EPA administrator speaks at ND
Margaret Hynds | Monday, September 28, 2015
Just days after Pope Francis’s arrival in the U.S. and address to the nation’s leaders, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Gina McCarthy spoke on campus Friday afternoon to both students and the press, discussing climate change and Notre Dame’s recently announced efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and integrate a variety of sustainable energy sources.
In the next five years, the University will cease burning coal in its campus power plant, and by 2030 it plans to halve its carbon emissions, University president Fr. John Jenkins said last week.
At Friday’s press conference, McCarthy quoted Francis’s words earlier in the week and stressed the importance of the nation getting behind efforts to prevent further climate change.
“On Wednesday, during remarks at the White House, the Holy Father Pope Francis said, ‘When it comes to the care of our common home, we are living at a critical moment in history,’” she said. “Indeed the Pope, President Obama and countless other world leaders have made it clear that the time to action climate change is now, and that all of us — whether in the public, private, academic or faith-based communities — have a role to play in addressing this global challenge for the sake of our kids and especially for those most vulnerable. That’s why we must act today.
“And I have to say, the pope’s time in Washington was indeed personal for me, not just as a Catholic but as someone who has been in the fight against climate change for many years.
“His trip reaffirmed the tide really has turned … that we’re past the old days of debating the science and making incremental progress, and right now we do have solutions available to us so that we can take actions now that are not just good at addressing climate but that are also good for our economy and those most vulnerable,” she said.
McCarthy described Notre Dame’s plans for the integration of sustainable energy and reduction of carbon emissions as “an opportunity to demonstrate what the pope’s moral responsibility actually looks like.”
“The steps we are taking here today at ND are something that I want to make sure everybody knows and is celebrating, because they are a tremendous example of bringing life to the pope’s challenge; of recognizing that we have a moral responsibility and we do have actions that we can and must take today,” she said. “I want to explain to everybody just how excited I am to be on this campus, under this president’s leadership and actually tackling this issue in a way that’s going to add value to the campus, but perhaps more importantly bring life to the intersect of faith and values that the challenge of climate change demands.
“That is really so well aligned with the message of this pope. And I commend the University of ND for setting ambitious goals and efforts in taking action already to reduce their carbon footprint, which they expect to halve by 2030. That is what leadership and that is what stewardship actually looks like,” she said.
Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves also spoke, detailing further what the University hopes and plans to do in the coming years in regards to renewable energy.
As the University works through its coal cessation plan, he said, it has explored and is currently working on a number of other energy strategies.
“At the moment, we’re using a lot of natural gas, we’re looking at creating our first geothermal field set to go in after next June as we complete the research building on the east side of campus,” he said. “We’re going to have a geothermal field under the parking area there, and we’re looking at other geothermal fields in several places on campus.”
In addition to geothermal energy, Affleck-Graves said Notre Dame is investigating other avenues to create a more “diversified strategy.”
“[We’re] moving more and more towards renewable energy, so we arrive at a situation where most of our energy will come from renewable sources,” he said. “ … We’re looking at a hydroelectric plant on the river. We’re working with the city of South Bend, and that’s in the planning and approval stages. There’s a lot of regulation that goes around that.
“We’re also looking at solar, particularly in some of the parking fields that we have, where we have large open areas that we can maybe put solar on top of parking structures, and maybe a little bit of solar on top of roofs.”
When asked about the cost of moving from traditional sources of energy to renewable sources, Affleck-Graves said he did not foresee that being a large issue for the University. The cost of investing in things like a geothermal field would be high, he said, but after the field goes in there would no longer be installation costs associated with it.
“I wouldn’t say it’s new money, it’s an element of new money but also the redirection of money. … Instead of a new coal fire burner, we’ll invest in another alternative source,” he said.
McCarthy said because climate change is a reality now, action needs to be taken immediately to protect the disadvantaged and future generations.
“It’s not just about the challenge of keeping our children safe in the future, but it is all about protecting them today, protecting the most vulnerable and making sure we meet the president’s call for us to take action and meet that moral responsibility,” she said.