Public Policy Archives
Energy Assistance Letter to Senators
March 31, 1997
Senate Appropriations Committee
Washington DC 20510
On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the public policy agency of the US Catholic bishops, I write to urge you to support higher FY 1998 funding levels for several key programs now before the Appropriation Committee. These programs include the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, the Weatherization Program and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
In our Reflections on the Energy Crisis, we stated that “The Church’s interest in these topics (energy policy) is quite straight forward. To the extent that energy is necessary for human life and health, and for life with dignity, access to it is a matter of justice. Institutions and energy policies that fail to take human need sufficiently into account violate rights which the Church must defend.” We also recognized that “In the years ahead, the nations of the earth, both rich and poor, must learn to conserve what supplies they can obtain. They must also find some way of switching over to dependence on alternative sources of energy …”
The burning of fossil fuels is the dominant source of pollution that continues to contribute to a host of environmental and health problems including acid rain, urban smog and respiratory ailments. As bishops and pastors, we are especially concerned with the effects on the poor and the vulnerable, especially children. To correct these problems now and to protect better future generations as well as the environment, policies that promote energy conservation and efficiency and the development of renewable energy resources offer a more just and viable long term solution. An increase in funding could help prevent human environmental health problems as well as reduce energy resource waste.
We especially urge you to increase the funding available for the Weatherization Program and LIHEAP, which have helped so many low-income people literally survive extreme winters and summers. The Weatherization program has been successful in retrofitting buildings to conserve energy, lower power bills and create jobs. LIHEAP funds are critically needed to assist and protect millions of low-income families, children, senior citizens and disabled persons from severe economic and physical hardship. Without help from LIHEAP emergency funds, many low-income families may be forced to choose between heat and food. In your effort to balance the budget, we urge you not to sacrifice one program for the other. Together these programs protect human life and the environment.
Increased support for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewables seems a wise investment. Given the disproportionate consumption of energy and other natural resources by the United States relative to its population, research and development of renewables and alternative energy resources can help usher in a more sustainable economy for the 21st century. This cluster of DOE programs has a proven track record of protecting the environment with the cooperation of the private sector while decreasing our national dependence on imported oil. It is also not likely in general that the private sector would pick up this responsibility because of the uncertainty of an expeditious return on investment in the near future. More importantly, there is a societal obligation that requires us not to leave future generations with depleted natural resources or an unhealthy environment.
Thank you for your consideration of our views.
Bishop of Spokane
Chairman, Committee on Domestic Policy
Most Reverend William Skystad