from “all of the above” to energy from Above

EPA public hearings on the (finally!) proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for Existing Power Plants took place the last week in July.  Remarks by PA IPL supporters vary enormously, and are worth reading.  When you’re inspired, submit a written comment of your own.   

621645_10152203441460105_2140971170_oPennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light is made up of individuals and communities of faith, responding to climate change in active, faithful hope.  We are drawn to this work by the scripture and wisdom of our traditions.  We turn to different sources for the words, but they carry a shared call to care for Creation — for the world and all who dwell in it— and to particular care for the most vulnerable people.

Climate change magnifies ills that faith communities have long responded to: food insecurity, water insecurity, disease, conflict, and many natural disasters, and we are stepping up again.   We know that the EPA’s charge is to protect the health and welfare of Americans.  We also know that the health and welfare of other beings and other peoples is at risk.  We act for them as well.

People of faith are increasingly doing what we can to limit emissions.  As much as we may take on, as meaningful and important as it is to do the work as part of our faithful walk, it takes a long time to fill a bucket with drops of water, and we no longer have that luxury.   Cutting emissions 30% from 2005 levels is a broad goal, bold enough to begin our necessary turn away from combustion, toward sustainable and renewable sources of energy.  Allowing states to develop singular paths to the shared goal allows each to showcase its particular strengths, and to shift nimbly as we develop new ways of using the resources we are freely and forever given: the wind, the sun, and the tides.

Today we know you will hear some comments that are rooted in fear instead of hope.  You will hear that the Clean Power Plan will lay off workers, and that communities are hurting.  That is partly right: communities are hurting. Mine tailings, coal dust, coal emissions, and coal ash are hurting communities—poor communities— right now, increasing lung disease, heart disease, and cancer.  The resulting climate change will hurt us all, but the poorest fare worst.  We cannot knowingly continue to stand on their backs.

Coal representatives will tell you that acting responsibly on carbon pollution will steal jobs from communities on the economic edge.  They won’t say that those jobs have never driven executive decision-making.  They won’t mention that those jobs are already in a decades-long decline, or that the decline is about bottom lines, not about federal policy nor even booming gas.  Combined coal output from West Virginia and Kentucky has held nearly steady since 1983, but mining jobs have dropped by half.  We do need to help generate new paths for employees and communities that currently depend on fossil fuels.  Holding tight to the diminishing fuels of the 18th and 19th centuries instead of reaching forward to the power of the 21st is not the way to do it.

Like our faith communities, the United States is explicitly founded on values.  As such, we have a unique opportunity to lead according to those values.  When we don’t, as we have not on climate change, our silence is deafening.  When these proposed standards were announced in June, the world took note. China immediately began hinting at an absolute cap on its own carbon emissions, and has since created 8 pilot carbon trading markets.  Christians talk about acting as a “city on a hill” — when we act as we should, using the gifts we’ve been given, the example shines, and draws others in.  PA IPL applauds these proposed standards for their leadership as well as their direct effect.

PA IPL urges the EPA to implement the carbon pollution standards as quickly as possible, and we urge states (particularly Pennsylvania) to begin creating meaningful State Implementation Plans without delay.  In order that these two steps forward are not undercut by a giant step back, we also urge the EPA to act quickly to release meaningful standards for methane, particularly extractive methane.

Faith communities are already switching off our harmful “standard mix” electricity.  We look forward to meaningful national (and international) movement from “all of the above” to power from Above.
Respectfully submitted,

Photo on 6-5-14 at 8.45 PM - Version 2Cricket Eccleston Hunter
Executive Director, PA IPL

The EPA hearings on the (finally) proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for Existing Power Plants took place the last week in July 2014 in Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Denver.  PA IPL members offered testimony both in Pittsburgh and Washington.  Testimony posted here is shared by permission of the authors.  The remarks vary enormously, and are worth reading.  When you’re inspired, submit a written comment of your own.