Testimony by Bishop Carroll A. Baltimore on Proposed Rollbacks to the National Environmental Policy Act
Good evening, members of the Council on Environmental Quality.
My name is Bishop Carroll Baltimore. I am Vice President of Creation Justice Ministries representing the policies of more than two dozen Christian denominations that join together to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation. Through our membership, we serve approximately 100,000 churches and 35 million people.
We have grave moral concerns regarding potential changes to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Proposed revisions to NEPA are inconsistent with NEPA’s central purposes. Among those purposes are three that people of faith hold with special regard:
These purposes of NEPA mirror Christian community values embodied in Jesus’ Great Commandment: to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
By loving our Creator God, we show respect for what God has made. We are entrusted with the care of creation for our short lifetimes, and to ensure the gifts of God’s creation can sustain life for our children and generations to come. NEPA helps our society evaluate how development will impact God’s creation.
The NEPA process gives us, on a societal level, an opportunity to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It requires project planners to listen to those who could be most impacted by a proposed project, including the most vulnerable. If a project will hurt neighbors by making it hard for them to breathe, drink safe water, grow food, catch fish, or freely practice their religious faith, it is our shared moral responsibility to show love for our neighbors by preventing harm from a project.
As Christian communities, we often find ourselves on the front lines of response to emergencies. We rally resources with compassion to respond to devastating circumstances. Some of the most devastating emergencies in our recent ministry are related to short-circuiting or undermining of the NEPA process.
April 20, 2020 will mark 10 years since the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster. BP and other oil companies developing offshore drilling sites in the Gulf of Mexico were exempt from standard NEPA planning processes. In its wake, we ministered to fisherman families not only seeking new ways to support themselves, but also devastated by the loss of identity after generations of family business out in the midst of God’s magnificent marine creation in the Gulf. Now, in addition to the Trump Administration’s proposals to expand offshore drilling, this proposal to weaken NEPA means offshore drilling can proceed with little to no review. It would limit the information the government has to evaluate the impact on endangered marine mammals, coral reefs, and coastal ecosystem protection and restoration. Ten years later, have we learned nothing from the suffering from Deepwater Horizon?
We have also witnessed the devastation of Native American burial grounds and sacred sites as a result of an ignored or undermined NEPA process. As Christians, we stand with people of all spiritual traditions to defend their religious freedom. Right now, the wall construction area on the US-Mexico border is a virtually lawless zone where NEPA requirements are waived. As a result, the Tohono O’Odham Tribe burial grounds are being bulldozed this month. Chairman of the Tohono O’Odham Ned Norris said, “There is no difference between what they have done here and imagine someone coming with a bulldozer through Arlington National Cemetery.” Additional sites sacred to the tribe are under immediate threat as construction continues. Some religious leader delegations have gone to the border to witness this tragedy, and call on Congress to intervene. This feels like a repetition of just a few years ago, when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe watched with horror as their sacred burial grounds were bulldozed to make way for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Faith communities organized to send camp supplies such as firewood, and provide peaceful public support. Just when we thought the NEPA worked to prevent any further damage from proceeding to the river they depend on for bodily and spiritual sustenance, the Trump Administration overrode the result. We were deeply troubled by the expedited review process to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and its opening for leasing. The coastal plain of the Refuge, which is the site of the Gwich’in creation story, and is what they call “the sacred place where life begins.”
If we are to follow Jesus’ Great Commandment, we need structures in place to respect what God has made and to show our neighbors love. Any proposed NEPA changes should enhance our ability as a society to live in the spirit of Jesus’ Great Commandment, not undermine, expedite, or exempt anyone from it.
Saturday, September 23, people of faith gathered at 11:30am at John Calvin Presbyterian Church in Bridgeton, Missouri to learn about some of the most wounded parts of God's creation in the greater St. Louis area. We gathered with urgency to learn, pray, and call for action to protect our communities' health and safety.
While Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has said that cleaning up toxic Superfund sites is one of his top priorities, the Trump Administration's proposed budget would cut the EPA's Superfund remediation budget by more than 30 percent. Failure to prioritize resources for cleaning up toxic messes has had devastating impacts on our drinking water, air, and communities' health. According to the landmark Toxic Waste and Race study by the United Church of Christ, communities of color bear an unjust burden of having toxic sites nearby, contributing to racial disparities in health problems such as asthma and cancer. If we don't invest in cleaning up now, matters will only get worse.
This event was one in a series. See information about Superfund Prayer Tours in Dayton, Ohio on September 24 and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 30. This blog post was last updated on September 25, 2017.
The tour began with a lunch briefing on Superfund sites in the St. Louis area. We heard remarks and were led in prayer by several local community leaders, and we visited the WestLake Superfund site for prayer and reflection. We especially held in prayer those who are suffering cancer related to their exposure to environmental toxins. Participants in the event included religious sisters, clergy, seminarians, students, local community members, and people who work at or near WestLake Landfill. This prayer event highlighted the need to protect communities from toxic pollution, and we urge Congress to fully fund the EPA and its Superfund Program.
SPEAKERS AND PRAYER LEADERS
The Rev. Dr. John Shear has been the pastor of JCPC for 14 years. Prior to that he served two other churches in the St. Louis Area. He has a BA in Political Science from the University of Missouri St. Louis and both an MDIV and DMIN from Eden Theological Seminary. Before his work in direct ministry, Pastor John served as an elected official in St. Louis County, representing one-seventh of the county. His district happened to include those sites effected by radioactive contamination in the North County Area and as a County Councilman he worked to get the Federal Government off the idea of building a storage bunker in North County and instead encapsulating this contamination for shipment to the rock burial in the western states. Rev. Shear is married to Rev. Jackie Havis-Shear, an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church. They have a blended family of six children, five grandchildren, one cat and two dogs.
Dawn Chapman (pictured left) is a mother of three special needs children and co-founder of Just Moms STL, to fight for environmental justice and downwinder status. Just Moms wants the complete removal of radiation from the West Lake landfill and for the EPA to take responsibility and buy out families that live one mile from the perimeter of the landfill. Dawn wants to see a safe and permanent clean up of radiation from the West Lake Landfill.
Karen Nickel (pictured right) is a wife, mother and grandmother doing everything she can to protect her children and community from radioactive waste. She is the founder of the the West Lake Landfill Facebook group, and Co-founder of Just Moms STL. Karen grew up exposed to the radioactive Coldwater Creek site, and for the past twenty years, she has lived 1.8 miles away from the West Lake – Bridgeton Landfill Superfund Site. For Karen, working with Just Moms is what “SHE HAS TO BE” doing to protect her family and future generations.
Sister Corlita Bonnarens, RSM is a native St. Louisan and a Sister of Mercy. She graduated with an MA degree from the Institute in Creation Centered Spirituality, and also has an MA degree in Art. She has ministered for over 30 years at Mercy Center in St. Louis, inviting people in retreats & workshops to integrate art, spirituality and justice with creation through praying and creating with clay & watercolor experiences. Sr. Corlita has created 25 watercolor images that depict sacred moments of the Universe that are in packets for use in the ritual of a Cosmic Walk. She is artist, teacher, spiritual director and ecologist. She has initiated the planting of over 100 trees on the grounds of Mercy Center, planting a pollinator garden of native wildflowers on 5 acres of ground, as well as inviting 2 beekeepers to install beehives at Mercy Center. Sr. Corlita is a founding member of the Intercommunity Ecological Council of Women Religious in St. Louis, MO.
Sister Jeanne Derer, FSM is a Franciscan Sister of Mary residing in St. Louis, MO. She is an artist and an advocate for our common home and our common good. She has been faithfully co-organizing prayer vigils near the WestLake Landfill Superfund site every second and fourth Wednesday of every month.
Jennifer Reyes-Lay is a board member for Creation Justice Ministries, representing the Ecumenical Catholic Communion. She serves as Assistant Director for the Congregational Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Office of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word. She is also a student at Eden Theological Seminary.
LEARN ABOUT A FEW OF THE SUPERFUND SITES NEAR ST. LOUIS, MO
Check the EPA website and map for Superfund, brownfield, etc. at https://www.epa.gov/cleanups/cleanups-my-community
WestLake Landfill Superfund Site
The Big River Mine Tailings/St. Joe Minerals Corp. Site
Storm water runoff can cause huge problems for the environment. It often carries pollutants like pesticides, fertilizers, and animal waste into drinking sources and nearby ecosystems. However, through a process of green infrastructure, storm water can be returned to the ground to safely provide for plants and animals. This can be done through rain gardens that retain storm water runoff from roofs, parking lots and driveways. This water can then be treated and safely returned to the environment.
Join in prayer with Standing Rock.
This entire movement has been rooted in prayer.
We have collected liturgical resources and prayers from the United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
Download prayer resources here.
Read holiday greetings from the Creation Justice community to Standing Rock Water Protectors.
*Donate to Episcopal Diocese of North Dakota: Mail check with "Standing Rock" in the "for" line to 3600 25th St. South, Fargo, ND 58104
* Donate to Presbytery of the Northern Plains (Be sure to select "Standing Rock" on the online donation form.)
* Donate to United Church of Christ Standing Rock campaign
* Donate to United Methodist Church Dakotas Conference: Donations to the Dakotas Conference will be channeled to supplies and hands-on support needed at the peace camp on Standing Rock. Funds can be sent to Dakotas Conference, PO Box 460, Mitchell, SD 57301. Be sure to write "Standing Rock" in the memo.
* Participate in a Mennonite faith-based delegation to Standing Rock – if you’re interested, fill out this contact form | Mennonite Central Committee
Action Guide: Support the Standing Rock Sioux #NoDAPL | Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Public Witness
Baltimore Yearly Meeting
Dallas Friends Meeting
Disciples Justice Action Network (DJAN)
Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton
Friends Committee on National Legislation
General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
United Methodist Dakotas-Minnesota Conference Bishop Bruce R. Ough
United Methodist Western Jurisdiction Officers
Interfaith Statement of Support for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Mennonite Central Committee
Miami Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
New York Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
Orthodox-Catholic Church of America
Pax Christi USA
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Presbyterian Church (USA) FAQ Page on #NoDAPL
Quaker Earthcare Witness
United Church of Christ
World Student Christian Federation (North American Region)
York (PA) Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends
Young Evangelicals for Climate Action
Young Evangelicals for Climate Action Letter to POTUS
Christian Community News Clips
Updated: Standing Rock Ministry Stands Resolutely with Sioux Nations's Cause | Episcopal News Service (11.28.16)
Tear Gas and Water Cannons Used on Hundredso of Activists at Standing Rock: Witnesses Report 200 Injuries in Sub-Freezing Temperatures | Presbyterian Misionary Agency (11.18.16)
The Church and the Dakota Pipeline Protests: Standing Rock is a New Turn in Christian Ties with Native Americans |The Economist (11.27.16)
At Standing Rock and Beyond: What is to be Done? | New York Times (11.25.16)
From Blacksmiths to Lawyers, Professional Servies are in Demand at Standing Rock: Presbyterian Delegation Gets Overview of Camp Operations | Presbyterian Misionary Agency (11.25.16)
Water Protectors at Standing Rock Prepare for Brutal Winter | Presbyterian Misionary Agency (11.18.16)
Standing With Standing Rock: Water Protecters and the New Selma | National Council of the Churches of the Christ in the USA (11.17.16)
Standing with Standing Rock by Listening First, Acting Second | United Church of Christ (11.17.16)
Local Clergy Joined in Vigil at North Dakota Pipeline Site | South Bend Tribune (11.16.16)
500 Religious Leaders Joined Native Americans in Protest and Prayer at Standing Rock | UpWorthy (11.8.16)
Eco-justice at Stake for Standing Rock People in USA | World Council of Churches (11.7.16)
Two PC (USA) Protestors Arrested at North Dakota Capitol | Presbyterian Mission Agency (11.7.16)
Presbyterian Center holds prayer vigil in solidarity with Standing Rock protests | Presbyterian Mission Agency (11.7.16)
Two PC(USA) protestors arrested at North Dakota capitol | Presbyterian Mission Agency (11.7.16)
Clergy Action in Solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux: A Report from Members of Hudson River Presbytery on November 3, 2017 | Hudson River Presbytery 11.4.16
We Are Our Own Medicine: Report From AFSC Delegation to Standing Rock | American Friends Service Committee (11.4.16)
Commentary: Follow Me | United Church of Christ (11.4.16)
PC(USA) Faith Leaders Join Standing Rock Solidarity Gathering | Presbyterian Mission Agency (11.4.16)
Clergy From Across U.S. to Stand in Solidarity with Indigenous ‘Water Protectors’ at Standing Rock | Baptist News Global (11.3.16)
Arrests made following rally of protesters, clergy at Capitol | The Bismarck Tribune (11.3.16)
Video: Presiding Bishop Calls for Prayer for Standing Rock Sioux Nation | Episcopal News Service (11.3.16)
Call is Issued for Episcopalians to Stand with Standing Rock on November 3 | Episcopal News Serve (11.3.16)
Clergy Gather to Add Solidarity to Standing Rock Water Protectors | Presbyterian Mission Agency (11.2.16)
Franciscans Join with 400 Faith Leaders at Standing Rock | Franciscan Action Network (11.2.16)
Mercy Joins Standing Rock to Protect Our Earth | Sisters of Mercy (11.2.16)
Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Bruce Curry Calls on Episcopalians to Pray for Standing Rock | Episcopal News Service (11.2.16)
United Church Funds Hosts Standing Rock Tribal Chair as Investors Look to Offer Support | United Church of Christ News (10.31.16)
An Orthodox Christian Response to Standing Rock | kaleeg.com (10.31.16)
Standing in Solidarity with Standing Rock | Presbyterian News Service (10.30.16)
Wyomingites Make Trip to Support North Dakota Protests | Wyoming Tribune (10.29.16)
Episcopal Church Called to a 'Powerful Opportunity to Exercise Our Shared Baptismal Ministry" | The Episcopal Church (10.28.16)
Episcopal Church Executive Committee Stands with Standing Rock | The Episcopal Church (10.22.16)
Churches Uniting in Christ issue statement re: Standing Rock Sioux | Disciples News Service (10.21.16)
Churches Uniting in Christ Stand with the Standing Rock Sioux | CUIC (10.21.16)
UCC Clergy Support Standing Rock Locally, and in Montana | United Church News Service (10.11.16)
Native American Groups Call Presbyterians to Prayer for the Standing Rock Sioux | Presbyterian News Service (10.4.16)
My Visit to the Camp of Sacred Stones at Standing Rock Reservation | Rev. Paul Henschen, Presbyterians for Earth Care blog (10.3.16)
Oil Transport in Valley a Reason to Repent | Rev. Donna Scharper in the Poughkeepsie Journal (9.29.16)
"Standing Rock" and "The Golden Rule": A Reflection on Sunday's Gospel Reading | Rev. Dr. John Chryssavgis, blog of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (9.28.16)
Image Gallery: Bishop Visits Standing Rock Sioux Reservation | Episcopal News Service (9.26.16)
#NativeLivesMatter: Protecting the Water at Standing Rock | United Church of Christ (9.15.16)
The Fire at Standing Rock: Three Lessons for Continued Struggle | Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt, The New Sacred United Church of Christ blog (9.22.16)
United Methodists stand with Standing Rock| Doreen Gosmire, director of communications, Dakotas Conference UMC (9.12.16)
Despite Judge's Ruling Against Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Federal Agencies Halt Pipeline Construction | Episcopal News Service (9.9.16)
Government Steps in, Temporarily Halts Construction on Pipeline | United Church of Christ News (9.9.16)
Presbytery of the Northern Plains Sends Support to North Dakota | Presbyterian News Service (9.8.16)
Faith Leaders Converge at Standing Rock against Dakota Access Pipeline | United Church of Christ News (9.7.16)
Bound in Love: Lessons from Standing Rock | Sojourners (9.6.16)
Lummi Totem Poll Ceremony in Sandpoint, Idaho, On to Standing Rock | Presbyterian News Service (9.2.16)
United Methodists, Native Americans Oppose Pipeline | United Methodist News Service (9.1.16)
Presbyterians Join Lummi Nation to Fight Fossil Fuel Projects in the Northwest | Presbyterian News Service (8.30.16)
Opinion: Standing with American Indians to Protect Our World From Destruction | Rev. Jared C. Cramer, Grand Haven Tribune (8.29.16)
Standing with the Standing Rock Sioux | Avery Davis, Sojourners (8.26.16)
Episcopalians Invited to Support Anti-Pipeline Protestors | Episcopal News Service (8.26.16)
Efforts to Stop Dakota Access Pipeline Move to DC District Court | United Church of Christ (8.25.16)
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About this Blog
This blog shares the activities of Creation Justice Ministries. We educate and equip Christians to protect, restore, and rightly share God's creation.