Catholic Social Teachings: methane, morality, and delay

Sister Mary Elizabeth ClarkOn 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 Sister Mary Elizabeth Clark, a Sister of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, special assistant for sustainability to the President of Chestnut Hill College. I am also an Ambassador of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Climate Covenant. Speaking from a faith perspective and the moral imperative of doing no harm to God’s creation, I support what Pope Francis has said in his call to us all, “Whenever human beings fail to live up to environmental responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened.  “Let us be protectors of creation.”

The tradition of Catholic social teaching offers a developing and distinctive perspective on environmental issues. We believe that the following themes drawn from the Catholic Social Justice tradition are integral dimensions of ecological responsibility:

  • A consistent respect for human life which extends to respect for all creation;
  • A world view affirming the ethical significance of global interdependence and the common good.

When considering the regulation of emissions of methane gas, which is at least 25% more damaging to the ozone layer of the atmosphere than carbon dioxide,   how can it be  ethical or moral to extend the period of application of these regulations? It could be compared to someone thinking that as a house fire is burning, it would be acceptable to give more time before the fire engines begin to turn on their hoses to extinguish the fire. Therefore, no delay is tolerable; these wells are impacting people NOW.

Particularly in Pennsylvania, which is 7th in the country for impacted wells, the New Source rule (which would cover 836 wells in Pennsylvania) would no longer have to check for and repair leaks. This certainly would be an immoral act.

I implore you to listen to your own conscience and to do the right thing. Think about those who will be most vulnerable to this decision. We know we are already out of time. Earth and our sisters and brothers already suffering cannot wait for a delay in this decision to regulate methane emissions.

Thank you for your attention to these concerns.
Mary Elizabeth Clark, SSJMary Elizabeth Clark SSJ at EPA