Opposition to fracking—and other new fossil fuel infrastructure—is a moral imperative

Illustration by Nicholas Massarelli

Illustration by Nicholas Massarelli

Faith in Action

by the Rev. Cheryl Pyrch and Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” JEREMIAH 29:11

A low-level but corrosive despair and cynicism pervades our common life. We see it across the political spectrum, from politicians and CEOs who deny climate change, to ordinary folks who acknowledge the science but who feel too overwhelmed to do more than change lightbulbs. This despair is understandable. Predictions of ecological collapse are frightening. Moving to a new energy future is daunting, and it seems to move further out of reach with each presidential campaign speech. It’s tempting to believe half-measures and incremental change will be enough.

It’s tempting to believe the claims that hydraulic fracturing—or fracking—offers us a “bridge fuel,” that industry estimates of methane leakage are correct, that taxes on fracking are the answer to the public school funding crisis. It’s tempting to believe that jobs and income from fracking will revive the rural economy, that water contamination is a minor problem that can be solved, that carbon sequestration or some new technological breakthrough will be the “answer” so we can continue with business as usual.

But these claims are false, as most readers of Grid know. The evidence becomes stronger by the day: Methane leakage makes natural gas nearly as dangerous as coal. Building new wells—and continued use of old ones—will lock us into a future of ecological and economic chaos where those who have contributed the least to climate change—the poor, the young and future generations— will suffer the most.

This injustice, along with the wanton destruction of plant and animal life, makes climate change a moral issue.

Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light (PA IPL) opposes fracking because we are people of faith and hope. We are individuals and communities of many faiths, drawing from the deep wellsprings of our traditions, inspired to work together for the sake of our collective future. We are strengthened by multiple ways of understanding hope: We may point to the divine light within, to the words of the biblical prophets, to the promises of Allah in the Quran, or to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As people strengthened by faith and hope, as people of many backgrounds who are learning to pray and work together, we believe that a clean energy economy is within reach. We believe that we can build a world where all people have enough to eat and clean air to breathe. We believe that we can live on this earth in a way that allows all creatures to thrive. We believe that we can make the transition in a way that is just, that provides jobs and guards the welfare of all people in the state of Pennsylvania. We believe in a future with hope, and we know that future cannot include fracking—or fossil fuels of any kind. We are therefore focusing our efforts on preventing new fossil fuel infrastructure, including—but not limited to—that for natural gas.

We are a founding organization of Green Justice Philly, a growing and diverse coalition committed to building a healthy, sustainable and economically just Philadelphia region that opposes the development of Philly as a fossil fuel hub. In our resolution, “Covenant with the Future,” we ask the commonwealth to halt the march toward new fossil fuel infrastructure.

We call for no building nor permitting of new fossil fuel power generation facilities, processing facilities or pumping stations and other infrastructure that would encourage additional drilling sites. We also call for a halt to new infrastructure for fossil fuel transport, including pipelines, port facilities, and additional road and rail routes designed primarily for fossil fuel transport.

All levels of government have a responsibility for halting new infrastructure. For example, the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority approves projects for the Southport Marine Terminal, so we’re demanding that they refuse a permit for an expansion of the Philadelphia Energy Solutions oil refinery. Statewide, the governor’s office, the state Legislature, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, city councils and departments of health all must establish and enforce legislation and regulations that will turn us toward clean energy.

We know the change to a new energy economy will not be easy, nor will it happen overnight—the people who have been courageously leading the fight against fracking can tell us that. But we are the generation that can make a difference. The moral response is clear: Choose clean energy and a just economy so that all children may enjoy abundant life.

We invite people of all faiths and beliefs to join us in working for the welfare—and not the harm—of people in Pennsylvania and around the world. Choose a future with hope!

The Rev. Cheryl Pyrch and Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein are the co-conveners of the Philadelphia chapter of Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light. “The Covenant with the Future” can be found on their website at paipl.us. Inquiries to join their work in Pennsylvania can be directed to info@paipl.org.