environmental protection agency

the White House / RNS

Left to right, the Rev. Mitchell Hescox, Huda Alkaff (hidden), the Rev. Kim Morrow,  Sunita Viswanath, Sister Joan Brown, Rabbi Marc Soloway, Steven Beumer. Photo via the White House / RNS

From a zero-waste synagogue to global development work after natural disasters, environmental projects by faith leaders are being hailed by the Obama administration as examples of exemplary leadership on climate change.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy highlighted initiatives by a dozen leaders from a range of faiths, who were recognized July 20 in Washington, D.C., as “Champions of Change” for their environmental initiatives.

“As faith leaders, no voice is really more important than yours in this,” said McCarthy.

designer_an / Shutterstock.com

designer_an / Shutterstock.com

The prophets’ preoccupation with justice and righteousness has its roots in a powerful awareness of injustice. That justice is a good thing, a fine goal, even a supreme ideal, is commonly accepted. What is lacking is a sense of the monstrosity of injustice. Moralists of all ages have been eloquent in singing the praises of virtue. The distinction of the prophets was in their remorseless unveiling of injustice and oppression, in their comprehension of social, political, and religious evils. —Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. —Martin Luther King, Jr.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, environmental justice is defined as:

The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

As we consider this definition, and look around our communities, do we find this fair treatment taking place? Are we aware of how economic and environmental decisions are made? Many times it can become so overwhelming that we think it best to leave it to the experts. Unfortunately, this can lead to exploitation, as discrimination typically takes place in poor and underserved communities where people may not understand their rights, or they choose not to fight back out of fear. As we dig deeper and the shackles are removed, we begin to see how economic and environmental justice are connected and how this exploitation is directly related to incentives like government funding, tax breaks, and land grabs that favor corporations over human beings and the environment. Does the end result benefit all God’s creation or just a wealthy few?

Liz Schmitt 07-31-2014
Morning blessing at the EPA. Photo by Ben Sutter / Sojourners

Morning blessing at the EPA. Photo by Ben Sutter / Sojourners

This week began in song and prayer outside the Environmental Protection Agency.

The government employees walking past our prayer circle definitely thought we were unusual; for Sojourners, though, publicly witnessing to our calling as Christians in care for creation is just another day on the job. We gathered with interfaith partners for a morning blessing to kick off the EPA’s hearings on the Clean Power Plan – an ambitious plan to curb carbon emissions from our largest source, power plants. Our goal was to show EPA and the nation that people of faith care deeply about what human sin has done to creation, and how all of God’s creation – including people – are suffering and will continue to suffer from climate change.

The next day, I was back at the EPA, this time to offer my testimony during their second day of hearings.

Jim Wallis 06-05-2014
Cracked earth, Microstock Man / Shutterstock.com

Cracked earth, Microstock Man / Shutterstock.com

Climate change is about people, not just science and politics — it is an inter-generational ethics issue. The earth is the Lord’s, and in Genesis, God entrusts us with caring for Creation. The earth that we leave to future generations is already being changed by climate change, and so far, our nation has done little to stop climate pollution. The Clean Power Plan, announced Monday by the EPA, is a great step forward for our country in taking climate change seriously.

The policy will treat carbon the way it should be treated — as a pollutant that’s harming our health and our planet. It will reduce our carbon pollution 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, but will allow each state the flexibility to decide how it reaches that goal.

The rule reflects some of the best values we hold dear. It will help prevent premature deaths and asthma attacks caused by smog and other air pollutants. But most importantly, it will reduce the pollution that fuels climate change. It’s clear that President Obama cares about the legacy he leaves to today and into future generations. While there is a lot more that can and should be done by this administration and by Congress, President Obama deserves our appreciation for embracing the common good and taking such a big step to preserve the earth for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Liz Schmitt 06-04-2014
Air pollution from a factory. Image courtesy Bohbeh/shutterstock.com

Air pollution from a factory. Image courtesy Bohbeh/shutterstock.com

"The Clean Power Plan is a great step forward for our country in taking climate change seriously. It’s clear that President Obama cares about the legacy he leaves to today and into future generations. While there is a lot more that can and should be done by this Administration and by Congress, President Obama deserves our appreciation for embracing the common good and taking such a big step to preserve the earth for our grandchildren’s grandchildren."

Joey Longley 02-19-2014
Photo by Joey Longley / Sojourners

California Rep. Henry Waxman speaks in front of protestors. Photo by Joey Longley / Sojourners

Don’t let the media tell you that nothing is going to happen in Washington this year. Sure, Congress may be gridlocked on major legislation as we approach midterm elections, but key decisions are set to be made that will define President Barack Obama’s legacy on climate change. In the coming months, the Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants, and the Obama administration will make a final decision on the Keystone XL pipeline.

Because the impacts of climate change, such as drought, more severe weather, flooding, and crop devastation, are more harmful to the world’s poor, these decisions will affect the lives of vulnerable people everywhere. As a Christian, I cannot sit idly by while God’s children are suffering from the devastating effects of irresponsible environmental degradation. I am joining with other people of faith in articulating the moral urgency of caring for God’s creation.

Jim Wallis prays with members of Congress during the #FaithfulFilibuster and the government shutdown. Brandon Hook/Sojourners

In the short three months that I have been at Sojourners as the director of individual giving, I’ve been humbled and inspired by the countless social justice activists who make up our community.  In these three months, I have witnessed activism for immigration reform, a vigil for those most affected by congressional dysfunction, organizing for climate change, a prophetic stand for racial justice, the launching of a new campaign to empower women and girls, and much more.

Zurijeta/Shutterstock

Hispanic children are nearly two times as likely to be hospitalized for asthma as white children Zurijeta/Shutterstock

I was raised bilingual and bicultural in New Mexico, the state with the highest percentage of Latino population, nearly 50 percent. In addition to working as an environmental advocate, I am also a member of the rising Latino generation, the fastest growing young demographic in the country. Fifty thousand Latinos turn 18 every month. To put this in perspective, Pew Research Center estimates that by mid-century, Latinos will comprise nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population.

When I was 18, I had just graduated from high school with several years of soccer at Santa Fe’s 7,000-foot elevation under my belt. I was on my way to college, and would go on to complete a master’s of science in an interdisciplinary environmental sciences program.

What my experiences do not include are those that are far too common among Latino 18-year-olds who are disproportionately affected by carbon pollution. Carbon pollution contributes directly to climate change, in turn endangering Latinos due to the resulting health and environmental repercussions. One expected climate impact in the U.S. is more smog in areas with poor air quality, translating to more asthma attacks for our young people. In fact, the Latino community is one of the hardest hit: Hispanic children are nearly two times as likely to be hospitalized for asthma as white children. Other illnesses related to poor air quality, such as chronic bronchitis, are also prevalent within Latino communities, yet nearly half of all Latinos in the U.S. live in counties that often violate ground-level pollution standards

Liz Schmitt 11-12-2013

Protesters hold signs during climate change testimonies before the EPA. Photo: Joey Longley/Sojourners

Editor’s Note: This post contains two of many testimonies given at an Environmental Protection Agency listening session at EPA headquarters in Washington, D.C. The EPA held sessions in 11 regional offices across the country to allow the public to comment on the agency’s plans to begin regulating carbon dioxide emissions — one of the heat-trapping pollutants that contributes to climate change — from existing coal and natural gas-fired power plants. The public was invited to share up to three minutes of spoken testimony to an EPA panel for the agency’s consideration.

My name is Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome and I am a federal policy analyst at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, a 25-year-old community based environmental justice organization based in Harlem, N.Y. However, I work out of our Washington, D.C. office, mostly engaging in federal policy. Although I am in a different location, WE ACT D.C. has the same mission: to build healthy communities by insuring all voices help shape environmental policy and practices so that they are fair.

As a public health researcher who has seen the impacts of temperature, air pollution, and climate changes on urban-dwelling seniors in low income communities of color, I am clear about the need for and the importance of the testimony that I, and hopefully other environmental justice organizations, will offer here today. While three minutes is not a lot of time, I do have a couple of "calls to action" to uplift as you continue your work:

  1. Recognize the deficiency.
  2. Recognize the cumulative impacts.
Jim Wallis 11-07-2013
Via tristan tan / Shutterstock

Close up of plastic and polystyrene fast food packaging in a river. Via tristan tan / Shutterstock

In the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, there is a Psalm that proclaims: “the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1). There is no part of this world that God is not aware of, cannot lay claim to, and does not rule. Christians affirm that as people of faith we’re called to be stewards over creation, answering one day for how we’ve treated the earth.

And part of that stewardship means understanding how this world works and what it needs in order to thrive. Unfortunately the din of our political ideologies has too often drowned out the biblical calling to care for creation.

In Texas, the State Board of Education will recommend new textbooks for all its students—and because it has such a large population, what they decide could determine what students in other states learn about science. There are several ideologues submitting textbook critiques to the board and their reviews will factor into each book’s overall score and likelihood of being approved by the school board. These ideologues could block the use of textbooks that teach the reality of climate change for the whole country’s public school students.

Liz Schmitt 11-06-2013
M. Shcherbyna/Shutterstock

M. Shcherbyna/Shutterstock

This week the EPA is holding the last few of its listening sessions around the country — 11 in total by the end of the week – to hear what Americans have to say about the EPA’s plans to tackle climate change.

These listening sessions are our chance to give the EPA our comments in person — everyone can register for a three-minute testimony spot — about the agency’s upcoming rule on carbon pollution from existing power plants.

Liz Schmitt 10-10-2013
Rusty fuel and chemical drums on the Arctic coast, Vladimir Melnik / Shutterstoc

Rusty fuel and chemical drums on the Arctic coast, Vladimir Melnik / Shutterstock.com

During the government shutdown, some cuts have caught the public’s attention more than others. And some people are rejoicing over the cuts faced by the Environmental Protection Agency and other environmental agencies. But the shutdown of our environmental programs is affecting people’s lives in ways that might surprise you.

1. National Parks closures are more than an inconvenience

In some National Parks across the country, employees are stranded. Employees who live on park grounds, like park rangers and concession workers, have no work or pay, and because the parks are closed, they’re not even allowed to take solace in the trails that surround them. And in at least one case, they don’t have any food. About 2,200 employees – 1,800 of them concession workers – are stranded in Grand Canyon National Park. A local food bank has started making deliveries, because those people are going hungry and without pay.

Anna Hall 09-20-2013
Air pollution, homydesign / Shutterstock.com

Air pollution, homydesign / Shutterstock.com

This Wednesday on Capitol Hill, the House subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing to discuss the Obama administration’s climate change policies and activities. The policies in question were the president’s Climate Action Plan, announced this summer, which has three main pillars:

  • cutting carbon emissions,
  • leading international efforts to combat climate change, and
  • preparing the United States for climate change impacts.

The Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and the Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz were present to answer questions about the president’s plan, which works with new and existing programs in both agencies to reduce our climate change pollution and increase our resilience to climate change. Some of the programs are required by a recent Supreme Court decision that labeled carbon dioxide a pollutant; others, as Moniz pointed out, would happen to carry the benefit of energy efficiency. 

For some members of Congress, this is a problem because they do not wish to cede any ground to the executive. For others, it is a problem simply because they do not wish to do anything about climate change.

QR Blog Editor 07-29-2013

Climate change is expected to take a turn for the better following the Senate's approval of Gina McCarthy to serve as the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. McCarthy won over the Senate on July 18 in a 59-to-40 vote. The New York Times reports:

The president told Ms. McCarthy that his environmental and presidential legacy would be incomplete without a serious effort to address climate change.

Read more here.

Janelle Tupper 07-03-2013
Oil refinery emissions, David Sprott / Shutterstock.com

Oil refinery emissions, David Sprott / Shutterstock.com

Forget about future generations – climate change is already hitting poor people around the world, not to mention contributing to natural disasters in the U.S. from New York City to Arizona. Apparently that’s not enough for some members of Congress, who have chosen to use their authority to try to block any and all attempts to do something about the problem.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama announced a major, comprehensive plan of action on climate change – changes that would do much to protect human health, the poor, and future generations by mitigating some of the worst impacts of climate change. A central part of the plan is to address climate pollution at its largest source: coal-fired power plants.

Unfortunately, many members of Congress are already taking steps to decry the president’s plan as a “war” – on coal, on American energy, and yes, even on America itself. Leaders from John Boehner to Michele Bachmann to Joe Manchin have made it pretty clear that they view attempts to care for creation as an assault on our country.

QR Blog Editor 06-06-2013

When the ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline split open in late March it spilled 210,000 gallons of oil into a small Arkansas town. The spill galvanized opponents of the Keystone XL Pipeline, who cited its planned path through major rivers and aquifers. Activists say TransCanada, which would build and operate the pipeline, underestimate the size of potential spills.

"I don't agree with people who say a spill into the aquifer will ruin the whole aquifer. It would ruin a very small piece, but it's important if that's your small piece," John Stansbury, a University of Nebraska professor of environmental and water resources engineering. "But if it got into a major river, it could create a plume hundreds of miles long."

Read more here.

Janelle Tupper 05-20-2013
Gina McCarthy, Public Domain, U.S. Government via Wikimedia Commons

Gina McCarthy, Public Domain, U.S. Government via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 400 parts per million – nearly 15 percent over what many scientists estimate is a safe level. Amid this and other crises in creation, the Environmental Protection Agency needs a strong leader to navigate the complex policy and economic situation that governs environmental policy.

In March, In March, President Barack Obama nominated Gina McCarthy to lead the EPA. At the time, many regarded her as a shoo-in, as she has held top posts under Republican governors, was endorsed by many in the energy industry, and has acted as assistant administrator of the EPA under President Obama since 2009.

It was surprising, then, when all eight Republican members of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee decided to boycott McCarthy’s nomination hearing. This surprise decision, which effectively canceled the vote, was part of a longer-term pattern of obstruction and partisanship on once-routine matters.

In the face of such unprecedented risk to human health and well-being, many were surprised that senators tasked with studying issues of clean air, clean water, and similar issues put ideology ahead of fairness in obstructing the vote. Sen. David Vitter, the leader of the obstructionist group, said it best himself in 2005 when discussing judicial appointments: “I think that every nominee deserves a vote. It’s a matter of fairness.”

QR Blog Editor 05-13-2013

Climate defenders should celebrate the news that Obama is continuing to delay signing a permit that would allow foreign-owned mining company TransCanada a permit to build the northern route of the highly controversial Keystone XL pipeline across the U.S.

After the State Department once again released a highly flawed assessment in March and the Environmental Protection Agency called it “deeply flawed” (again), we see that grassroots pressure is creating an effective roadblock on this incredibly dangerous path.

From Reuters:

The Obama administration is unlikely to make a decision on the Canada-to-Nebraska Keystone XL pipeline until late this year as it painstakingly weighs the project’s impact on the environment and on energy security, a U.S. official and analysts said on Friday.

The decision may not be made until November, December or even early 2014, said a U.S. official … who did not want to be named given the sensitive nature of the project.

Analysts agreed that a decision would not be made by this summer as the State Department had suggested when it issued an environmental review on the pipeline on March 1.

Janelle Tupper 04-23-2013
Forward on Climate Rally, Photo by Scot DeGraf

Forward on Climate Rally, Photo by Scot DeGraf

In the midst of our celebration of Earth Day, government agencies continued the debate over the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would transport oil from Canada’s tar sands across the United States into the gulf coast of Texas to be refined and shipped elsewhere. The State Department, tasked with reviewing the pipeline’s environmental impact, gave it a tentative pass a month and a half ago.

Activists across the country sprang into action to oppose the pipeline, citing its contribution to climate change and risk of oil spills. Supporters of the pipeline shot back, denying the climate impact of the pipeline and claiming that the oil would be produced whether or not the Keystone project moved forward.

The Environmental Protection Agency responded yesterday, calling into question the State Department’s findings and echoing the concerns of environmental activists everywhere: the Keystone Pipeline would be greatly exacerbate climate change

James Colten 05-18-2012

WOW! More than 3,000 of you submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency regarding their proposed carbon regulation. Thank you for your heartfelt letters and remarks in support of this rule -- read some of them below! Why are people supporting the EPA carbon rule? Faith, health, science, family, you name it. Below you’ll find some samples from Sojourners members. 

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