Originally published in Issue 11, Fifty-First Year of The Minstrel (March 23, 2017). Click here to view the entire issue.
One hundred and twenty five U.S. Catholic leaders signed the Catholic Climate Covenant’s letter to support the Clean Power Plan and sent it to President Donald Trump, the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt, top Congressional leaders and state governors.
The Clean Power Plan is a major EPA effort to reduce carbon emissions from power plants with a goal of 30 percent reduction in 2030 when compared to 2005 levels.
Former President Barack Obama and the EPA announced the Clean Power Plan in August 2015.
Catholic Climate Covenant’s letter mentions Pope Francis and says everyone has a role to play in keeping our Earth safe.
“In Laudato Si’ (LS), his groundbreaking encyclical on ecology, Pope Francis echoes Saint John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI by calling climate change an urgent moral issue that wounds creation, threatens human life and dignity, and disproportionately harms the poor and vulnerable who contribute the least to climate change.”
In addition to reducing power plant emissions, the letter mentions the other benefits of the Clean Power Plan.
“The Plan would also reduce other dangerous power plant pollution like sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide. These reductions are expected to prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths, 90,000 asthma attacks in children, and 300,000 missed work and school days,” the letter reads. “They are also anticipated to produce up to $54 billion in public health and climate benefits—benefits that would be lost if the Clean Power Plan is not upheld and implemented.”
These efforts will promote human equality and environmental justice. According to the letter, nearly 40 percent of Latinos and 68 percent of African Americans in the U.S. live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. This means that they have a greater risk of facing premature deaths, asthma attacks and other health problems.
Unfortunately, Trump plans to scrap the Clean Power Plan. Shortly after being sworn into office, Trump published “An American First Energy Plan” on whitehouse. gov.
His plan reads,“President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule. Lifting these restrictions will greatly help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next 7 years.”
The Climate Action Plan includes the Clean Power Plan. The Waters of the U.S. rule protects streams and wetlands that have been scientifically shown to impact downstream water quality. According to the EPA, one in three people get drinking water from streams that were vulnerable to pollution before the Clean Water Rule.
Ultimately, Trump wants to focus on shale, oil, coal and natural gas in order to create jobs. He also wants to open up this billion-dollar industry to include Yellowstone, Yosemite Valley, Mt. Rushmore and other nationally protected areas.
EPA administrator Pruitt, like Trump, is in denial about climate change and does not believe carbon dioxide is a primary contributor to global warming despite ample amounts of evidence available.
Removing the Clean Power Plan will be a complicated process. The EPA went through a long rule making process to enact the plan and it will take many years to undo it. Additionally, the EPA is legally obligated to regulate CO2 through various Clean Air Act programs.
The climate action group 350.org is doing everything they can to stop Trump from removing the Clean Power Plan.
“Trump’s energy plan is par for the course of the President’s climate denial, but it’s nonetheless alarming for the movement to keep fossil fuels in the ground,” said 350.org executive director May Boeve in a statement. “Fulfilling this plan would not only set back years of progress we’ve made towards protecting the climate, but would undoubtedly worsen the devastating impacts of the climate crisis, from rising sea levels to extreme weather.”
Trump also plans to remove the U.S. from the 2015 Paris Agreement, the first global climate effort to reduce emissions. There are 194 nations involved in the accord and if the U.S. withdraws, it will take a four-year process to withdraw the world’s largest economy and second-largest climate polluter.
This would be a large step back for the U.S., who refused to ratify the emission-reduction 1997 Kyoto agreement. This resulted in global emissions surging rather than declining due to lack of U.S. participation.
Foreign leaders say that if the U.S. leaves the Paris Agreement, it will have ramifications for the diplomacy and credibility of the U.S. as well.
As for Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf’s spokesman said they are in the review process to evaluate how communities will be harmed and affected by eliminating the Clean Power Plan. If Trump removes the Waters of the U.S. rule, Pennsylvania’s waterways are actually offered more protection under the state’s Clean Streams Act. However, the rule’s removal would make it easier for states to abolish environmental protections.
Overall, the letter from the Catholic Climate Covenant puts pressure on U.S. leaders to take steps forward, not backwards, in global warming, which is a crisis and not the “hoax” that Trump refers to it as.