Methane testimony: Sister Donna Zwigart

Sister Donna 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 Sister Donna Zwigart, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities whose WPA regional house is in Millvale, PA

I wish to thank you for this opportunity to speak on the proposed legislation on methane emissions and their effect ont he citizens of Pittsburgh, especially the most vulneralbe who suffer from this pollutant in our atmosphere.

A few days ago we heard from Pope Francis and previously in his encyclical, Laudato Si this wise man’s concern for our planet “the Earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor.”  (Laudato Si §2) As a Franciscan, a follower of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of the environment, the poor hold a special place for me.  I am vowed to care for them, to speak for them in matters of justice and peace.

Our climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all of creation.  Every person and living creature on our planet is in relationship.  We are kin in God’s kin-dom!  We need one another and care for each other as kin.

Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas: 86 times as powerful as carbon dioxide, which makes it a powerful contributor to climate change.  It is the greatest threat ever to our common home and the residents of earth, our brothers and sisters.

When methane is released into our atmosphere along with other co-pollutants an number of air toxics are formed.  These pollutants cause serious health problems.  Smog and soot are associated with numerous serious health effects: asthma, increase in respiratory problems, COPD, emphysema, and cardiovascular problems.  Maybe this is why this Pittsburgh area has one of the dirtiest atmospheres in the United States!

This is of great concern for the residents of this area, especially those persons who can’t afford to move from their environmental justice communities.   When we see what we who produce this gas are doing to others, doesn’t our inner self, our conscience, bother us?  The air we breathe is for all people.  It is a gift from our Creator.  So if we pollute the atmosphere we are responsible for all of the respiratory health problems of others.  This is something to observe… as the Bible states: we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.  And from a faith perspective clearly the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures (Laudato Si §68).  This is a moral issue.  It is wrong to pollute our air!  Thankfully, in August the US Environmental Protection Agency took some commonsense steps by proposing standards to reduce and clean up methane pollution from our oil and gas industry.  These proposed standards would generate significant health benefits for all who breathe air!

Attention to all the existing methane emitting sources needs to be added to these proposed standards such as regular inspections for leaks on a fixed basis, use of zero-emitting equipment, etc.

Pope Francis writes that “Each community  can take from the bounty of the Earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but also has the duty to protect the earth and ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations” (Laudato Si §67)  “ Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who follow us.” (Laudato Si §159)  I


Thank you for this opportuity of voicing my opinion on the proposed methane regulation.  And I end with a prayer from Numbers 6: 24-25 “May the Lord bless you and keep you.  May the Lord turn toward you and have compassion on you.  May the Lord smile on you and give you peace.”

Public hearing: EPA Methane Hearings on September 29, 2015, Federal building, Pittsburgh