Ecumenical Christians Testify Against Clear Skies Act

Ecumenical Christian leaders urged members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to oppose the proposed “Clear Skies Act” of 2005 during the Senate’s full committee hearing on Wednesday, February 02, 2005. The groups, lead by the National Council of Churches USA, contended the S131 bill, which would require utilities to reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury emission by 70 percent by 2018, fails to “implement policies needed to clean up our nation’s air and excludes provisions to address the threat of global warming.”

According to the Associated press, S131, which is backed by Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, on Jan. 24, is directed at emissions from electricity generating plant and would most affect plants using coal as fuel.

Critics of the bill, including the religious leaders, say the S131 should include a clause placing a cap on carbon dioxide emissions – one of the gases that lead to global warming.

"[W]e believe the legislation delays the critical action necessary to clean up our nation's air and fails altogether to address the real and present threat of global warming. We urge this committee to adopt amendments that would strengthen standards, speed up implementation, and control emissions of carbon dioxide," the testimony, submitted by the religious leaders during the full committee hearing, stated.

The Christian leaders represent the National Council of Churches and come from large mainline denominations such as the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church.

"Clean air is a basic right and necessity for all life,” the testimony continued. “We have too often abandoned (our) sacred responsibility . . . leaving a legacy of pollution that threatens the health of communities and the very future of our planet."

John S. Hill, Director of Economic and Environmental Justice at the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society explained that the most vulnerable members of society suffer from pollution.

"We believe that our elected officials have a moral duty to address air pollution," said Hill, according to the NCC. "All too often, the most vulnerable in our society, including the elderly, the poor, children, and pregnant women pay the price suffer because of our failure to act."

"Over the past several years we have educated and mobilized people of faith on the issue of air pollution," said Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, NCC's Associate General Secretary for Justice and Advocacy. "Within the last year we have encouraged our 100,000 congregations across the country to take action to protect God's gift of air and have provided them with theological statements, worship materials, study guides and prayers. The call now is to our elected officials to take action."

According to the Associated Press, the proponents of the bill hope to have it ready to go to the Senate floor as soon as possible for action by April.