US Bishops turn up heat on environmental order

30
Mar
2017

Washington D.C., Mar 30, 2017 / 09:26 am (CNA/EWTN News) - The U.S. bishops have criticized President Donald Trump’s recent executive order which rolls back environmental protections, noting their concern that it offers no alternative for effective environmental stewardship.

“The USCCB, in unity with Pope Francis, strongly supports environmental stewardship and has called consistently for ‘our own country to curtail carbon emissions,’” said Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.

“This Executive Order places a number of environmental protections in jeopardy and moves the U.S. away from a national carbon standard, all without adopting a sufficient plan for ensuring proper care for people and creation,” the bishop said in a March 29 statement. “Yesterday’s action means that, sadly, the United States is unlikely to meet its domestic and international mitigation goals.”

On March 28, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that revokes a half-dozen executive orders from the Obama Administration targeted at halting the progress of climate change and regulating carbon emissions. Under particular scrutiny are the policies put in place by Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to reduce emissions from power plants – one of the largest sources of pollution and greenhouse gasses in the United States – by 32 percent from 2015 to 2030. Other rules set for re-examination are rules regarding fracking and those restricting greenhouse gas emissions from oil and natural gas operations.

The new order will also roll back the Environmental Protection Agency’s “social cost of carbon” calculations that had previously guided rule making surrounding environmental concerns.

President Trump has not yet taken a public stance on withdrawing from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, but the new order, without additional regulations to take their place, will effectively remove the policies the United States had put in place to meet its commitments.

While the U.S. bishops do not specifically support any one set of policy or technical approaches to climate change, they have offered their support for several of the Obama Administration’s carbon emission standards in recent years. Bishop Dewane reinforced in his statement that while the Clean Power Plan is not the only means of addressing climate change or reducing carbon emissions, he is concerned by the Trump Administration’s failure to present an alternative plan in its place.

The bishop also echoed previous statements by EPA officials and other environmental experts that environmental policies can both protect the environment and foster growth. “An integral approach can respect human and natural concerns and still achieve these aims, if properly done,” he said.

Bishop Dewane pointed to states that have already made steps towards doing both under the previous Clean Power Plan, adding that “this momentum ought to be encouraged and not hindered.”

He pointed to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter Laudato si as highlighting the importance of protecting the environment for the sake of all humanity.

“With this recent order,” the bishop commented, “the Administration risks damage to our air, our waters and, most importantly, our people, particularly the poor and vulnerable, without proposing a concrete and adequate approach to meet our stewardship obligations as a nation.”