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PC(USA) Office of Public Witness takes part in Washington rally at EPA headquarters

Participants speak out against President Trump’s environmental position

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

JImmie Hawkins, director of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness, speaks during an “Emergency Lunchtime Rally” at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency. (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE – Hundreds of people braved cold and windy conditions in Washington, D.C., to participate in an “Emergency Lunchtime Rally” at the headquarters of the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday. A number of organizations, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, took part in the rally.

The rally was organized by Green For All, a national organization fighting pollution as well as working to build an inclusive green economy that creates jobs and opportunities for low-income workers.

OPW Director, the Rev. Jimmy Hawkins, told the crowd the church stands with poor and oppressed people who are “often the victims of environmental injustice.” He said the U.S. has historically produced more greenhouse gases than any other country and is responsible for over a fifth of the world’s annual emissions. He urged government leaders to accept their moral responsibility to address global warming.

“By drastically limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect public health and enforce environmental safety standards, this administration’s actions are no less than an attempt to gut the Clean Air Act,” said Hawkins. “It is a landmark public health and environmental protection law that has drastically reduced dangerous, toxic pollutants in our air, land and water, and protected Americans for more than four decades.”

The president’s selection of Scott Pruitt as the new EPA chief has drawn opposition from critics who say the administration is moving to dismantle President Obama’s climate change and environmental policies.

“We will fight these reckless attacks on clean air like our lives depend on it, because they do. Because of immoral decisions to harm our air quality, our communities will conduct thousands of funerals for preventable premature deaths,” said Hawkins. “This is tragic, it is wrong and we will not tolerate it.”

Hawkins added that the American people deserve to know the truth about Pruitt’s ties to corporate polluters.

“We know that as a Baptist, Pruitt shares a faith tradition that calls us to responsible stewardship of God’s dominion and Mr. Pruitt himself has publicly stated his intention to protect clean air and water,” he said. “However, we need him to earn our trust. His track record of suing the EPA, and his public refusal to recuse himself from ongoing cases he brought against the EPA are deeply troubling. We are watching him closely and will hold him to account if he harms the air and water.”

Prior to his new position, Pruitt served as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

Hawkins and other rally participants argue that Trump and Pruitt have signaled their intent to eliminate EPA protections against pollutants such as smog, arsenic, mercury and limits on carbon pollution from power plants. The group also believes the administration’s planned actions could put millions of Americans at risk of illness, disease and premature death because polluters will be protected.

“Too often it is low income communities and communities of color who bear the brunt of harm caused by major polluters while seeing few of the benefits of industry,” said Hawkins. “The faith community and the PC(USA) in particular take a firm stand against environmental racism that would be wrought by a rollback in clean water protections. We call upon this administration to fortify and strengthen the EPA and the Clean Air Act, not diminish their power and influence.”

President Trump has proposed building the military’s budget by cutting funds from other programs. One proposal includes a 25 percent reduction in the EPA budget, impacting 3,000 jobs. The rally participants believe actions by the administration will lead to the end of the Clean Air Act.


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