DEP: Love our people through your work.

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Testimony to the Environmental Quality Board of the DEP
Proposed Rulemaking: Control of VOC Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Sources (#7-544)

Thank you to those of you who are here to listen and record testimony tonight, to those who figured out how to do the virtual hearings, and to those who have participated in outlining and refining this proposed rulemaking.   I hope that you and your families are well. 

Because this is the last step on a very long path, you already know what Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light (PA IPL) has to say about the rule:

  1. We are so glad that the rule for existing sources is finally here.  Existing sources are, after all, the source of 100% of the existing pollution from oil and gas operations in this state.
  2. The rule, as proposed, will do some important work cutting emissions from large operations.  We ask that you amend the rule to close the massive loophole for emissions from smaller operations because neither bodily systems nor ecosystems care about the size of the source.
  3. The rule, as proposed, requires inspections.  That is good.  We ask that you amend the rule to require ongoing inspections even after repeated passing grades.  It is too easy for leaks to go undetected, and many leaks occur unpredictably.  Without regular, required inspections, leaks could go on for far longer, polluting our air and atmosphere much, much more, even when people are trying to do the right thing.
  4. This rule is a good start, but it does not yet limit methane directly.  VOCs are not co-emitted with methane at the same rates across the state.  We agree that we need to limit methane emissions (this rulemaking is specifically named as part of the Methane Reduction Strategy).  When this rule —this good start— is tightened and completed, we need you to move onward to direct methane surveillance and limits.

    You have seen the Pennsylvania Climate Change Impacts Assessments.  You know that climate change is here and now, not theoretical nor eventual.  You know it impacts infrastructure, water systems, and agriculture across the state, as that was the focus of the 2020 report.  You know, too, of increasing heat and humidity in various parts of the state, the impact of which is only compounded in hotspots like Hunting Park, which can be up to 20 degrees hotter than surrounding neighborhoods — where community members don’t have the resources to run air conditioners, and heat is a direct threat to our elders. 

Those points are all specific to this rulemaking.  They are things you know, they are things we have said before, and they are things that others will detail in depth. So this evening, I’d like to take us in a different direction.  I would like to invite you to bring your whole selves into this space.  You are, after all, more than just your expertise. 

Whether or not we identify with a particular faith tradition we know, each of us, foundationally, morally, and in our bones that people are not disposable.  When we stop to think about those things that are most important to us, when we pause for gratitude and Thanksgiving, it is the people who have cared for us, celebrated with us, challenged us, and stuck by us, it is the places where we have laughed, and sung, and healed – these are the “things” for which we give thanks.  These are the “things” that weave us together.  People and places fill us and feed us as profit and stuff never will.  Americans know this.  Pennsylvanians know this.  

We know people are not disposable, and we know that our Common Home is not disposable – we know that the web of life is, in fact, a web of interconnection. 

We know real community. 
I know, and you know. 

Unfortunately, at work, there are a lot of scoresheets, and the way we keep score doesn’t have this knowledge of heart and soul the way you do, and I do, and the way the residents of our Common Wealth do.  So we need rules.  And that rulemaking is your job.  Tonight, I’m asking you to hear it as a calling.

I am asking you to use your expertise, and to bring your whole self.  Write the rules that truly protect what matters.  In doing your work, love our places.  Love our people.  Love our children’s futures, and their grandparents’ longevity.  Write the rules we need.  Here at PA IPL we see that all policy is a covenant with the future. 

I am asking each of you, and each one of your colleagues: on Friday morning, after the last of these hearings, take your whole selves to work and love us all.  Write the covenant we need.  Do it for your family, and for mine, for our Common Home, and all who live here. 

Close the loopholes.  Raise the bar.  Write a good covenant.  Finish this one, and write the next.

Testimony given virtually via WebEx on June 23, 2020
Cricket Eccleston Hunter
Director of Program, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light
paipl.org

Residents of Pennsylvania may submit written testimony until July 27.

Written comments may be submitted through DEP’s eComment webpage, by email to: RegComments@pa.gov or in writing to: Environmental Quality Board, P.O. Box 8477, Harrisburg, PA 17105-8477.  Note that comments must include that they are in response to the Proposed Rulemaking: Control of VOC Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Sources (#7-544)

Breathe.

We breathe in, and breathe out, thousands of times, every day. We don’t have to think about it.  Our bodies do it automatically.  Prompted by a complex physiology of which we might be dimly aware, our chests rise and fall – our lungs inhale and exhale, expanding and emptying – oxygen is absorbed into our bloodstream, carbon dioxide flows out of our nostrils.

As humans, we can live for quite some time without food, much less time without water; but for mere minutes without breathing.  Quite simply, it is necessary for us to breathe in order to live.

We breathe in, and out, until we don’t.  Breath is ever-present, until it isn’t.

Seared into our collective consciousness now are the last words of George Floyd, ‘I can’t breathe’ as his life was brutally ended on an ordinary day in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Just as Eric Garner’s life ended, his breath taken away. As it has been for tens of hundreds of thousands of men and women whose lives have been brutally taken from them, the same words cried out or silent.  Now those words are repeated by millions around the country who march and chant, fists raised in the air.

I can’t breathe.

Marchers wear masks, so what is breathed out doesn’t become what the person standing next to them breathes in. Because we are in the time of a pandemic, when anyone might, at any time, be contaminated; be a toxin to the stranger or lover a few inches, or feet, away. 

But you have to breathe to march and chant.  You cannot hold your breath.

Continue reading Breathe.

Injustice compounds injustice.

by Andrea Sears, Public News Service, published June 2, 2020

Sign image from the linked article.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and protests over the police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man in Minneapolis, have eclipsed many other major news stories. But according to the Rev. Alison Cornish, executive director at Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light, the long history of systemic racism sparking nationwide protests is part of the climate crisis, too.

“We know that people with fewer resources and less power and who are more oppressed are going to be people deeply affected by climate,” Cornish said.

She said the challenge is to confront racism and climate change not as separate problems, but as related crisis that must be dealt with as a whole to save the planet and each other.”

Read the full article here.

Read the May 28th statement from our friends at Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light.

Read the June 2 letter from the National IPL Board of Directors.

Position announcement to pair with our April 9th letter — Alison is departing

Each person on our mailing list received this letter on April 9, 2020. We now have an important addendum to share: the official job announcement. The hiring committee will review applications on a rolling basis until the position is filled.

Dear PA IPL friends and supporters,

As the global pandemic invites us all to focus our priorities, make unanticipated changes, and answer to our best angels, Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light remains committed to our mission while anticipating some big changes in our organization in the coming months.

This summer we will be saying goodbye to our talented and dedicated executive director, Alison Cornish, who is moving from Pennsylvania to be closer to family.

Alison has held this part-time position with PA IPL since 2015. She has led us in fostering effective conversation that crosses difference on climate change, promoting understanding, and inspiring collective action. In the past five years she has worked tirelessly to increase our base, strengthen congregational members, support chapters, and help steer the organization through a major strategic planning process. Her compassion, organizational savvy and pastoral skill have been a blessing and a gift to all who have worked with her on climate issues.

We will miss her immensely.

In these challenging months to come, the PA IPL staff and Board of Directors will continue to focus on tending to and strengthening the diverse relationships necessary to address climate change as a moral issue.  We look forward to further conversations with you as we focus on how best to apply the talents and resources of PA IPL to the challenge of the climate crisis in the current environment.

Sincerely,

on Ramadan fasting: an excerpt from “A Taste of Injustice”

An excerpt from a reflection by Dr. Melinda Krokus, PA IPL’s Board Secretary, and a member of the Ansari Qadiri Rifai Sufi Order.

O ye who believe! Fasting (l-siyāmu) is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may be mindful/conscious of God (tattaqūna)

Qur’an 2:183

One can go to the dictionary to find out what sugar is and how it is used. That is the first (Sharia) Gateway to knowledge. One feels the inadequacy of that when one sees and handles sugar, which represents the second (tarikat) Gateway to knowledge. To actually taste sugar and to have it enter into oneself is to go one step deeper into an appreciation of its nature, and that is what is meant by (marifet) experiential knowledge. If one could go still further and become one with sugar so that they could say, “I am sugar,” that and that alone would be to know what sugar is, and that is what is involved in the final (hakikat) Gateway to knowledge.


Hajji Bektash Veli (d. 1271)

The following is a typical encounter with a non-Muslim who discovers that you are fasting for the month of Ramadan. At first there is a general reaction of incredulity – a mix of amazement and skepticism.

“You don’t eat anything?” No.

“All day from sunrise to sunset?” Well, actually we stop eating just before dawn prayer (sometimes you have to explain that dawn is before sunrise, i.e. it is the morning twilight when it begins to get light but the sun has not risen yet which adds more than an hour to the fasting day) to sunset.

“For a month?” Yup – from crescent moon to crescent moon.[1]

“You must drink water then?” Uh, no.

It is about here when the restriction of drinking water is understood, especially in the summer months with their long, hot days that a variety of responses emerge somewhere along the following spectrum:
“Bit extreme isn’t it?” or “That can’t be healthy?” or to the more sarcastic ones “Oh, that must make you very holy?” (wink wink) or ….
At first, I would explain to the person astonished by Muslim fasting practices, that Ramadan is a time of increased prayer and reading of the Qur’an, and self-restraint both physically and emotionally (it is easier to lose your temper and get annoyed with people when hungry). By the looks I get sometimes you would think I’m speaking a foreign language. I’ve had eyes roll, smirks given, and an occasional “that is very interesting” and frequent and matter-of-fact statements like “I could never do that.” However, when I mention empathy with the poor, their interest is sparked and yet I find little in the tradition that expresses the depth of that connection.

Over the years of fasting and reflecting on poverty and hunger during Ramadan, I have begun to respond to remarks like “that can’t be healthy” or “that’s a bit extreme,” with “Absolutely; It is extreme and it is not healthy.” A month of fasting can in fact have its health benefits, but prolonged and especially unwilling hunger and thirst do not. It is with the intent of making the connection between fasting and justice for the poor and hungry more clear that I write this piece called “A Taste of Injustice.” Poverty and hunger in any community is more often than not evidence of broader systemic, communal, and personal injustices that we only can address in the way of God, The Just (Al-Adl), with any lasting consequence.

Breaking the fast with dates after sunset. Image source

[1] Even if the person is Christian and may have performed a forty day Lenten fast, thirty days is little consolation especially when they learn about the part about not drinking water. 

With recognition for all the ways that climate change increases injustice and decreases food security, we give our thanks to Dr. Melinda Krokus, PA IPL Board Secretary, for sharing this reflection as we approach the eve of Ramadan 2020.

Climate Action: What if it were easier? — Seth Bush of the Radical Support Collective

So many people wanted to be in more than one place at a time during our conference workshops, that we are inviting conference workshop leaders to contribute reflections for our blog. We hope that you will continue to engage with our workshop leaders, partners, and allies.

Climate Action: What if it were easier?

That was the title of a workshop led at the PA Interfaith Power & Light Annual Conference in Pittsburgh by Seth Bush, a coach for social change leaders working to heal the climate crisis.

And think about it for a moment, wouldn’t that be great if our work were even just a tiny bit easier?

Seth’s interactive workshop showed participants simple principles for taking climate action with ease rather than struggle, and they went home with a way to practice what they learned with their congregations.

Here’s what two participants had to say about the workshop:

“Being in Climate Justice work for the long haul can be very exhausting.   I have felt the heaviness, which is why I chose to attend Seth Bush’s workshop at our Pittsburgh PA IPL conference a few weeks ago.  I believe we need all the resources we can muster into our personal toolkits so we don’t get disheartened.  

Seth’s workshop did not disappoint.  I was able to come away with some simple, concrete steps that  I can take away to keep myself from feeling overwhelmed. One tip that I have already integrated into my daily life, thanks to Seth, is to keep a Gratitude journal.  I was not aware that the brain can’t handle anxiety and gratitude at the same time. Spending a few minutes every morning journaling has made an amazing difference in the management of the anxiety I was feeling.  

When my actions are frozen from feeling overwhelmed, another take-away from the workshop was to break a task that feels overwhelming into a smaller beginning step that I could easily accomplish so I will  be able to see a tangible result that will move me forward to the next step.

Seth’s workshop helped change my mind to see that in Crisis, there is Opportunity.  I would highly recommend his workshop.”

George Dempsie
Board member Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light

“PA IPL’s workshop with Seth Bush was a huge blessing in my life. The theme of doing meaningful activism with ease rather than struggle hit a chord with me. 

Activists often feel alone in their work, especially those working in faith communities. We have such high hopes and high expectations for our communities, but are often let down as complacency and fear of change are realized. Activist minded leaders see a beautiful future, but often struggle to know the small steps necessary to bring a community of people toward those potentials. Seth helped participants recognize the small steps that can be taken with ease to work toward big goals. I’ve already begun using what I learned and am excited to celebrate the small victories that will come as our church pushes, slow as it may be, toward a much greater goal of social and environmental justice.”

John Creasy
Associate Pastor, Pittsburgh Open Door

If any of this has you thinking, “Ease? I could use some of that!”, you might be interested in joining one of Seth’s Radical Support Circles. These by-donation, “drop in” coaching groups provide a space where you can get coaching to see ways to bring ease to your climate activism (and the rest of your life) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more about the Radical Support Circles here.

Or schedule a 30-minute interest chat with Seth to find out more about one-on-one coaching, group programs, and workshops.

You can read more about Seth and his work at www.radicalsupport.org/seth.