Monterey Bishop: Green Power Protects the Environment and the Poor

February 10, 2017

Bishop Richard Garcia of the Diocese of Monterey reads from a Bible on Friday before starting a press conference at which he publicly supported the Monterey Bay Community Power project.Claudia Melendez Salinas — Monterey Herald

Adapted/further developed from an article by Claudia Meléndez Salinas,  Cross-posted from the Monterey Herald 01/20/17,

MONTEREY is a diocese of that spans three counties.  There, parishes and the diocese are leading an effort to transition not just their own buildings to more renewable energy, but do that for over 100 times as many structures and make a difference for all.  The diocese is going to the heart of the matter by seeking to shift the energy system and produce cleaner air and more jobs and local returns for all.  The Catholic effort has brought 12 of the 21 elected bodies on board to date, and only two of the 21 jurisdictions have shown reluctance to join in the efforts.

Now top Catholic clerics in the area are urging parishioners to contact their elected officials and ask them to support the Monterey Bay Community Power project, an effort to form a new power agency to provide electricity for residents in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.

“We’re coming up on one of the most critical times, when all these different organizations have to actually start voting yea or nay on whether they’re going to join Monterey Bay Community Power,” Warren Hoy, deacon of social justice at the Diocese of Monterey, said Friday at a press conference. “It’s become a critical juncture in our entire effort.”

For the last few months, top Catholic leaders in Monterey County have supported regional efforts for the creation of the new power agency in the name of protecting the environment and social justice.

The new agency would purchase power from Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and distribute it to an estimated 285,000 customers in the tri-county area. But rather than giving the profits to shareholders, the agency would use the funds to develop clean energy sources, such as solar and wind farms. These clean sources of energy would have the potential of reducing considerably the area’s carbon footprint, they say.

“If all 21 of these communities join, we have the potential to remove more than 80 million pounds of carbon emissions,” said Benjamin Eichert, director of Greenpower, the green energy initiative of the Romero Institute. “This gives us a sense of scale and why it’s so important. It has the potential to become the largest community choice program in the state.”

The way local Catholic leaders describe it, the environment is God’s creation and needs to be protected. And if the environment is damaged, the most affected are the poor, so the issue is also one of social justice.

“During the fire in Big Sur, which lasted four months, I would be driving to San Luis Obispo, and I would often see the farmworkers picking crops with masks on. There was smoke still coming from Big Sur to Gonzales,” Bishop Richard Garcia said. “I thought, what would God do about this? … All these women picking crops out there, we all have to be caring for our people, no matter their religion, where they come from, we have to care for the people, that’s what the Bible’s all about.”

Claudia Meléndez Salinas can be reached at 831-726-4370.