Seeking a fair, fast transition

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

Good morning. My name is Rev. Douglas Hunt.  I’m ordained clergy serving as Vice President of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light. IPL is a national organization connecting over 30,000 congregations through 40 state affiliates, working with people of all faiths and spiritual paths to meet the growing threat of climate change.

IMG_2664IMG_2666IMG_2665 I commend  the Environmental Protection Agency for their proposal for reducing CO2 and other harmful emissions from existing power plants, and urge its implementation as soon as possible.

I have two granddaughters. Their future is one very personal reason I believe this proposal is so important.  Rachel, Guinevere, and all children, should live and grow in a world that is diverse and beautiful, can nurture their spirits, and fill them with wonder, awe, and a sense of connection with all of creation.  Climate change threatens to make that impossible for them.

In addition to the love and concern I have for children and all my planetary neighbors, it is clear to me that doing all that I can to reduce the threats from climate change is both a moral and an existential obligation.

Reducing our contribution to climate change is a moral issue because it is an issue of JUSTICE —written large.

The United Nations estimated last year that there are already more than 100 million climate refugees.  As usual, the worst impacts of global climate change are affecting first and most dramatically, people living in poverty, women, and children everywhere.  It is monumentally unjust that those who have done the least to create the climate crisis are affected most immediately and directly by its consequences.

Effectively addressing the underlying causes of climate change is also an existential necessity.  It is quite literally a matter of life as death.

Our dramatically changing climate is a current crisis.  It threatens all living things on the earth.  How we respond or don’t respond to this crisis has consequences: increasing temperature extremes, stronger storms, drought, floods, are already playing a major role in devastating homes and families.

Global warming impacts grow more unpredictable and more deadly every day.

In a climate changed and not too distant future, intensified and more frequent catastrophic events, some short and some decades or even centuries long, will play a greater role in determining how people live, and, increasingly, who will live and who will die.  We need only remember Katrina, Sandy, our current droughts in the southwest, floods along the east coast, forest fires throughout the west, melting glaciers depriving agriculturalists throughout the world for signs of warming climate —I could go on, circling the planet with the growing list of similar events.

While no one event can definitely be said to be CAUSED by global warming, scientists  have concluded that the patterns and intensity are, without doubt, climate related and will only increase.

As Nobel Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu told the leaders of the Canadian government, “Only those who don’t want to listen, only those who want to be blind can’t see that we are sitting on a powder keg. If we don’t do something urgently, quickly, we won’t have a world.”

Climate change is indeed an existential issue for us!

People can do much as individuals to reduce greenhouse emissions.  But our world is now so far down the road —highest CO2 levels in our atmosphere for over 600,000 years; 354 straight months with average global temperatures above those for the average for the 20th century; average temperatures for May and June were the hottest ever identified in the history of the planet — we are so far down the road that unless governments begin to be active, persistent, and aggressive about reducing greenhouse emissions, the survival of future generations is in doubt.

At the very least my granddaughters’ future would be a far from happy one.

This EPA proposal is not THE answer to climate change, it is an important and well crafted beginning.  It has apparently had impacts well beyond the interest of concerned groups in the US.  I note that the DAY AFTER THE PRESIDENT ANNOUNCED THIS PLAN, the Chinese government announced that it would be working towards reduction goals of its own.

Let us not forget we have a moral obligation to those workers and communities that will be directly adversely affected by the global movement away from fossil fuels.  Transition plans, job training, support for local businesses, and assistance for workers will be absolutely necessary.  Assistance for the mammoth corporations that have profited from the honest work of honest people without maintaining adequate working conditions, failing to meeting safety standards, keeping wages low, seems both unnecessary and inappropriate.

I know that such transitions are possible.  At one point in my life’s journey I worked for the University of Tennessee’s Agricultural Policy Analysis Center in the Agricultural Economics department, doing sustainability research.  That office had been deeply involved in the transition of workers from the tobacco industry to farm employment and other industries.  The program was not only successful, it became a model for employment transition planning.  Here in Pennsylvania groups with disparate interests have come together to work on ways to support such transitions in the most effective way.

I want to commend the EPA’s efforts to not impose a “one size fits all” proposal.  Most states, for instance will not have Pennsylvania’s close relationship with both the production and burning of coal.  The flexibility that has been provided may be the key to successful implementation.

However, I am concerned that the nature of and standards for EPA monitoring and enforcement evaluation of state plans is not clearly described.  Major problems with other state delegations of authority demonstrates that constant monitoring is absolutely necessary.

We will also be monitoring EPA, to encourage the most rapid possible movement to finalize and implement these rules. I know personally about regulatory delays, having lived only a few miles from the Kingston coal ash spill five years ago.  I testified at EPA hearings in both Charlotte and Knoxville, (we had to embarrass the administration into holding a hearing in the state where the spill happened).  And five years later, we still do not have rules regarding such wastes.

The world cannot wait five years for these rules.

I close, urging you to hold in your hearts and souls the admonition of Bishop Tutu: “Only those who don’t want to listen, only those who want to be blind can’t see that we are sitting on a powder keg. If we don’t do something urgently, quickly, we won’t have a world.”

The EPA hearings on the (finally) proposed Carbon Pollution Standards for Existing Power Plants took place the last week in July 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.  Remarks by PA IPL supporters are published on this blog alongside PA IPL’s official remarks. When you’re inspired, submit a written comment of your own.