PA Religious Group Says Marcellus Gas Drilling is Immoral

As predicted by MDN on Friday (see here), the Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light (PA-IPL) religious organization declared in their press conference of Sunday that “ethical drilling” of Marcellus Shale gas essentially equals “no drilling.” Like many other anti-drilling organizations, the PA-IPL is driven by ideology: they seek renewable energy nirvana. They have drunken deeply from the man-causes-global-warming mythology/religion. They view fossil fuels as immoral. MDN suspects however, that the leaders of the PA-IPL don’t peddle bicycles everywhere they want to go but instead use gas-powered vehicles. And no doubt they fly around on jets burning fossil fuels to spread their inanities. And heat their homes with nasty coal-generated electricity. Can anyone say “hypocrite”?

MDN has absolutely no problems with people and groups who want to buy “clean and green” electricity, reduce their use of fossil fuels and turn their thermostats down to just above freezing. Just don’t force the rest of us to do it too, based on your cockamamie theories of climate change, claiming it’s somehow blessed by the Creator Himself.

From the PA-IPL press release:

Religious leaders from Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light (PA-IPL) today released the organization’s position paper, “Principles for considering Marcellus Shale Drilling: An ethical analysis,” in which the organization detailed changes that must be made before drilling could be acceptable when viewed through a moral compass. A copy of the document, which was released at a press conference in State College, is available at

“Our aim at Pennsylvania Interfaith Power and Light is to help people see the moral and religious implications of our energy use,” said Sylvia Neely, president of the PA-IPL board of Directors. “Using resources responsibly is not just a matter of economics, but is a way to show love for our neighbors, to promote justice and peace, and to affirm our relationship with God by living simply and mindfully in order to preserve and sustain God’s creation.”

The position paper reiterates the organization’s opposition to the mining and burning of coal for electricity because such use causes global warming, which the paper says “is a corruption of the goodness of God’s creation.” The paper also condemns the deep drilling and use of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation as currently done, laying out a number of significant changes that must be made so that the extraction and use is done ethically, saying “PA-IPL could only support use of Marcellus natural gas if:

  • Its use was part of an overall strategy to move as quickly as possible away from coal in particular and fossil fuels in general; and
  • The Commonwealth imposed a drilling tax or impact fee to provide substantial investment for the development of clean, sustainable energy sources to slow climate change, and
  • Overall environmental, social, community, and health impacts from drilling are sharply reduced.”

Rabbi Daniel Swartz, a member of the PA–IPL board of directors said, “For us to consider supporting drilling, it would have to be part of a comprehensive plan to address climate change, the drilling itself should be conducted with full public disclosures and a vigorous regulatory system in place and enforced, and there needs to be planning in place to reduce community conflicts and stop the boom-bust cycle that is too common in Pennsylvania’s history. We must learn from our history, and not repeat it.”

The paper detailed ways that communities of faith must lead by example on energy, taking several actions, including buying clean electricity not generated from fossil fuels, conserving energy in congregation’s buildings to lessen the need to heat with fossil fuels, and speaking out about the moral implications of energy choices.

The religious leaders also called on elected officials throughout Pennsylvania at all levels of government to refuse contributions from companies involved in the exploration, drilling, production, transportation and sale of natural gas. They also urged faith-based institutions to refrain from entering into financial agreements with natural gas exploration or extraction companies until problems are addressed.

Rabbi Swartz addressed why the religious community must take a public stand on Marcellus Shale drilling, saying, “Because the choices we make when we extract and use energy affect people’s lives and the planet’s wellbeing, for generations to come, there is no bigger moral issue facing humanity today. And when it comes to moral issues, people do and should turn to the leadership of their faith communities.”

In the same press conference, Cricket Hunter, executive director of PA-IPL, presented the organization’s Environmental Visionary Award to former Pennsylvania State Representative and Senator Franklin Kury, Esq., for his significant actions "to tend and sustain" the earth and all its creatures. Kury was the author of the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, and led the successful enactment of the State Scenic Rivers Act, the Flood Plain and Storm Water Management Acts, the Gubernatorial Disability Act, and the PUC Code.

The press conference was followed by the organization’s annual meeting, “The Human Face of Climate Change: Food, Faith and other necessities of life.”

PA-IPL is a community of congregations, faith-based organizations, and individuals of faith responding to climate change as a moral issue, through advocacy, energy conservation, energy efficiency, and the use of clean, renewable energy. PA-IPL is the state affiliate of Interfaith Power and Light, a national religious response to the threat of climate change.*

*PA-IPL Press Release (Sep 18, 2011) – Religious Leaders Announce Principles for Ethical Marcellus Shale Drilling

  • Anonymous

    I humbly disagree with the premise that it is immoral to drill for and put to use the resources that God Himself placed at our disposal.  My position is biblical – Genesis 2:28, “The God blessed them (Adam and Eve), be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”  That’s all the proof I need…

  • Jim Willis

    I’ll add an “amen” to that Wayne.

  • Stuart Smith

    I wonder if, instead of the dripping sarcasm of this and the previous article, you/the industry engaged with these people instead, what might be an outcome? If you’re going to be a big industry active all over the region, it is “big” to graciously accept some criticism. I know clergy and leadership in faith-based groups like this (I am active in my Christian denomination’s regional affairs). There is a real lack of understanding of the earth sciences and associated engineering. I work in the ground water development field, and we deal with the same things to some extent. Ignorance plus a perception that someone is making money leads to suspicion. I’m not sure why you delve into rhetoric like “drunken deeply from the man-causes-global-warming mythology/religion”. There is no real debate in the earth science community that global warming is exacerbated by a rise in atmospheric CO2, and the rise is due to “old” CO2, that is, fossil sources. We do need a generations-long vision to someday go past hydrocarbons. To me, gas is the “anti-coal” hydrocarbon. Small footprint and impact yields high-grade clean HC energy. Take a deep breath, willya?  

  • Jim Willis

    Thanks for commenting Stuart, but I find equating the myth (and it is indeed a myth) that man causes global warming, and further elevating that false belief to the status of deity in that “you can’t disagree or your immoral” which is indeed what they’re saying, is repugnant. And calls for strong language, sarcasm, and anything else I can throw at it. I’m afraid on this one I have no common ground. If you and others want to believe the myth, fine. Just don’t expect me to go along with it.

  • Anonymous

    Oh for Pete’s sake.  Watching people argue “myths” on here is really ridiculous.  Rational, reasonable people understand that human beings and their lifestyle (meat eating, transportation hogs, among a thousand other bad habits) contribute to climate change and the increase in C02 in the atmosphere because of science.  I am not criticizing these things…I eat meat occasionally and drive a Jeep (but heat my home with pellets to keep from using gas and oil for this too). But it’s idiotic to refute it.  Just because you ignore it doesn’t make it go away. And don’t give me the BS about the science being refuted now because of a supposed email scandal about the data.  This has been proven to be a false scandal.  

    However, believing in a god is something that there is no evidence for.  None, zip, nil, zero.  And to see Jim suggest that someone gives deity status to a belief when I can tell by further comments he must have a belief in this invisible fairy in the sky just makes me laugh all the more.  

    People, do you have any idea how ridiculous this is?  The more you perpetuate the REAL myth religions spread, you will be responsible for validating all religions and the violence and atrocities that ensue as a result of them.  Tragic.

  • Stuart Smith

    You can always ignore a small religious movement like this, however misunderstandings (and they have misunderstandings about gas development) can usually be overcome by dialog, not by the current standards of rhetoric: divide into groups and start slashing. Within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we developed a statement on crop genetics that achieved buy in from the whole spectrum including our rural farmers who really like RoundupReady. BTW: term checks – “myth” is widely misused. A myth is a story (which may or may not be entirely factually accurate) that tells an essential truth. The creation myths of Genesis 1 and 2 or the accounts of Jonah or Job are such. A myth is not a false or fairy story. That human activity contributes materially to global warming is a hypothesis. And actually it rises to the level of “strongly supported hypothesis” or “paradigm” but just not yet “theory” (as in evolution) based on the evidence. The evidence is broad-based and robust, approaching the quality of that supporting evolution. Again – not sure the argument here: gas is good on the carbon balance. I am not involved in gas development, but am a fan, and as a geologist, I understand that it can be – and seems to be developed responsibly. We’re going to need the teracalories fossil fuels provide to keep us warm and moving (yes, I drive a motor vehicle, use electricity, and heat the house) for decades even if a conversion to renewables is desired or possible. That famous “granola” T. Boone Pickens came up with a plan along those lines.

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