James Schmidt Testimony on Clean Power Plan, September 2015

On September 30, 2015, PA IPL member James A. Schmidt testified at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Clean Power Plan Listening Session and offered the following comments.

Secretary Quigley and Other Representatives of the Department:

I am James A. Schmid. I am a 40-year resident of Marple Township, Delaware County. I am a consulting ecologist by profession. I provide these comments on my own behalf. I am especially concerned about air quality because I suffer from asthma. When visiting my young granddaughter in Vermont this past weekend, I was impressed by the number of solar panels I observed in New England. Pennsylvania is lagging far behind.

For me cleaning up our air is important, and I am very sad to see that it is taking more than half a century to begin to regulate many kinds of emissions from coal-fired power plants under the Clean Air Act. I personally have put insulation and storm windows on my old tenant farmhouse; I use energy- efficient light bulbs and Energy Star appliances; I try to minimize my trips; I drive hybrid and all-electric vehicles; and I hope to double the installed solar panels at my home and office this year. Meanwhile, I pay extra for 100% renewable-source electricity for what I do not generate onsite. As a scientist I take most seriously the real and imminent threat global warming poses to the people, animals, and plants of this entire earth, both its lands and seas. I am encouraged to note that USEPA has made recent efforts to press the States to work for a minimum of cleaner air on behalf of my children and grandchildren.

I commend the Department for gathering public input. A strong plan to implement clean power in Pennsylvania is essential. Our Commonwealth is an enormous emitter of air pollutants, and we have a great opportunity to make constructive change. Pennsylvania can and should act to surpass the minimal requirements laid out by USEPA for clean power.

PADEP must promote the efficient use of energy by preventing its waste. It must encourage the increased use of wind and solar energy. Achieving stringent carbon emission goals is possible and will create many needed jobs for Pennsylvanians. Workers from the obsolete fossil fuel industries should be retrained as their jobs disappear. PADEP should work quickly and submit an effective plan SOON–ahead of the deadline–to curb the mass of emissions from all existing and new fossil fueled power plants, and NOT reward polluters for damaging the air which we all must breathe (especially in environmental justice communities). Generous incentives should be included to increase generation by wind and solar; existing huge coal, oil, and gas subsidies should be terminated to minimize fossil fuel use. An effective Clean Power Plan in Pennsylvania can save us taxpayers money on our taxes* and our electricity bills, as well as create jobs and increase everyone’s health. As individuals we each can do our part, but PADEP must perform its duties at the level of State government.

*In my allocated 5 minutes, I could not address the hundreds of millions of dollars of direct net loss to the Pennsylvania State Budget every year, as a result of coal mined by ever fewer Pennsylvanians. The Pennsylvania budget currently is in crisis. See McIlmoil, Rory, E. Hansen, M. Betcher, A. Hereford, and J. Clingerman. 2012. The impact of coal on the Pennsylvania State budget. Prepared for Center for Coalfield Justice. Downstream Strategies. Morgantown WV. 78 p. Similar losses are suffered by the State governments of Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee.

The Department also may find useful information in Van Nostrand, James, E. Hansen, B. Argetsinger, and J. James. 2015. The Clean Power Plan and West Virginia: compliance options and new economic opportunities. West Virginia University College of Law and Downstream Strategies. Morgantown WV. 77 p. The cited documents are available online.

Mom, 14th century scholars, and 21st century religious leaders: do right with or without “everyone else”

Joelle Novey is the director of Greater Washington IPL.  She submitted the following comments to the EPA, and has shared them with PA IPL in anticipation of being a workshop leader and keynote panelist at Climate Justice: Faith in Action, PA IPL’s 2014 annual conference. 

joellenoveyThrough Interfaith Power & Light, hundreds of local congregations of all religious traditions work together on energy and climate issues.

This morning, I’m only one of over two dozen religious voices you will hear speaking out in support of strong safeguards on carbon pollution from power plants. These voices come from nine Christian denominations and six other faith traditions: Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Unitarian Universalist.

I’m speaking with a stack of postcards that good folks signed in support of the Clean Power Plan on card tables after services in their congregations throughout our region. And we are joined by religious voices around the country who’re participating in the EPA’s other hearings.

The teaching from my own tradition that informs my thoughts on carbon pollution comes from Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet, a 14th Century scholar of Jewish law. He wrote: “One is forbidden from gaining a livelihood at the expense of another’s health” (Responsa 196). Simple, ethical wisdom. Not bad for the Middle Ages. Continue reading Mom, 14th century scholars, and 21st century religious leaders: do right with or without “everyone else”

Suffering first: what it looks like in the US

Jacqueline Patterson is the director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program.  She submitted the following comments to the EPA, and has shared them with PA IPL in anticipation of Climate Justice: Faith in Action, PA IPL’s 2014 annual conference, and which she will be a workshop leader and member of the keynote panel.   Download the NAACP Climate Justice Toolkit here. JP at Bridgeport Plant

In February 2011, my father began to complain of a cough, which worsened over 6 months until he was homebound and tethered to an oxygen machine.  He was severely winded just from walking from the living room to the kitchen to get a glass of water.

Dad’s diagnosis was pulmonary fibrosis.  My father never smoked a day in his life.  His doctor stated that the scar tissue in his lungs was likely due to past exposure to environmental toxins from his work place or otherwise.  Dad spent 40 years residing within 10 miles of the Fisk and Crawford Coal Plants in Chicago. We laid my father to rest on September 12th of 2011. How many more people must we bury before we are granted equal protection under the law?

Approximately 68% of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal plant.  The impact is clear in the rates of respiratory illnesses in African Americans. Even though we have lower rates of smoking, we are more likely to die Continue reading Suffering first: what it looks like in the US

Mammon and death, or patriotism and love?

Victoria Furio is the Convener of the Climate Justice Initiative at Union Theological Seminary in New York, NY.  She submitted the following comments to the EPA, and has shared them with PA IPL in anticipation of being a workshop leader and member of the keynote panel at Climate Justice: Faith in Action, PA IPL’s 2014 annual conference.   Read another wonderful piece here.VickyFurio - Version 2

If for no other reason than self-interest, any normal human being would want to fight to preserve the only planet we have. The evidence of the relentless march towards destruction is overwhelming, as we watch typhoons rip nations apart in Asia, and drought shut down life in Africa, the Mediterranean and the western US.    But as Christians, we are even more compelled to act not only to protect life, but to stop ourselves from blindly committing the sacrilege of destroying God’s creation.  There will be no replacement once that happens.

This boding tragedy is completely avoidable!  But it means we must abandon our worship of Mammon, the god of money, which as Scripture tells us, can only lead to death.  The fossil fuel Continue reading Mammon and death, or patriotism and love?

Methane pollution is a climate concern, too.

Rev. Leah Schade is the pastor at United in Christ Lutheran Church in Lewisburg.  She submitted the following comments to the EPA.  They are published here alongside  PA IPL’s remarks. When you’re inspired,  submit a written comment of your own.leah_schade_at_epa_hearing,moorhead_bldg

First, I want to thank the EPA and Administrator McCarthy for paying serious attention to this issue of carbon emissions and their deleterious effect on our planet’s atmosphere.  I commend you for giving citizens the opportunity to be heard on this important issue.  The proposed rule is well-researched, with solid background in science regarding greenhouse gases, their effect on the planet, and their negative impact on public health.  It offers a wide range of options for states and power generators to meet the new requirements to reduce greenhouse gases.

As a pastor who has particular concern for “the least of these,” I was especially pleased to see attention given to the health of children when weighing the input of stakeholders.  I come today on behalf of myself, my husband and two young children, my congregation, United in Christ Lutheran Church in Lewisburg, the Upper Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of Pennsylvania, and the Interfaith Sacred Earth Coalition of the Susquehanna Valley to express my support for the new EPA rule to reduce carbon pollution, even while it is under attack from industry groups that want to weaken this life-saving measure.  As a clergyperson, you can be assured of my backing of this proposal.

However, as a member of my synod’s task force on slickwater hydraulic fracturing which spent two years studying the ethical and moral issues surrounding fracking; and as a member of Continue reading Methane pollution is a climate concern, too.

Attention, not just intention: lower overall emissions may not be more just.

Tom McCaney represents the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).  ICCR is a coalition of faith-based and mission-driven institutional investors with over $100 billion in invested capital, who view the management of our investments as a powerful catalyst for social change.  For over forty years, ICCR has engaged with corporations on climate change, human rights and sustainability issues which are impacted by this proposed rule.  His testimony appears here alongside PA IPL’s remarks.18556_279719210725_3464351_n

I am here today to comment on the Clean Power Plan for three reasons: First, because decisive national action to address climate change is needed; we have a moral obligation to act.  Second, to underscore the importance of ensuring that the rule has positive impacts on the health and well-being of vulnerable populations, in the United States and around the world.  And, third, to stress that we believe that this rule will have a net positive impact for business in providing economic certainty and incentives for innovation, and promoting the creation of new jobs. Across the sectors in which ICCR members invest, climate change is a material issue presenting significant risks for the long-term value of their investments, whether from water scarcity, supply chain shifts, or physical risk related to extreme weather events.

The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia join other Pennsylvanians in their concerns of the effects climate change has already had on our state; including more frequent flooding and droughts, worsening air quality, extreme heat, and the spread of infectious diseases.

At ICCR we consider climate change within the context of its economic, social and Continue reading Attention, not just intention: lower overall emissions may not be more just.