“listening sessions” — Rabbi Daniel Swartz

Statement of Rabbi Daniel Swartz, President, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light; Spiritual Leader, Temple Hesed of Scranton

I live in an area where thIMG_0742e scars from previous generations of coal-dependence are obvious and deep.  It’s been over 50 years since the last of mines in the Scranton area closed, and yet we are still suffering from the consequences of coal, from blighted land to ongoing stream pollution.  The injustice is nearly as obvious as the blot on the land – one generation benefited from cheap fuel, while numerous later generations pay the cost.

Yet this heritage of pollution is nothing compared to problems we are bequeathing to future generations through our indiscriminate burning of fossil fuels.  This injustice is compounded by the fact that our reckless consumption of coal is producing problems not just here but around the globe.  And these problems will be particularly severe in nations that do not have the resources to deal adequately with the spread of vector-borne diseases, droughts, floods, fires, heat-related deaths and all the other troubles that are coming with climate change.

That is why, as a person of faith committed to pursuing justice for all God’s children and throughout God’s creation, I find EPA’s commitment to limiting carbon emissions from existing power plants so heartening.  No plan to seriously address carbon pollution is credible without getting at the source of 40% of our current emissions – power plants.  It is well past time that we learn from all our past mistakes with coal and begin to shape a future where our children and grandchildren won’t have to pay the price for our use of this noxious fuel.

In the Jewish tradition there is a principle, based on a passage in Deuteronomy that specifies that houses must be built with a ma’akeh, a parapet, around the roofs.  The simplest way to state it is this:  it is far better to keep people from falling off a roof in the first place than to figure out how to treat them after they’ve fallen.  We are standing on the edge – let’s build a regulatory barrier and start to back away from worse disasters to come.  Please help our country and our world shape a more moral and just energy policy by moving ahead with your plan to regulate carbon pollution from existing power plants.

On November 8, the EPA held a “listening session” in Philadelphia, allowing a 3-minute statement about the proposal to create standards for existing power plants to limit carbon pollution by anyone who registered .  These sessions were scheduled in 11 cities across the US. 

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