As communities of faith organizing a religious response to global warming, we believe that climate disruption is among the greatest challenges that humanity has ever encountered. We commit ourselves to the moral imperative of preserving and protecting the planet for generations to come. There can be no effective strategy to address climate disruption without significant restructuring of our electricity production including a rapid and just transition from antiquated coal power generation.
The current technology of burning coal to produce electricity carries huge societal costs around air and water pollution and is one of the most significant drivers of climate disruption. These external costs are not captured in the price of coal power. Every step of the current coal-fired process is dangerous to human health, from mining and processing to burning and storage of waste ash. Those most often impacted by these dangerous processes are the most vulnerable members of our communities: the poor, the elderly, and children.
Science clearly indicates that we must reduce our output of carbon dioxide and other global warming pollution. Transitioning away from coal and other fossil fuels is a crucial step in mitigating climate disruption. In the United States that means we must halt the construction of all new coal power plants unless and until we can conclusively demonstrate safe and affordable carbon capture and storage. Existing coal plants utilizing 20th century technology should be phased out as quickly as possible as we transition to clean energy and become more energy efficient.
We know that all forms of coal mining are dangerous, imperil human health, and degrade landscapes and human communities. Particularly egregious is mountaintop removal mining, which has permanently destroyed over 500 mountains and 1500 miles of streams, while putting human communities in Appalachia in harm’s way from toxins in their air and water. We therefore oppose mountaintop removal mining and advocate for its immediate discontinuation.
We also oppose the export of coal from the United States to be burned in Asia. Shipping coal from Montana and Wyoming on uncovered trains to ports in the Pacific Northwest or Gulf Coast would cause immediate and devastating health, environmental, transportation, and community impacts along the rail route, in addition to air, water, and climate pollution generated by burning the coal.
As we transition to clean energy, we must work to remediate and restore the land and communities that have been degraded and economically exploited from coal mining, shipping, and burning. We support programs to provide jobs training to displaced coal workers and restoration of degraded lands.
While we recognize this transition is complex and will require significant investments, we have great faith in the ingenuity and spirit of America. We have come together many times in the past in the face of adversity and challenge. We believe we can come together for a shared purpose to make this transition to clean energy and offer a bright future for our children and grandchildren.