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EPA urged to protect people's welfare in new rules to limit pollution
Catholic News Service photo
Smoke from the American Electric Power's coal-fired Mountaineer Power Plant, along the banks of the Ohio River in New Haven, W.Va.
Catholic News Service photo
Smoke from the American Electric Power's coal-fired Mountaineer Power Plant, along the banks of the Ohio River in New Haven, W.Va.
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Citing concern that power plants are a major contributor to climate change through carbon emissions, Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami called upon the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to craft rules limiting pollution that respect human life and dignity.

The archbishop, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, told EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a May 29 letter that standards to reduce power plant pollution should protect the health and welfare of people, especially children, the elderly, the poor and the vulnerable.

Archbishop Wenski's letter comes as President Barack Obama was expected to use his executive authority June 2 to announce rules to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants by up to 20 percent. The order is expected to force industry to pay for carbon pollution through cap-and-trade programs.

Dan Misleh, executive director of the Catholic Climate Covenant, welcomed the letter, saying the bishops raise important moral questions related to human dignity and creation care.

"And while we are hopeful that the regulations which come out Monday meet these moral criteria, at the same time we hope that more action is also taken at the local, state, national and international levels as well," Misleh said in a statement.

Archbishop Wenski explained in the letter that the bishops "do not speak as experts on carbon pollution or on the technical remedies to address climate change," but as pastors in a faith tradition that teaches that creation is a gift that must be treated with "respect and gratitude."

"Efforts to address climate change must take into account creation and its relationship to 'the least of these,'" the letter said, citing the Gospel of Matthew. "Too frequently we observe the damaging impacts from climate-related events in the United States and across the globe, particularly on poor and vulnerable communities. Beyond the regulations, the United States should exercise leadership for a globally negotiated climate change agreement."

The archbishop's correspondence listed principles from the bishops' statement "Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence and the Common Good" as well as the teaching of Pope Francis that could guide the EPA.

Principles he cited included respect for human life and dignity, working on behalf of the common good, prioritizing the needs of poor and vulnerable people, promoting social and economic justice, protecting God's creation and ensuring that local communities have a voice in shaping pollution standards.

The letter concluded by saying the USCCB was prepared to work with the EPA, the White House and Congress as necessary.

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