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Eco-Justice Notes
The E-mail Commentary from Eco-Justice Ministries

Stating the Obvious
distributed 6/15/12 - ©2012

A minister leading a workshop on pastoral psychology has given me an insight on a matter of political action. I hope my musings on Andy's message will stimulate you to participate in an important initiative in the next week.

The church where I was a member invited Andy to lead an all-day workshop exploring the Myers-Briggs description of personality types. We'd all done our preparatory work, and taken the survey that reveals our preferred type. Andy then helped us see how our preferences on those four pairings of styles shapes our personal relationships and the way that we participate in church life.

He used an illustration from his own family to illustrate how dramatically our behaviors can be influenced by those types. Andy spoke of his wife, an "NF", who delights in showing affection and showering him in tokens of love and appreciation. He then told us how his "NT" type might be inclined to deal with that relationship: "At our wedding, I told her that I love her, and I'll let her know when that changes."

Andy, of course, knew that he'd better not follow his preferences. (The hoots and wails from workshop participants made that abundantly clear, too.) Proclaiming and demonstrating his love for his wife is essential to keeping his marriage healthy -- even if it seems completely obvious to him. He has to push beyond what seems necessary, and move outside his comfort zone, so that his wife can hear the message that is important to her. (And, expressing his love is probably good for Andy, too!)

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I've remembered Andy's story about stating the obvious in the context of an invitation from the US Environmental Protection Agency for public comment on proposed rules that will reduce pollution from new power plants.

In the last few weeks, I've received a flurry of alerts from religious and secular groups calling on concerned citizens to file comments (which can be a quick and easy process -- see the links below). I also have looked at the EPA's summary of what the proposed rules say [PDF], and I've even delved into the Federal Register to read the text of the rules [PDF] -- although I confess that I didn't plow through the entire 50 page document.

After all that research, I came away with the feeling that these proposed rules are so blindingly obvious, so reasonable, so non-controversial, that I don't need to say anything. I've felt like Andy: "I've spoken up about my desire for cleaner power, and I'll let the EPA know when that changes." I'm busy. Why should I take the time and effort to support something that is so obvious?

Andy's pastoral message is true politically, too. Even if I don't feel like I need to state what seems obvious, others in the relationship need to hear it. If we don't say "I love the new rules!", then the EPA will only hear from those who hate them, and they may be reluctant or hesitant about taking bold steps in their next stages of formulating pollution controls.

The EPA's "Proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants" is obvious. Their own documents describe it as "a common-sense step under the Clean Air Act". Their summary states that "EPA, DOE [Department of Energy], and industry projections indicate that, due to the economics of coal and natural gas among other factors, new power plants that are built in ... the next decade or more would be expected to meet this proposed standard even in the absence of the rule."

If this proposed pollution standard was all that the EPA was going to do about greenhouse gas emissions, maybe we could let the obvious, common-sense proposal go through without adding our comments. But our relationship with the Environmental Protection Agency is an ongoing one. This is just one step, a first one, in an emerging series of rules -- pollution control rules that the US Supreme Court has said must be developed to comply with the Clean Air Act.

Maybe the parallel with Andy expressing love in his marriage isn't quite right. Maybe we're involved in a courtship with the EPA, a deepening and developing relationship. That makes it especially important that we comment on this rule, that we help set the stage for further action toward a cleaner and healthier environment.

There is, of course, opposition to this very basic, common-sense rule. The coal industry and some electric utilities are being vocal about their objections to this proposed standard. A flood of positive comments in support of the proposed pollution standard will put those relatively few, but influential, negative messages in balance.

I'm going to be submitting my detailed comments to the EPA this weekend. I invite, encourage and urge you to take a few minutes to file your own brief comments in support of the proposed rules. Three faith-based groups are proving easy systems for filing comments, with proposed language that you can use or modify.

The deadline for submitting comments is 10 days away, on June 25. Please file your statements soon, and support the EPA in this good first step in controlling greenhouse gasses.

WHAT DOES THE PROPOSED STANDARD SAY?

  • The carbon pollution standard will apply only to new fossil-fuel-fired electric utility generating units generating more than 25 megawatts. (Power plants in Hawaii and US territories are not covered by the rule.) New generating units would be limited to a maximum of 1,000 pounds of CO2 per megawatt-hour -- which is a standard now being met by almost all new power plants burning natural gas, and is 60 percent less pollution than the average coal-fired power plant does today.
  • The rules do have provisions that would allow new coal-fired power plants that use some form of carbon capture technologies to meet the pollution limits. (There are complex details about phasing in the carbon capture with a 30-year average as new technologies improve.)
  • The rules focus on power plants, because those are the largest individual sources of carbon pollution in the United States, and the EPA recognizes that "greenhouse gas pollution threatens American's health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment."

HOW CAN YOU FILE COMMENTS?
(Just pick one option -- multiple comments from the same person will probably be disregarded!)

  • You can go directly to Regulations.gov and enter your own comments to the EPA. This is not the easiest way to submit a short statement!
  • The National Council of Churches (NCC) Eco-Justice Program has provided a simple web form with a suggested statement that will be filed as a formal comment with the EPA.. They have a goal of 9,000 comments submitted through their website.
  • Presbyterians for Earth Care is participating in the NCC process, with a goal of 600 comments submitted through their variant of the NCC web form.
  • Interfaith Power and Light also has a web form with a very brief suggested comment text. IP&L has a goal of 10,000 comments submitted through their site by the June 25 deadline.

The EPA's proposed carbon pollution standard, applying only to new power plants, may seem so obvious that our support doesn't need to be said. But our supportive comments are important, both in countering industry opposition to the rule, and in encouraging strong future rules. Please pick one of the links above, and file your comments today.

Shalom!

Peter Sawtell
Executive Director
Eco-Justice Ministries

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