UCC environmental advocates applaud EPA's proposal to slash U.S. carbon emissions
Written by Emily Schappacher
June 2, 2014
Noted as one of the most significant environmental protections to be proposed by the United States and President Barack Obama's largest climate effort so far, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a proposal that could transform the power sector by requiring drastic reductions in power plant emissions. The rule, introduced Monday, June 2, would cut carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030 – the equivalent, according to the EPA, of taking two-thirds of all cars and trucks in America off the road.
"The United Church of Christ applauds the Obama Administration's efforts to take real action on climate change," said the Rev. Linda Jaramillo, the UCC's executive minister for Justice and Witness Ministries. "A proposal like the one introduced by the EPA has been a long time coming and is just the first of many steps that need to be taken by the U.S. government and big business to begin to curtail the damage that has already been done to our precious Earth."
Under the proposal, states will have flexible options to help them achieve the targeted cuts, although states that rely more heavily on power produced by coal may face more challenges. The plan offers states several ways to achieve the emission targets, including improving power plant heat rates, replacing coal plants with more natural gas plants, increasing use of zero-carbon energy such as solar power, and increasing energy efficiency. Measures such as carbon cap-and-trade systems, or utilizing economic incentives as a means for achieving reductions in emissions, are another way states can meet their goals.
"I pray that the states will take these new EPA rules seriously and find ways to make meaningful reductions," said Meighan Pritchard, the UCC's minister for environmental justice. "I hope that people of all faiths are able to rally around the EPA to support these rules and to pledge, for our part, to urge our legislators and utility companies to comply fully. The ability of the United States to lead on climate change reduction worldwide depends on our willingness to take serious steps to mitigate our carbon footprint. This is one such step, and I applaud the EPA for taking it."
According to a New York Times report, the rule itself will not lower greenhouse gas pollution enough to prevent catastrophic effects of climate change. However, combined with other regulations, it would allow the U.S. to meet its commitment to the United Nations to cut carbon pollution by 17 percent by the year 2020 and pressure other major polluting countries, such as China and India, to do the same. The rule is not an executive order and the proposal is still in its beginning stages. The EPA will now take public comments and spend the next year completing the proposal before releasing the final rule in June 2015. States will then have another year to submit compliance plans or apply for an extension.
The UCC is not the only faith group that is supportive of the EPA's proposal. The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church (USA), along with groups like the National Religious Partnership for the Environment and Creation Justice Ministries have also issued statements commending the bold step toward a more sustainable planet.
"High levels of carbon dioxide from power plants place enormous strain on the integrity and wellbeing of the earth and the human family, contributing to climate shifts that threaten the health, welfare, security, and sanctity of the world God so loves," said Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of government relations for the Episcopal Church. "The Episcopal Church commends the Environmental Protection Agency for taking a crucial step toward safeguarding human communities and the earth for generations to come."
"As people of faith," Jaramillo adds, "we need to recognize and commend such steps toward making our world a safer, more sustainable place, while also pledging to continue to advocate for current and future generations."