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 seventh in the country for impacted wells. Limiting methane emissions, as well as co-pollutants Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs), will have immediate, localized, positive impacts.

Methane is a contributor to ozone smog, which is proven to cause long-term health effects like asthma.  It is hard to wrap our minds around more than 30,000 Pennsylvania children per year who suffer asthma attacks; it is not hard to call to mind the faces of my godchildren, Nathaniel and Helena, both of whom suffer from chronic asthma.

Methane has 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide, and scientists now estimate that methane is responsible for 25% of human-caused climate change.  Though the effects of climate change are beginning to be felt across the planet, they can feel distant and abstract.  But what about the unborn, those who will inherit the legacy we have left behind?  Can you conjure up the faces, the names, of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren – and the world they will be living in – one hotter, stormier, more unpredictable and unstable?

We know there is ample evidence that reducing the release of methane into our atmosphere can only help address these public health and climate change concerns.  We also know that the June 2016 Methane Leak Detection and Repair rule has been thoroughly reviewed and been found to be commonsense, economical and easy-to-implement by the responsible industries, ultimately adding jobs and increasing profits.

So why a proposed delay in implementation?

I have noted my reasons for being at this hearing today. As a person bound by my faith, I have a moral obligation to speak truth, and to represent the interests of all beings, particularly those whose voices often go unheard – the very young and old, those without political or economic power, the unborn of our future generations, and the very air, water, soil of Creation.  The Environmental Protection Agency also has obligations.  Here I quote an excerpt from a letter I received from Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania in response to concerns I raised about the selection of Scott Pruitt as the EPA’s new Administrator. Quote:  “Mr. Pruitt has testified that he will uphold the EPA’s statutory requirement to protect our environment… Administrator Pruitt has also stated that he wants the EPA to operate within the laws that are passed by Congress … and he will not approve regulations that do not have solid legal footing and cannot survive the judicial review process.”  We know that the EPA’s initial 90-day stay was ruled unlawful.  Moreover, the EPA has stated officially that ‘the environmental health or safety risk addressed by this action may have a disproportionate effect on children.’  How can anyone with a moral sensibility possibly believe that knowingly doing harm to children – when the same can be avoided – is acceptable?

1.5 million Pennsylvanians live within a half mile of oil and gas operations. 1,300 schools are situated in the same radius.  Pennsylvania has 30,270 summer time asthma attacks: 12,206 in Philly and 8,537 in Pittsburgh.  Delaying this rule will not help those numbers decrease.

2017.07.10 group at EPAI speak this truth in love:  No further delay of the implementation of the proposed standard to capture leaking methane is acceptable.  Knowing the facts as we do, bound by our moral obligations, it would be unconscionable to not uphold this rule.  If we do not rise to the standard of our knowledge, we bear responsibility for the consequences.

On 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