Cricket delivered this testimony at the EPA hearings in Pittsburgh on September 29, one of 3 hearings across country about proposed limits for methane emissions from new (not yet built) oil and gas operations only.
My name is Cricket Eccleston Hunter, and I am the Director of Program and Outreach for Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light, one of 40 state affiliates of Interfaith Power & Light, a religious response to climate change.
Let me begin with “thank you.” I sat in this building, at a table just like this, 14 months ago and praised the Clean Power Plan as a good beginning, and I asked that the EPA act quickly to address extractive emissions, since the end-use emissions only tell a portion of the story. So: thank you.
This new proposal is a good beginning, too. We cannot now pretend ignorance about the immediate health effects of VOCs, nor the smog that they react to create. Nor can we pretend any longer that the volume of escaping methane – a greenhouse gas 80 times more powerful than CO2 for the first 20 years – is negligible. Every time fugitive emissions are estimated and measured, it seems that the estimates rise. FLIR cameras capture vast undetected emissions even at operations that work hard to use best practices.
We cannot possibly count on every one of the 450 companies with oil and gas operations in Pennsylvania alone to use best practices. Not all 450 companies are the best. Expand that by including subcontractors, and the opportunity for harm increases. No, while we would like to assume the best of every one of these companies, and every one of these workers, every day, we need a safeguard, and for the best, we need a level playing field. We need for companies and their shareholders to understand that our atmosphere and the air we breathe are not free. They are precious. They are life-giving.
Understanding that, how could we, in good conscience, permit new operations as leaky as the old? So: these new limits are a good start. A good start, But.
But: compressors at well sites are an important part of the picture, and they are currently omitted.
But: regular inspections should be required for all operations – quarterly, at least, to keep honest people honest, as my grandmother would say, and to catch mistakes.
But: we need methane and VOCs addressed for existing operations, too, or the Clean Power Plan, shortsightedly implemented with an eye only on end use emissions, will lead us into a three-steps-forward-two-steps-back dance that lands us far too close to where we started out.
Last week, in his address to the joint session of Congress, Pope Francis elevated the calling of our legislators. He said “You are called to defend and preserve the dignity of your fellow citizens in the tireless and demanding pursuit of the common good, for this is the chief aim of all politics.” In that same speech, Pope Francis offered another ideal – one for administering the law, as you are charged with doing. “We protect, by means of the law, the image and likeness fashioned by God on every human face.” Protect the faces of the workers, daily exposed to leaks and smog. Protect the faces of the children, in the yard of the neighborhood school. Protect the faces of the poor, standing in the way of the next Sandy or Katrina.
People of faith will continue to pray. Congregations will continue to serve those at the “bust” end of the boom-and-bust extraction economy, to feed those hungry because of crop failure, homeless because of storm, or fleeing from warming-fueled conflict. We will continue to cut our energy use, becoming better-disciplined stewards of the land and of one another. Christians may turn to Matthew 25 for inspiration: Truly I tell you, whatever you did unto one of the least of my brethren, that you did unto me. Others will cite the golden rule, or recall scripture from their own traditions. We will pray for inspiration and for courage, and for the full spectrum of hopeful, skillful, and creative work that can bring us back into full community.
We will pray with hearts and hands, and we are asking you to act quickly in your work: limit the harm we have tacitly agreed to. Limit the harm we are doing to one another and to Creation. This proposed limit, the “we will not create more harm” limit is a start, but surely we can do better. Strengthen this limit, and then begin the next one, challenging us to redress wrongs already built.
Docket ID Number EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0505
Testimony delivered in person on September 29, 2015, Pittsburgh, PA.
Cricket delivered this testimony at the EPA hearings in Pittsburgh on September 29, one of 3 hearings across country about proposed limits for methane emissions from new (not yet built) oil and gas operations only. We will be printing other faith voices from those hearings, and the comment period is still open for people who want to submit online.