PA IPL testimony on the proposed repeal of the Clean Power Plan

The EPA has proposed repealing the vetted and passed Clean Power Plan.  The public comment period ends at 11:59 PM on April 26, 2018.  Comments may be submitted online.  PA IPL’s testimony is below, or can be accessed here as a formatted document.


For God has not given us a spirit of timidity,
but of power and love and discipline.
2 Timothy 1:7

Individuals and communities of faith from Philadelphia to Erie, and Scranton to Pittsburgh stand together as Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light in support of the Clean Power Plan and other efforts to safeguard our climate, our health, and our Common Home At your invitation, we again stand as citizens in support of the Clean Power Plan, as we have each and every time we have been asked – in 2013 listening sessions, in 2014 hearings, and again in 2017 when Administrator Pruitt asked for comments regarding regulatory reform in response to Executive Order 13777. We have also done so at the state level. We believe loving our neighbors includes behaving in ways that we do not pollute our brothers’ and sisters’ air or water, nor destabilize the climate on which their food depends. Imagine, as you read this, a chorus of us are there with you, praying as you read, and sharing relevant scripture and wisdom from our religious traditions. May these words find their way to your hearts, and from your hearts, to your heads, and hands, and pens.

“The mission of the EPA is to protect human health and the environment.”[1]
This statement may be seen as an obligation; as religious people from many traditions, we affirm obligations to also be invitations to unmeasurable rewards. When we fulfill our obligations with love, treating them as mission, and willingly acknowledging we are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers – eternally – we knit ourselves into blessed community — caring communities – looking out for one another and being of service. We are at our best when we are of service. You, yourselves, were also so committed to service that your very job description is “civil servant.”

“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. … This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality.”
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
1967 A Christmas Sermon on Peace,

Faith communities have been commenting and testifying in favor of the Clean Power Plan for years, as a matter of climate justice, and an historic step towards protecting our Common Home – the Earth, and all who live here. We are hurting from turning a willfully-blind eye to the harm we are causing. We are hurting from severing ourselves from our relationship with Creation, from trying to pretend we are somehow separate from the interdependent web of life that sustains us. We are ready to face the painful truth, and to heal.

He raised the heaven and established the balance so that you would not transgress the balance.
Give just weight – do not skimp in the balance.
He laid out the earth for all living creatures.
Qur’an 55: 7-10

You know this is not just a “faith thing” or a “green thing.” The endangerment finding means that our legal system has examined the evidence and determined that unbalancing the cycles (cycles that in turn balance the slim layer of atmosphere that makes Earth our “just right” planet) is a harm to the people of the United States. As such, the EPA is required by mission and by law to take action to limit harm.

Do not exploit the poor because they are poor
    and do not crush the needy in court,
for the Lord will take up their case
    and will exact life for life.
Proverbs 22:22-23

We are now losing ground with every moment we delay. We continue taking incremental action in our own homes, our own communities, our own congregations, and our own state, but we must not delay any further as a country. We certainly must not reject a vetted plan that will do good, allowing us to do even better as smarter technology and know-how emerge.

The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns,
but the path of the upright is a highway.
Proverbs 15:19

When we intentionally procrastinate, willfully choosing blindness to the impacts of our actions, we fall short of our purpose and potential. Surely this is true of our country as well as its citizens.   We know ourselves to be inventive people, motivated by challenge, and yet in considering this repeal, we are considering walking away from just such a challenge. We already have technology that will generate (and store) electricity without causing the kind of deep harm we experience today, and yet we are failing to use these tools widely.

It is not incumbent upon you to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it
Pirke Avot 2:21

We know you have received many, many comments with numbers of asthma attacks from ground-level ozone, fueled by warming and co-pollutants. We know you have seen the models, predicting elders likely to die from complications related to heat stress. We know you have seen medical evidence, people hospitalized with GI issues after torrential storms. We know you have seen the numbers of people who will be displaced – domestic climate change refugees. For us, as for you, those numbers represent stories, and people. Friends told to boil water, for the 5th time in a month. Children who may not play outdoors without risking their lives (though of course inactivity is its own risk). Grandmothers dead before their time. Garbage bags, bleach bottles, a favorite easy chair, and the family photos on the curb after a flood. Historic and blessed religious objects and texts, narrowly evacuated as wildfire threatens houses of worship. Each of these is a snapshot connected by heartstrings to a member of our network.

Faith communities respond to each family, each individual who comes to us, injured, traumatized and displaced, because of climate change. Prudence demands we work to stem the tide. We must, as a country, choose a better path. We are asking again: don’t undecide.

The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity,
Proverbs 22:3,8

Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?” (Ezekiel 34:18-19)

[1] https://www.epa.gov/aboutepa/our-mission-and-what-we-do, accessed 1/11/2018.

 

 

Why are carbon standards important?

PA IPL’s written testimony to the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation.splash

Docket Number: EPA-HQ-OA-2017-0190
originating from Executive Order 13777

The EPA came about as a result of fully bipartisan legislation that still had strong bipartisan support years later when it was renewed. That legislation, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act grew out of experiences across the country, including a tragic and seminal case from our Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – the Donora Smog of 1948 in which 20 people were killed directly during the incident, 700 were rendered critically ill, 50 died within a month, and mortality rates even a decade later were well ahead of nearby communities. U.S. Steel never accepted responsibility, and payouts to the injured and widowed covered little more than legal expenses.   In this country, we know that this is not right.

It is true that sometimes regulations cost corporations some money, and yet we are a people that understands that there are moral standards, moral limits. We limited child labor, no matter how plentiful and nimble the very young might be, and how much more expensive it might be to pay adults to do honest work. We understand that is the right thing to do, and so we do it.

Similarly, we know that we cannot allow industries to use our Common Home in ways that trample the green pastures on which we all feed, or muddy the waters from which we all drink. [Ezekiel 34:18].   Unfortunately, we have also learned that the drumbeat of profit can be deafening, and balance sheets blinding, and so we must, as a people, agree upon standards, limits to poor behavior.

EPA regulations are not promulgated willy-nilly. In fact, they are created over time, in consultation with stakeholders, and with public comment Continue reading Why are carbon standards important?

Comment Period: Clean Energy Incentive Program

The Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP) description.Watch for articles in local papers as openings for responsive Letters to the Editor.

On June 16, 2016 the EPA announced an incentive plan of early action credits for energy efficiency and zero-emitting renewable energy generation, with double credits for work in low income communities.   The in-person hearings were in Chicago this summer, and the comment period has just been extended to November 1.  PA IPL is always glad to see work in environmental justice communities recognized and prioritized. We are always concerned about the potential for “hot spots” under any allowances program.

It is worth knowing that states can only claim these credits once they have submitted a state plan under the Clean Power Plan (CPP), so PA will be missing credits opportunities every day that we delay.  Credits or allowances can be a problem for some kinds of emissions.  Locally-acting toxics (such as mercury) can create emissions hotspots in environmental justice (EJ) areas, so we checked in with people who study energy and toxics policy. Because the CPP regulates carbon emissions which are a harm to all, but are not an immediate local harm, this kind of hot-spot issue is less of a concern here — particularly because this incentive program will not create new coal plants. The CEIP does have the potential to get us moving much faster, which is vital — especially for the poor and vulnerable. In the best case, incentivizing early action would also shift markets to favor more and faster zero-emissions action, and that would speed coal plant retirements generally.

Sign IPL’s letter to EPA Administrator McCarthy supporting the CEIP, or submit comments of your own (DEADLINE: November 1, 2016).

Read the press release from IPL national.

Scroll down for a reprint of the letter from the policy director of Faith in Place (home of Illinois IPL), following the CEIP hearings in Chicago:

As the policy director of Faith in Place, the Illinois affiliate of Interfaith Power & Light, I’ve seen how the fossil fuel industry harms the people of Illinois. From high rates of asthma, cancer, and heart disease in communities near coal-fired power plants to the flooding, heatwaves, and wildfires affecting people from Louisiana to California, it’s clear that the health and safety of all people are jeopardized by our continued dependence on dirty fossil fuels.

That’s why I’m asking you to support Clean Energy Justice.

At a packed EPA hearing in Chicago this month, I joined with dozens of other clergy and people of faith to call on the EPA to strengthen its plan for clean energy, and to expand renewable energy and energy efficiency in economically challenged communities. But we need your help to amplify our efforts.

The EPA is accepting public comments on their proposed Clean Energy Incentive Program (CEIP). Part of the Clean Power Plan, the CEIP is a “matching fund” program that helps states invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects that are implemented in disadvantaged communities. It helps states meet their Clean Power Plan goals while encouraging access to clean, renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.
Let the EPA know you support this program. Click here to send an email to them today.

Economically challenged communities are disproportionately affected by climate change impacts, and must be prioritized in discussions for climate solutions.

As people of faith, we are called to care for the Earth and also to work for environmental justice.

Here in Illinois, our Interfaith Power & Light affiliate works in many of the communities most impacted by pollution from power plants. In Chicago we are seeing the human face of power plant pollution, from asthma to cancer to heart disease. We have a moral obligation to prioritize the benefits of the Clean Power Plan to these communities first.

And we know there is no time to waste if we want to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.

The faith voice needs to be heard: Please join me in urging the EPA to swiftly adopt the CEIP and expand renewable energy – starting with the communities that need it most.

Rev. Vance Booker; Faith in PlaceIn faith,
Rev. Booker Steven Vance, Policy Director
Faith in Place, the Illinois affiliate of Interfaith Power & Light

Methane Testimony: Dan Scheid

IMG_1844I want to thank the EPA for proposing this standard on methane emissions, which is crucial to slow climate change, to improve public health, and to protect our children’s future. I also thank you for inviting public discussion on this issue: it is not a special interest or partisan issue, but is of vital concern to every person now living on the planet, and especially to every resident of Pennsylvania and to every American.

I speak today not only as a resident of Pittsburgh but also as a person of faith, as a Catholic who is inspired by the recent visit of Pope Francis. As some of you may know, Pope Francis issued a major document called Laudato Si’ in June of this year. In Laudato Si’, Pope Francis continues the Catholic Church’s longstanding teaching on climate change, affirming that it is real, that it is a moral issue, and that prudence demands immediate and urgent action.

The encyclical follows a familiar format for Catholic teaching: See-Judge-Act. The first element is to see what is happening, to rely on the “best scientific research available” (§11) today. And science is telling us that methane pollution persists for decades; that Continue reading Methane Testimony: Dan Scheid

Press Conference: Sister Donna

Sister Donna blesses new bioswale
Sister Donna blesses new bioswale

Prior to delivering her testimony at the EPA hearing, Sister Donna Zwigart participated in a press conference with several others.  

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 want to thank you, our media representatives for taking time to hear us today as we Continue reading Press Conference: Sister Donna

Methane Testimony: Joy Bergey

JoyBergeyMy name is Joy Bergey, and I speak in my role as Director of the Environmental Justice Center of Chestnut Hill United Church. Based in Philadelphia, the Center is an inter-religious program working with congregations and individuals to address problems of environmental injustice.

The Environmental Justice Center thanks the EPA for proposing this rule. We urge that it be implemented quickly and not weakened in any way. In fact, we urge that it be strengthened.

I traveled to Pittsburgh from the city that just hosted His Holiness Pope Francis over the weekend.

Given the deeply inspiring message of the Pope, can there be doubt in anyone’s mind at this point that taking strong national action to limit climate change pollution is an urgent moral imperative?

Every major faith tradition calls on its followers to protect those at the margins of society who cannot defend themselves: the young, the old, the sick, the poor. And it is exactly these persons who are being hurt first and worst by climate change.

With no national standards in place to address methane from oil and gas wells, and with the Continue reading Methane Testimony: Joy Bergey