Perry makes waves by implying God pollutes

Jason Addy
  • Rep. Scott Perry said that even God violates certain environmental regulations during a town hall meeting Saturday.
  • God runs afoul of Chesapeake Bay cleanup regulations, Perry said, as the trees he created produce nitrates and phosphates.

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry made headlines over the weekend by hosting a town-hall meeting in Red Lion, becoming the first Republican congressman from Pennsylvania to face his constituents since the highly contentious presidential election.

The town hall is again making headlines after multiple news outlets reported on comments the third-term congressman from Dillsburg made about God and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

At his town hall Saturday morning in the Red Lion Area Junior High School cafeteria, a constituent asked Perry if he supports President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the EPA.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, answers a question during his town-hall meeting Saturday, March 18, 2017, at Red Lion Area Junior High School. Amanda J. Cain photo

“How will you reclaim and protect our air and water resources with the proposed cuts to the EPA?” said Red Lion Superintendent Scott Deisley, who read constituents’ written questions to Perry. “Do you support the cuts to EPA? Pennsylvania has a history of environmental problems. Air and water are shared across state lines. Don’t we need a stronger EPA to protect the environment?”

Perry faces constituents at Red Lion town hall

It was the third time he was asked about the EPA and climate change that morning, but it elicited a noteworthy response from Perry.

“I’ll give you an example. When I was at the state House, we had a thing called the Chesapeake Bay Strategy, which everyone in this room, if you live in this district, had to abide by,” Perry said. “There was no law. There was no statute. This came (down from) the EPA, was forced on the DEP (the state’s Department of Environmental Protection) and left some violators out.

“And by the way, some violators, if you believe in, if you’re spiritual and you believe in God, one of the violators was God because the forests are providing a certain amount of nitrates and phosphates to the Chesapeake Bay,” Perry said, before being drowned out by loud jeers coming from among the 400 constituents in attendance.

On Wednesday, the Rev. Mitch Hescox, president and CEO of the Evangelical Environmental Network, said, "God created the world as a sustainable place" and encouraged Perry to "read his Bible."

Hescox, of New Freedom, laid the blame for today's pollution levels squarely at the feet of humans.

"Human beings destroy the Earth because they don't follow God's commandments," Hescox said, quoting Scripture. "God had nothing to do with pollution — the corruption of mankind is the pollution that we face today."

Appropriate concerns? The representative was more measured with his answers to other questions regarding the environment, climate change and the EPA’s budget.

Pa. science professionals wary of Trump's EPA pick

Perry said he is “concerned about the world we live in,” like everyone else, and he will review the president’s budget proposal to determine if the cuts to the EPA are “appropriate.”

However, Perry said the federal government cannot keep spending money it does not have, and elected officials “must make choices” about the country's spending priorities.

“Every single agency should be reviewed to see what their missions are and see how they’re spending their money — your money — and to see what they’re providing,” Perry said, before being cut off by constituents who were unsatisfied with his answer.

Air quality: One constituent submitted a question about York County’s air quality and how Perry will try to improve it.

Perry began his answer trying to put some context around the question.

“Some people claim, and it might be true in some instances, that we have some of the worst air quality in the country,” Perry said, imploring the vocal dissidents to let him finish his answer.

“Generally speaking, the air and the water exponentially has gotten cleaner in your lifetime, and it’s evidenced by the increase in lifespans for all Americans,” Perry continued.

Responding to that part of Perry’s answer, one constituent yelled, “Because of the EPA!”

Perry persisted through the uproars to finish his answer, saying the “incremental” and “almost undetectable” environmental gains come at the cost of putting companies out of business or forcing them overseas.

“It’s important we continue to try to work with (businesses) as much as we can, but sending them overseas where they don’t have to abide by any of these regulations doesn’t seem to be a good solution to me,” he said.

Hescox pointed to the American Lung Association's State of the Air 2016 report, which gives York County an "F" for high ozone days and a "C" for daily particle pollution.

The Evangelical Environmental Network works to educate churches and their members, as well as policy makers, on God's calling for humans to not only care for the Earth but to keep it clean and safe for the most vulnerable, especially children, Hescox said.

There are more than 30,000 children suffering from asthma in southcentral Pennsylvania, with methane emissions from the natural gas industry and hydrofracturing, or fracking, contributing directly to another 2,000 cases each year.

"That (pollution) didn't come from God," Hescox said. "That came from humanity not taking care of the Earth."

Staff at Perry’s Washington, D.C., office did not respond to multiple requests for comment Wednesday.