The following is testimony provided by Cindy Shepherd to the US EPA regarding their proposal to replace the Clean Power Plan.
I am Cindy Shepherd. I live and work in Champaign/Urbana and Central Illinois. I am the Central Illinois Outreach Director for a faith-based non-profit environmental justice organization here in Illinois, called Faith in Place.
I thank the panel for the opportunity to share my observations and thoughts with you about the importance of retaining the Clean Power Plan and rejecting any attempt to substitute and weaken it with the new proposal.
In my area of Central Illinois alone, several hundred businesses and residences have replaced all or part of their energy use with solar since the Clean Power Plan was announced.
My organization is also excited to share that more than a dozen houses of worship, of diverse religious traditions, are part of the FEJA success. They put on solar to witness to their communities their concern for Climate Care.
This legislation, passed bipartisanly with the strong support of a coalition comprised of labor, environmentalists, small business owners and people of faith. It has been a win-win-win for Illinois. There are 120,000 clean energy jobs now and our coalition is listening to people across the state as, together, we discern the next step. I’ve been in several of these grass roots meetings. People want to push toward 100% renewable energy in the near future. They do not want to turn back.
They are deeply concerned that the Dirty Power Plan will, by the government’s own calculations, result in 1400 more deaths per year when enacted. For people rooted and grounded in love for Creation and who strive to live as members of the family of God, this number can not be seen as a mere uptick in morbidity.
For us, one of those 1400 will be a beloved child, struggling for air during an asthma attack, her lips turning blue, her desperate parents rushing to the E.R. to find out this time they were too late. It is pastors and church families who will share the grief of that family, who will share the pain of her mother’s heart. This is just one. But she matters.
It is the family of faith that will gather at the grave to bury a husband and father and grandfather who worked with his hands all his life. We’ll gather with neighbors who remember how he helped them take down a tree, or add a wheelchair ramp to their house. His sons will tell stories about how his long-anticipated retirement brought, not new hobbies and fishing trips, but a diagnosis of lung disease, and oxygen tanks, and episodes of acute respiratory distress, and early death. This man is only one. But we love him.
People of faith love stories – the stories of ancient texts and the stories we share with one another. They shape our lives. They encourage us to be our best and do our best.
We reject stories where greed and waste and selfishness win. As an attempt is made to rewrite our national narrative, we hold out and we speak out for a better story, hoping for one our children can tell their grandchildren with love.
We know how the story starts: Once upon a time, the world was a vivid and beautiful place. Forests blanketed the mountains. Rains fell soft on fertile fields. Bright birds filled the air and the oceans teamed with life. Leviathan sported and played.
And what happened next? Our grandchildren’s grandchildren will ask. And the story continued. But human beings were shortsighted, and a little bit greedy. In just a few generations they fouled the air and polluted the water and depleted the land. Then the rains came hard, or not at all. There were wars and rumors of wars. Some people said, It’s too late to fix it. We might as well take all we can, even if it makes things worse.
And is that how the story ends? Or can we write another chapter?
Almost too late, people recognized the danger. They screwed up their courage and drew upon their better nature, and made the decisions that had to be made. And they did it because they loved life, and each other, and the promise that someday the Earth would belong to you.
I want that happier ending for the story. I want it so bad, as a person of faith, as an advocate of clean energy, as a citizen of the United States of America.
Please, do not allow that happy ending to become a fairy tale. Preserve the Clean Power Plan and the state and regional incentives to build a better future.