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November 10, 2015

Pastor Rebecca Knox – PA Clean Power Plan Testimony

October 22, 2015

Comments at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Clean Power Plan Hearing, October 22nd, 2015 in Allentown, PA
Pastor Rebecca Knox

Thank you very much to the DEP and all of you for this rare opportunity to share a broad range of viewpoints on such an important topic in a mostly civilized fashion!
I am a product of the environment. My name is Rebecca Knox. I came here today from the Reading area; where I live with my family and serve as Pastor of St. Daniel’s Lutheran Church. I am a part of a regional faith-based Creation Care group; however, I am here today as an avid outdoor enthusiast, a mom, and a human who treasures clean air and water. My bachelor’s degree is in Geology. I love the earth, and living on it.
I am addressing only 4 of the DEP’s questions and chose not to print-out the 1560 pages of the federal Clean Power Plan. I’m thankful for the EPA’s excellent web-based information saving much fossil fuel in the dissemination of this plan!

Urban & rural— What specific Pennsylvania communities may currently be experiencing adverse, disproportionate impacts of climate change and air pollution?
Both urban and rural communities are presently experiencing adverse, disproportionate impacts of climate change and pollution. Having loved and served among each I’ll give a brief personal example.
My congregation was begun by German settlers in 1751 before there was a United States federal government to pass laws about Clean Power. From the 1740’s until 1968 my family worked a dairy farm in Berks County and my congregation is still comprised of a significant number of dairy farmers enabling us to eat and thrive. Agriculture uses a huge amount of fossil fuels to run machinery, heat buildings, and transport crops, product and livestock. These offer opportunities to reduce carbon footprints too; which will not be easy. No agriculture here in ‘Penn’s desert’ can happen without clean water and healthy seasonal fluctuations. For example this season while orchardists celebrate one of the most abundant apple harvests in recent memory; those who counted on sale of Halloween pumpkins at corn mazes are scrambling due to the mid-summer heat and drought that claimed most Berks County pumpkin patches. The wildly variable weather also produced abundant corn, which then became so dry in the weeks of drought that a farmer named ‘Dave’ feared losing over a million dollar investment in over 1,000 acres of corn. Fearful they could harvest it safely before the moisture content was too low to make the crop commercially viable or even suitable as cattle feed we did a lot of praying for rain. I should mention this dry corn problem did not affect the farmers in Rehersburg who lost many acres of their corn to the tornado-like-storms and torrential rains of the late spring. They did already face complete financial chaos from our increasingly severe weather patterns this year.
The effects of climate change are equally life-changing for those in the inner-city.
Until last Fall, I served as a pastor in inner-city Reading for 10 years in which I saw a vast majority of children with asthma and allergy problems. It was not uncommon to have inhalers out after the 10 block walk to the closest park. It’s worth mentioning the massive health-care costs of this problem from less emergency room visits, lost days of work, and healthier next generation’s work force that could be significantly reduced with clean-renewable-energy and an expansion of simple home energy audit solutions. These children live in homes with old oil furnaces which on more than one occasion had leaks of carbon monoxide into homes threatening lives of residents. Compounded by use of kerosene space heaters and the high fire risk that claim too many lives and homes annually.
For example, a grandmother explained to me a common problem. The poor insulation of aged urban, homes such that residents place towels over doors and windows to stop drafts and sometimes even pile trash and newspapers at doors of un-insulated attics to slow the leaking of precious dollars-worth of heat produced by fossil fuels through-out increasingly cold winters. The daughter who worked full-time in a good job with benefits (wealthy compared to all of her neighbors) put her children to bed wearing hats, winter coats and most of their clothing as layers when they ran-out of money for oil early in the winter. Church helped with energy efficiency, although the land-lord did not approve of the work which caused other problems. Eventually the mom sent her children to live with someone who could afford heat. Her children and my children are close friends. I found myself explaining to my children how their friends could not afford the solar panels we had put in at our house… and while we in our fiscal comfort got financial assistance, their financially needy family didn’t pay enough in taxes, nor own their home to benefit from the generous rebates PA offered through taxes for renewable energy enhancements. Instead we quietly helped them pay for their oil, which enabled their family to live together again, and polluted the environment, and exacerbated their asthma and the serious heart condition of her daughter D.
— What additional steps can be taken by DEP to effectively reach out to these vulnerable communities to ensure that their concerns are taken into consideration?
Provisions in our state plan that require both home-owners and land-lords to comply with common-sense energy conservation, and insulation would help immensely. Presently many programs in the city are focused on home-owners while a large majority of my neighborhood needed the help but lived in rental units owned by absentee-landlords.
Rural communities need fiscal incentives to transition from unleaded gasoline, and oil to machinery that is run by renewable resources. Farmers invest all they have into their farms, there is no excess to play with for research and development when trying to make a living off a few hundred acres. The Farm Preservation programs are one very successful step in assisting our local producers stay open and productive… maybe there could be a similar incentive for those who grow renewables on their land. Or even to townships who build sustainable energy developments instead of tax-money lucrative housing developments.
— What specific Pennsylvania communities may experience economic concerns over the implementation of the state plan? (contained in preceding remarks)
— How can Pennsylvania ensure that these communities are not disproportionately impacted by the state plan? (ibid, see above)
… Ran-out of time and stopped here… the whole document including the following remarks were given to the DEP.
Time is of the essence. During the gas shortage of the 1970’s I was excited by electric car research and environmentalism. The current low gas prices are comfortable on industry and residential pocket-books… however they wreak havoc on the environment since there is little incentive to reduce consumption. For this reason, reducing fossil fuel use combined with the above considerations I mentioned are components I would like in our State’s version of the CPP. Extra money is available as incentives for achieving our state plan ahead of schedule. We must aim aggressively for those early targets to make the most of this opportunity for our state, and all the lower 48 involved in this Plan for good clean living here in Penn’s Woods.
I firmly believe that God created the universe in which we live, and we are entrusted to it’s care keeping in balance growth, productivity and prosperity without destroying the natural balance or dishonoring the sacred nature of our planet.

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