Our covenant with the future.

The PA IPL board is pleased to share its first resolution, urging policymakers to stop investing in fossil fuel infrastructure as a sign that we now clearly know that the use of fossil fuels does harm.  We know we must begin to transition, and our infrastructure investments should reflect that understanding.

The board anticipates forthcoming documents providing deeper faith grounding and a second resolution calling for building TOWARD a just, sustainable, clean-energy future.

Read the resolution.PA IPL board 2016

Proposed Methane Standards: limits on methane pollution from oil and gas operations

danielmenorahInterfaith Power & Light released comments on the EPA’s announcement of proposed methane emission limits from oil and gas operations yesterday.  PA IPL’s own Rabbi Daniel Swartz was one of three faith leaders quoted. See the full release: Methane-press-release.IPL  and click through for video of leaks.

Faith Community Supports EPA’s Proposed Methane Pollution Standards Religious leaders applaud move to protect public health

SAN FRANCISCO – Faith leaders from around the country voiced strong support today as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the first-ever proposed rules to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas sites. As a toxic pollutant and potent greenhouse gas able to trap 80 times as much heat over a 20-year period as carbon dioxide, faith groups have identified methane pollution as a serous public health risk in need of regulation.

Rabbi Daniel Swartz, president of the board of Pennsylvania IPL said: Continue reading Proposed Methane Standards: limits on methane pollution from oil and gas operations

Fracking and the Green Stuff

Bill and Tabitha fracking rallyLoretta and LoraxRachel Mark with signPA IPL speaks about fracking as we do all things: as it relates to climate change, and from there, as it affects Creation and particularly the most vulnerable people.

Jump down to hear about a couple of recent public demonstrations that PA IPL leaders participated in on May 6 and June 17 (including a prayer by Rev. Loretta Collins), check out our statement on fracking ( Marcellus Principles Sept.19.2011PAIPL Marcellus Exec Summary), or read on for a bit of current background.  When you’re done, pop over to Interfaith Power & Light’s action page to add your name to the list of people of faith urging the EPA to tighten restrictions on fracking. Continue reading Fracking and the Green Stuff

Ethics of Drilling Excerpt: Effects on Poverty and Social Injustice

One is forbidden from gaining a livelihood at the expense of another’s health.
Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet, Responsa  #196

We believe that we serve God through establishing justice – and economic gains that come at the expense of harming others are unjust. Many towns in Pennsylvania have already gone through one or more cycles of boom and bust from oil and coal production.  Typically, these cycles have brought riches to few but lasting economic and social problems to many, ranging from depressed economies to scarred and infertile lands.  So far, the Marcellus Shale developments, especially without taxes or impact fees in place, seem more likely to continue this destructive pattern than to break from it.  In addition, illegal or ethically questionable practices by drilling companies have set neighbor against neighbor.

This needs to change.  Strong state or even national level regulation could help prevent a “race to the bottom” by either smaller units of government or private citizens.  It would also help prevent a “not in my backyard” mentality, whereby local groups oppose drilling in their area while still using natural gas extracted from other areas without concern.

A fee or tax system on current and future operations is imperative, and it should take into account not only short-term costs to communities, but the broader, longer-term issues such as mitigating climate change by investing in clean, sustainable energy technologies and long-term sustainable community economic development.  Knowing what we do about the history of extractive industries in Pennsylvania, we believe that it would be unethical to move forward without trying our utmost to ensure that past mistakes are not repeated.

Therefore, PA IPL can support drilling only when a state-level system is in place to prevent the repetition of such “boom and bust” cycles and to encourage long-term, sustainable economic development in communities where drilling takes place.  Furthermore, PA IPL supports efforts to help communities cooperatively resolve conflicts engendered by decisions about drilling.

Distortions to our political system

You shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.
Deuteronomy 16:19

One important reason why our nation has moved so slowly to address the increasingly urgent crisis of global climate change is that fossil fuel companies have spent millions and millions of dollars trying to convince politicians to look the other way.  It is clear that many companies involved in developing the Marcellus Shale are behaving in a similar fashion.  This creates a system that is the exact opposite of what our faith traditions teach.  Instead of valuing the “least of these,” instead of protecting the most vulnerable, instead of listening to the voices of the people, our system is following the lure of money.  While this problem is obviously not limited to Marcellus Shale drilling, it is clear that a difficult situation is made much worse by this abuse of the public trust.

Therefore, we call on elected officials throughout Pennsylvania, whether serving in local, state, or national capacities, to refrain voluntarily from accepting any contributions from companies involved in the exploration, drilling, production, transportation and sale of natural gas.

Leadership in Faith Communities

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
Matthew 5:14-15

Because global climate change is as much a moral challenge as a technical or scientific one, it is imperative that communities of faith take leadership roles in addressing this challenge.  One important way to do so is to lead by example, to demonstrate the choices that can be made right now, without waiting for any additional laws, regulations, or other governmental programs.  Pennsylvania currently gets more than one-half of its electricity from coal-fired power plants and another quarter from natural gas.  If we stop fracking in Pennsylvania but do not switch to buying clean electricity, the overall effect will be to support a coal-based economy and ensure that drilling for natural gas will continue outside of Pennsylvania.  That would not be moral leadership.

Therefore we call on congregations and all faith-based institutions, to reduce their energy usage, switch to sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind energy, and speak with their constituencies about these choices.  We also call on faith-based institutions to refrain from entering into financial agreements with natural gas exploration or extraction companies until the issues highlighted here are adequately addressed.

Marcellus Shale bill HB 1950

It is said that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Not, however, if that step is mostly in the wrong direction.  That is the case with the recent bill passed by the Pennsylvania House and Senate on Marcellus Shale drilling

A comparison to the Principles for Considering Drilling in the Marcellus Shale: an Ethical Analysis  authored by PA IPL shows how inadequate this legislative response is.  Some principles it only begins to address.  For example, instead of ensuring that overall environmental and health impacts are sharply reduced (principle 2),  this bill provides only minimal environmental protections.  Some principles it fails to address at all.  For example, this bill does absolutely nothing to move Pennsylvania toward a sustainable energy future (principle 1).  And in one case, this bill is a step backwards.  Principle 3 notes that drilling has already set neighbor against neighbor, and has done little to create sustainable economic development.  By levying the lowest fees of any state, and especially by placing the burden of levying those fees on counties, this bill will encourage the very “race to the bottom” that our principles warned of.  Drilling companies will be able to threaten to leave any counties that decide to levy fees and take their business to neighboring counties.  The disputes we have already seen may very well be exacerbated by this legislation.

We are heartened that, despite pressure both from the Governor and from those profiting from drilling, there was significant, bipartisan opposition to this bill.  We hope that future sessions of our state legislature will learn from this inadequate “solution” and draft legislation that will protect our present and help move us to a better future.

We hope that members of PA IPL and other Pennsylvanians will continue to engage in creative and constructive dialogue about these issues. 


  • If you haven’t read  Principles for Considering Drilling in the Marcellus Shale: an Ethical Analysis, we encourage you to do so.  It is a framework for thinking about the moral and ethical principles involved in the decisions we and our lawmakers must make.  Each section begins with a quote from a sacred text.  We invite individuals (both lay people and clergy) to join us by signing on to the document.  You may do so via email.  
  • State Impact PA is a collaboration of WITF, WHYY, and NPR covering “fis­cal and envi­ron­men­tal impact of Pennsylvania’s boom­ing energy econ­omy, with a focus on Mar­cel­lus Shale drilling.”  It links to newspaper articles all over the state as well as to reports on the 3 radio stations.
  • HB 1950, now Act 13.  The bill is written in legislative language, and is 174 pages long, so you may wish to refer to a more digested version, or ask your local legislator for help understanding some of the provisions. 
  • Here is a summary just of the bill’s provisions for local zoning from the Centre Daily Times.   A community forum for discussing the shale fee has been set in Centre County.  Look for opportunities for public discussion as well as local experiences and concerns in your local paper.
  • A free Public Issues Forum (cosponsored by State College Area School District Community Education,  the Schlow Centre Region Library, and the Centre Daily Times) will be held at CPI on April 14.