“This is our nation’s Yom Kippur moment.” Testimony to State Department against Keystone XL Pipeline

Joelle Novey, Director

Greater Washington Interfaith Power & Light

Friday October 7 Testimony to State Department Against Keystone XL Pipeline

Through Greater Washington Interfaith Power & Light, hundreds of congregations of all religious traditions work together on energy and climate issues. I am submitting into the record today hundreds of comment cards from local churches and synagogues where good folks have concluded that the Keystone XL Pipeline would do great harm, and that their religious traditions call them to speak out. These cards join thousands of online comments sent from religious folks around the country, and they join the testimony of religious leaders at previous hearings in Kansas, Nebraska, and Texas.

When the sun sets this evening, I will join millions of Jewish Americans in marking the holiest day of our year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. For me, this is a day to tune out distractions, and to be honest with myself about whether or not I am on the right path.

A New York Times editorial this week spoke out against the Keystone XL pipeline. The paper cited concerns I share, about the damage Tar Sands extraction does to Canada's Boreal forest, and the risks the pipeline poses to Americans' drinking water.

But the editorial concluded with a larger question: Should "this country … keep conducting business as usual … or will [we] seriously grapple with the reality of climate change"?

This is the choice before you today. This is our nation's Yom Kippur moment. The concentrations of heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere are already higher than they have been in hundreds of thousands of years. And warming temperatures are already causing stronger storms, devastating droughts, and great suffering all around the world.

The path we are on is treacherous. If we build this pipeline to extract every last drop of oil from the Tar Sands, and push the concentrations of pollution in our atmosphere to the point that we permanently damage our Earth's climate, any arguments you have heard today in support of the pipeline's short-term benefits will pale in comparison. The human suffering that will be caused by our nation continuing along the fossil fueled path we are on is catastrophic.

Every single person who works at the State Department is also a human being who lives on Earth, and hopes for their children and grandchildren to also live on Earth. You surely know in your hearts that, at some point, our nation will be forced to shift away from dirty fuels, no matter which foreign corporations stand to benefit from further delay, and to turn instead towards investing in clean energy and repairing our climate.

But it matters when we make that decision. As Bill McKibben has said, "Physics and chemistry don’t bargain. They don’t give us much time, and they’re bad at haggling." We cannot wait to turn back until after this pipeline is built. We must turn back beforehand.

On this Yom Kippur, this day of moral clarity, please tune out distractions. Please have the integrity, instead, to simply make the right decision for the people of the United States and the people of the world.

Please do not approve the Keystone XL Pipeline.

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