Religious leaders condemn Trump repeal

Source: Arianna Skibell, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2017

A group of religious leaders today denounced the Trump administration’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s signature climate regulation to curb greenhouse gas emissions linked to global warming.

Among the group were leaders from the Catholic, Protestant, evangelical, Jewish and Quaker traditions, all of whom see care of creation and protection of vulnerable communities as fundamental responsibilities, they said.

Emily Wirzba, a legislative representative with the Quaker lobby group Friends Committee on National Legislation, said religious leaders are expertly positioned to speak out against the move because they often work with the most disadvantaged communities.

“People of faith are called to serve the most vulnerable people, so weakening the Clean Power Plan is a moral failure of leadership at the national level,” she said.

U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt formally proposed the repeal yesterday to mixed reactions, with scorn from the left and praise from the right.

While evangelical Christians mostly vote Republican, in recent years there has been a move against the party’s stance when it comes to climate. More and more conservatives are demanding the Grand Old Party step up efforts to combat global warming.

Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, national organizer and spokesman for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, said the group’s followers are motivated by the commands Jesus gave to love creation and one’s neighbors.

“Faithfulness to these commands in a warming world requires that we care for God’s good world and that we show compassion to those whose very lives are threatened by a changing climate,” he said. “If our political leaders, many of whom confess our faith, will not take the action necessary to respond to these commands, then the rest of us will.”

Sister Patricia McDermott, president of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, said “sister” communities in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Philippines that are “experiencing melting glaciers, rising sea levels and devastating storms have been calling on us in the United States to urge our government to take strong measures to address climate change.”

She said, “The decision by the Trump administration to override the Clean Power Plan is totally immoral and death dealing. It blatantly denies climate science and the public health impact data.”

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said Jewish tradition teaches that saving a life, known as pikuach nefesh, is the ultimate ethical obligation.

“The decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan represents a gross failure to protect the health of people who live near fossil-fuel-fired power plants, and fails to protect the lives of all who will face the effects of climate change,” he said.

“We are acutely aware that, due to their locations, these power plants often hurt people of color and low-income people the most, perpetuating environmental racism and inequality,” he said.

Diane Randall, executive secretary of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, said Trump’s decision threatens present and future generations and affects vulnerable communities the most.

“The Clean Power Plan is the strongest action ever taken by a U.S. president to address human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases; it is an important first step to ensuring a thriving future for our children and Earth,” she said.

“With this action, the president is taking us backward in the essential work that we have in the United States to reduce emissions,” Randall said.

Calling the Clean Power Plan illegal, EPA says it will consider a different rule to combat greenhouse gas emissions, but critics wonder whether the administration will really follow through.