Rabbi Saperstein: "As heirs to a tradition of stewardship that teaches us to be partners in the ongoing pursuit of tikkun olam, or repairing the world, it is our sacred duty as Jews to care for the environment that sustains us. As such, we welcome the EPA's Mercury and Air Toxic Standards."
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WASHINGTON, D.C., December 21, 2011 -- In response to the final rule issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limiting mercury and toxic air emissions from power plants, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement:
"As heirs to a tradition of stewardship that teaches us to be partners in the ongoing pursuit of tikkun olam, or repairing the world, it is our sacred duty as Jews to care for the environment that sustains us. As such, we welcome the EPA's Mercury and Air Toxic Standards.
These new standards for power utilities save lives. Mercury is a neurotoxin that is especially dangerous for pregnant women and developing fetuses, and can cause premature deaths in those exposed at a young age. This new rule sets a long-overdue improved national standard for limiting mercury, arsenic and other toxic emissions from coal-fired power plants, requiring power plants to reduce emissions within 3 years. Holding power plants to higher air quality standards is not only good for our health and the health of our children; it benefits our economy, as well. Once in effect, the rule is projected to create 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 permanent utility jobs.
We are proud that Rabbi Kevin Kleinman of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania testified in front of a panel of EPA officials in support of the rule last May. The mandate for saving lives and environmental stewardship are core elements of our Jewish values. We read in Midrash, "Do not corrupt or destroy my world; for if you corrupt it, there will be no one to set it right after you" (Kohelet Rabbah 7:13). The EPA's action also resonates with two millennia of Jewish legal texts, as explicit limitations on airborne pollutants are set forth in Talmud and Maimonides' Mishneh Torah.
We commend the EPA for setting new standards for mercury emissions and issuing a new rule vital to protecting the environment and health of our families and communities."