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June 9, 2014

A higher calling in climate change fight

Federal emissions rules garnering support from faith leaders

INDIANAPOLIS — A federal program to reduce carbon emissions has found fierce opposition among business and political leaders but is garnering support from a surprising source — faith leaders who praise its eternal value.

A coalition of believers wants the state to embrace new rules that require deep cuts in carbon emissions and reverse Indiana’s dependence on coal-fueled electricity.

The Rev. Lyle McKee, chairman of Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light, said the Obama administration’s proposed rules would help address the man-made climate change that is threatening creation.

“We must resolve as a state and nation to move with all deliberate speed away from those practices that degrade the viability of God’s good gifts,” said McKee, a Lutheran pastor whose group has spent more than $200,000 helping Indiana churches convert to solar power to reduce their carbon footprints.

Last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the new restrictions on carbon pollution, targeting a 30 percent overall reduction by 2030.

Because of progress already made in Indiana, including the retirement of some aging coal-fired plants, the state would have to cut 20 percent of its carbon pollution. Still, that’s a leap for a state that ranks fourth for carbon dioxide emissions and is home to two of the nation’s top polluting power plants.

And, 80 percent of the state’s electricity is generated by coal.

Luke Gascho, a founder of Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light, said it was critical for religious leaders to weigh in on the issue.

“More people are recognizing this is a responsibility for us in the faith community to pay attention to,” said Gascho, who is director of the Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center at Goshen College.

The Indiana organization is part of the national Interfaith Power and Light network of about 15,000 congregations in 40 states. The groups are pressing for tougher standards to reduce carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. And they reflect just one segment of a growing movement of religious communities that are focusing on climate change.

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