SJA parishioner Joe Foss is a man who deeply loves our Mother Earth and truly lives his commitment to our planet. Joe is a member of SJA's EcoSpirits ministry and recently he submitted the following statement regarding the proposed Enbridge Energy Pipeline Expansion, which would expand the Alberta Clipper Pipeline moving oil from Alberta across Minnesota. Citizens were invited to submit their statements to Judge Eric Lipman, and we are so grateful to Joe for raising his voice of faith. We share his statement with you.
OAH Docket Number 8-2500-30952
PUC Docket Number PL-9/CN-13-153
My name is Joe Foss and I live in Fridley, Minnesota. I’m an English teacher for adult immigrants and a member of the teacher’s union. The views I am sharing are my own.
I am writing to say that I’m opposed to the proposed expansion of the Enbridge pipeline. Expanding the shipment of tar sands oil will increase the extraction of tar sands oil in Alberta. This will cause more cutting of the boreal forests resulting in the loss of habitat and the forests’ ability to store carbon. To separate the oil from the sand, huge amounts of heated water need to be used, causing more release of greenhouse gas through the burning of natural gas. Adding 350,000 barrels per day of tar sands crude oil would release an additional 80 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year. This equals the emissions of 16 million cars or 23 coal-fired power plants according to MN350. The PUC has already agreed to some of this expansion which I believe was a mistake. According to an article in the National Geographic, 1 ton of earth has to be moved and processed for just 1 barrel of tar sands oil.
In 2007, the state of Minnesota set a scientifically-based goal of 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a 15% reduction by 2015, using 2005 as the baseline. Enbridge’s plan would set us in the opposite direction. The millions or billions spent to expand the extraction and shipment of tar sands oil can be better spent on energy efficiency and new clean energy jobs in wind, solar, geothermal, algae, and battery technology. The Obama administration and the big three U.S. automakers have agreed to increase fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks. Technology is improving to move cars toward gas/electric hybrid or all electric. The electricity can increasingly be from clean, renewable sources.
Clean energy jobs don’t have the cancer risks for workers in the refineries and the neighboring community or the long-term threat of climate disruption. Minnesota and the U.S. have made progress in these areas and we need to continue. We can further develop these technologies and be a world leader. We don’t need to expand oil consumption.
Almost all climate scientists warn that unchecked climate change will place a high cost on society and could lead to a breakdown of the social order. More drought, heavy rain, and severe weather will exact a high cost on Minnesota and the Midwest. There will be additional costs of sea level rise on coastal communities in the U.S. and around the world. A disrupted climate could result in civil conflict and wars in parts of the world fighting for the remaining resources. These costs exceed the profit benefit to a multinational corporation.
As we emit more carbon in the air, our oceans are getting more acidic. This is called ocean acidification. This is a lesser-known, but very disturbing trend. I’ve read that ½ of our carbon emissions are absorbed by the oceans. The CO2 in the air turns into carbonic acid in the ocean. The oceans are 30% more acidic than pre-industrial times. A more acidic ocean threatens the food chain in the ocean, including the coral reefs. Carbonic acid reacts with and weakens the calcium-based shells of the many tiny creatures in the ocean. These creatures are at the base of the food chain. Coral reefs are the rainforests of the ocean, supporting the most diverse range of life forms.
As a person of faith and conscience, I believe we need to protect the diversity of life, especially those most vulnerable. This is my understanding of Catholic Social Teaching. This ethic includes people who have a subsistence way of life and are most vulnerable to drought, heavy flooding, or a depleted resource base.
On a personal note, my wife is from Vietnam. She has brothers, a sister, nieces, and nephews that remain in Vietnam. Vietnam is ranked in the top 13 for climate change risk. The Vietnamese people depend on rice-growing regions of the Mekong and Red River deltas for much of their food. As the climate warms, salty ocean water will start to flood these deltas, degrading or killing off the rice fields. We can’t let this happen. We need to protect all of creation, celebrating its beauty and the life it supports. We need to use resources responsibly to minimize negative impacts. For these reasons, I urge you to reject Enbridge’s request for expansion.