelphia: strategy session

Green Justice Philly (GJP) is a diverse and growing coalition of organizations committed to building a healthy, sustainable and economically just Philadelphia region.  The Philadelphia Chapter of PA IPL is one of the founding organizations of GJP and has been playing a key leadership role in strengthening the coalition.  On Thursday, June 8, GJP held a strategy session to develop our new campaign, which is focusing on stimulating the City of Philadelphia’s transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy while working wth under-resourced Philadelphia neighborhoods to develop local wealth and jobs.

The strategy session included a presentation about DC’s campaigns to move towards renewable energy.  Some 70% of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to cities; thus, cities have a significant role to play in reducing emissions.  The complexity of a campaign of this nature requires bringing together leaders, activists, communities, policy experts, and technical experts, and it is inspiring how we are coming together to find common solutions to support the health of our local and global community.  Stay tuned for more details and how you can get involved as the campaign develops.  

[NOTE: This emissions reduction work aligns with the All Hands on Deck: Going to Zero Emissions in Pennsylvania effort by a statewide coalition to work in municipalities toward specific climate pollution reduction targets; the Paris Pledge from IPL nationally allows congregations or other institutions and individuals to publicly commit to similar targets.]Green Justice Philadelphia

Gratitude to PA IPL for providing lunch and to Summit Presbyterian Church for hosting the strategy session.  

—Submitted by Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein

The strategy session was attended by about 16 people from coalition partners PA IPL, Delaware Riverkeepers Network, Clean Air Council, PA Federation Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way (a union for rail workers), Neighborhood Networks, Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT), Sierra Club, 350 Philly, solar industry (plus a call-in from an organizer of DC’s solar campaign)…with facilitation by Matthew Armstead of Training for Change.  Note that Food & Water Watch is a member of the coalition but their representative was not available.  

Religious Leaders Condemn Trump’s Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

President Trump’s announcement on June 1, 2017 that he will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement has inspired a diverse chorus of condemnation from religious leaders and organizations in the U.S. and across the globe. If your tradition or denomination has issued a statement that you don’t see listed below, please let us know. And if your tradition or denomination has not yet released a statement, ask your leaders to do so—and send them this page of religious statements for inspiration!

COP21Religious Statements Condemning U.S. Withdrawal from Paris Agreement

But wait…there’s more! Religious Statements in Support of Paris Agreement and/or Climate Action

Moving forward with municipalities.

We can move forward boldly and fairly to meet the goals of the Paris Accord even when our President chooses not to lead.  It’s already happening.  Now is the moment to invite your mayor, your city council, and your community to join the action.

Ready for 100 and Cities 100
A number of our members are working with the Ready for 100 campaign to move their cities forward, and drastically reduce their emissions.  Mayors can sign on officially — before the 2017 US Conference of Mayors meeting at the end of June is ideal.  Cities 100 is the Climate Reality Project’s effort, with varied examples to share locally.

All Hands On Deck: Going to Zero Emissions in Pennsylvania
Our friend (and 2012 recipient of our PA IPL Visionary Award) Don Brown brought together a statewide group of organizations (including PA IPL) to commit to working together getting to zero emissions by 2050.  Click through to read the declaration, which is full of official Whereas-es so that it can be used easily in official contexts, but which is also highly readable; it gives important background, and sets clear goals.  Board members Bill Lochstet and Behzad Zandieh were on hand for the official announcement in the Capitol Complex on April 25, and for the leaders’ discussion afterwards.

Ferguson Township climate resolutionAnd on Monday, May 15, Peter Buckland (2015 PA IPL cyclist, and member of the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors in greater State College) introduced this resolution to his township. Read Peter’s excellent piece on his personal blog  — he is willing to make himself available to other municipal officials wanting to move this forward.  The Board of Supervisors voted overwhelmingly to continue work toward adopting the resolution.  Township staff will review and edit, and then it will come back for public discussion, followed by supervisor deliberation.  As you see above, the supervisors heard the resolution and made their decision in the company of many.  Residents and those excited by this bold action attended the meeting, with PA IPL cyclists gathering to riding to the meeting together.  The resolution and decision were covered by WTAJ-TV news, the Johnstown Altoona CBS affiliate, and by the Public News Service.

The campaign calls on all levels of Pennsylvania government and Pennsylvania public and private sector organizations to immediately begin to adopt strategies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to achieve net zero between 2045 and 2075.   Although the challenge to prevent catastrophic warming is staggering, leadership from sub-national governments around the world is arising that offers hope. Local leadership is aware of local resources that may be invisible at national scales, and non-fossil energy prices are rapidly falling.

Cosponsors of this campaign are:

Bike Blog 2017.7 Hill Visits and goodbyes

Steinbruck Center choir room bike 2017What a whirlwind, wonderful day – there’s so much to process from this amazing trip, but let me try to put down a few impressions. We changed several things this year to accommodate 18 riders. For example, in past years people found their own places to stay in D.C., but this year we all stayed together at the Steinbruck Center. It was a good decision. On Tuesday evening, Cricket gave a mini seminar on Hill visits to the cyclists, and passed out assignments and information packets. Everyone then studied these materials to prepare for Wednesday.

bike 2017Our main job is to build and maintain relationships with our representatives. Interfaith Power & Light is a unique organization in that we regard climate change as a moral issue. We do have specific “asks” such as bipartisan legislation to support non-profits reducing their carbon footprint (H.R. 2197 / S. 981 “Energy Efficiency Materials Pilot Program”). This is the kind of program that would directly help congregations like our hosts, the UMC in Orbisonia and CRUCC in Hagerstown, with their building projects (to the left you see open space in Hagerstown ready for tenants). As we learned from Rabbi Fred at Congregation Adat Shalom, efficiency projects at houses of worship have a multiplying effect with members.on the way to the Hill bike 2017

We also, of course, strongly advocate against the proposed cuts to the EPA. (The President has proposed eliminating the EPA’s entire enforcement budget, among other things.) But to be honest, these are Band-Aids on a broken arm. To keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius, we need a complete transformation of our energy system, and the earlier we begin, the easier it will be – especially for vulnerable populations. Because we take a moral perspective, we speak for those who have no voice: our fellow creatures on this earth and future generations who will inherit the climate that we are already changing.youth and Alison bike 2017

Therefore, it is especially wonderful that we had such a large youth contingent on the trip this year – six riders in their teens! By 7 a.m. they were all up and getting ready to go, without any cajoling! We left the Steinbruck Center at 8 a.m. and took the subway to Capitol Hill en masse. Rev. Alison Cornish, PA IPL executive director, took the train from Philadelphia to join us, so we had five separate groups: Alison, Cricket, Janet & Ben, and I led groups to meetings in 17 of the 20 offices in our PA delegation. Dorothy and Louise extended our reach to meet with both Colorado Senators and two Representatives.Luther Place Steinbruck to Hill bike 2017

Each of these meetings is different, and each year is different, but let me give you some impressions from my experience and what I heard from others. First, Congress is in session, and that usually means shorter meetings, if we can get them at all. Not this year. We had lengthy discussions, often lasting 30 minutes or more. I definitely had the impression that Democrats and Republicans alike are feeling the pressure to seem more responsive to constituents.

Karl Carina THOMPSON bike 2017Nowhere was this more obvious than in the office of Rep. Thompson of the 5th district of Pennsylvania (PA-5), where GT made time to meet with us himself. GT is my own Representative, and we have nearly 700 members and fourteen member congregations in his district. “My door is open” and “Let’s meet again in Bellefonte” were repeated more than once. We discussed H.R. 2197 and the EPA, but I also pressed him on his view of our moral relationship with the earth. He rejected the notion of Creation being sacred, and said rather that it is a resource that God has given us to use, while also giving us the wisdom to use it wisely. There is something here we can share and can build on. Wise stewardship of resources is central to religious teachings, and the Congressman is concerned about invasive species and the health of agricultural and forested land in the District. We are far apart, however, on the urgency of responding to climate change.

Other meetings with Republican representatives were different. Reps. Costello (PA-6), Meehan (PA-7), and Fitzpatrick (PA-8) are all members of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, along with Democratic Rep. Boyle (PA-13). Jimmy Gray in Rep. Meehan’s office, for example, was anxious to talk about responding creatively to climate change and felt upbeat about the possibilities for real change in the current Congress. He emphasized that they fully supported the EPA and he listened carefully as Brett and Casey told their stories. In Rep. Fitzpatrick’s office, we were told that “is it time to move past oil” in building a new economy.Ted Jeff Cricket SMUCKER bike 2017

In that last meeting, it was of great help to have fellow rider Jeff Davidson along. In addition to being a member of Faith UCC, Jeff is CEO of Keystone Nano, a cutting edge biotech company in State College. It helps to have Rev. Brett Myers who speaks eloquently about our sacred duty to care and protect nature, and in Republican offices, of course it helps that over the years at least four riders have been Republicans — including Karl Raynar who is a strong supporter of Rep. Thompson yet differs with him on the urgency of responding to climate change.

This diversity of voice is a strength of our organization, but let me also relate another strength: leadership. In addition to Cricket’s amazing organizational skills and Rabbi Daniel Swartz’s vision as president of the PA IPL board, my son Noah couldn’t say enough about Alison’s skill at facilitating the meetings that he attended. Alison accompanied the youth contingent, and Noah said she did a brilliant job of helping them formulate their stories, and then giving them the time and encouragement they needed to speak in front of power (while occasionally introducing key pieces, such as the PA IPL Board Resolution on Fossil Fuel Infrastructure).

Like all non-profits, PA IPL is dependent on hundreds of individuals and our member congregations for its operating budget, and the more than 130 donors who contributed to the bike trip financial goals (THANK YOU!) have helped us to retain our outstanding staff. All of you who have read these blogs, who have kept us in your thoughts and prayers, are part of our community, and we are deeply grateful for your support.

packed truck Noah bike 2017After our visits, a couple of us dashed off to rent two cars and a truck to transport the group back to State College. Of course, I harangued the National Car Rental representative that they need to start carrying electric vehicles (they now have plenty of range to get us back home!). Karl and Carina left early, and another car headed off to take care of Bret’s broken bike, but the remnant stayed behind to clean up, pack the truck and enjoy one last meal together (Thai food!).

PA IPL is a community of congregations and individuals responding to climate change as a moral issue, and we have found that community with one another on the road. We help one another, share the burdens, and leave no one behind. I have grown very close to these people over the past five days, but I have also grown closer to my son. Let’s be honest: I barely got any sleep last night and the four-hour drive was not easy. But Noah kept me awake with story after story, reflecting on the trip, his past year, his upcoming year at Penn State. For those of you who are parents, you know how precious these moments are when you can share in the hopes and dreams, the successes and failures, of your children.before final departure bike 2017

Climate change affects us all, but by listening to, learning from, and working with one another, we can build the resilient communities that can respond to the difficulties ahead. This trip has given me that hope – thank you for being a part of it.

for all the cyclists


Donate online to PA IPL in support of the PA-to-DC cyclists
or send a check, memo: bike 2017 to PA IPL 243 S. Allen St. #337, State College, PA 16801

MANY THANKS to our 2017 silver sponsor Sun Directed

and our 2017 bronze sponsors, the KBB Beth Richards Group and Freeze/Thaw Cycles 
      FreezeThaw small