In all of our lives there are moments that occur which are unimaginable. On Tuesday, May 22, I experienced such as moment and my perception of a group of people was drastically altered.
I volunteered to speak, as a concerned citizen, to the Georgia Public Service Commission (GA PSC). I had been informed that the Georgia Power 2013 long-term energy supply plan (also know as an Integrated Resource Plan or IRP) was being reviewed. As a pastor, and not an expert on energy or environmental issues, I was, needless to say, somewhat intimidated to share my thoughts with such a powerful Commission.
What deeply impressed and surprised me was what I personally witnessed and felt when one Commissioner expressed his feelings about the horrible weather-related disaster, which just occurred in Moore, Oklahoma. There was genuine interest and concern expressed about what can happen when powerful storms and events like that one impact our communities, regardless of race, creed, or political affiliation. The passion shared about what had transpired and Commissioner Wise’s prayer for the people of that city put me at ease, thus allowing me to share my brief remarks.I approached the podium to address the Commissioners and thanked them for making me, a person of faith, feel welcome. I shared that people of color, children, the elderly and those from low-income communities are disproportionately and negatively impacted by polluted air, water, and soil due to fossil fuel powered generation. I noted in my remarks:
“People ask me why I’m working on these environmental issues when there’s so much to be done for civil and human rights. I ask them, how can I do my work if I’m dead?”
I was pleased to learn that Georgia Power has proposed to retire or partially retire three coal-fired power plants in our state. This is an excellent step in the right direction. I remarked that Georgia Power should not miss the opportunity to include more clean solar and wind power in its energy resource mix. I learned that it has just added an Advanced Solar Initiative. I asked the GA PSC to approve the retirement of the coal plants and expand energy efficiency and solar energy in Georgia Power’s 2013 IRP.
I understand that Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has been encouraging Georgia Power to increase its energy efficiency programs and develop its solar portfolio. Georgia Power plans to buy 210 MW of solar over the next two or three years, which is definitely a good step, but needs to be more vigorously pursued for communities to realize the benefits of cleaner air and water. I also proposed that the IRP should emphasize an increase in energy efficiency programs. There must be a conscious, systematic strategy to develop a program that achieves higher energy and cost savings for residential, commercial, and industrial customers.
As a faith leader, I sensed a willingness from the Commissioners to review the IRP while considering how it can improve the quality of life and our environment while enhancing the health of all people. It is imperative for business, science, politics, and faith to become actively involved as a “force and voice of one” to sustain a perfectly balanced world that was given to us to oversee, not destroy.
Thank you to the Public Service Commissioners for respecting the inclusive, necessary role of the faith community and providing me a special Moment in Time.