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Church slams Bush on environment


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Church group slams Bush on Clean Air Act

Thursday, April 22, 2004 Posted: 1:28 PM EDT (1728 GMT)




Monica Myers, pastor of Seattle's Northwest Christian Church, said Christians' faith should guide them on issues such as environmental pollution.



SEATTLE, Washington (AP) -- A national group of Christian leaders is sending a scathing letter to President Bush to coincide with Earth Day, accusing his administration of chipping away at the Clean Air Act.


The National Council of Churches argued that planned changes to power plant regulations will allow major polluters to avoid installing pollution-control equipment when they expand their facilities.


"In a spirit of shared faith and respect, we feel called to express grave moral concern about your 'Clear Skies' initiative -- which we believe is The Administration's continuous effort to weaken critical environmental standards to protect God's creation," the council wrote in an advance copy of the letter provided to The Associated Press.


The New-York based group, which represents 50 million people in 140,000 Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox congregations, said it was sending its two-page letter to the president on Thursday, as people all over the country celebrate Earth Day. It took out a full-page ad in The New York Times, scheduled to run in Thursday's editions, calling on Bush to leave the Clean Air Act's new source review rules in place.


The Environmental Protection Agency did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday, but the agency has defended the rule changes proposed in August. EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt has called it "the biggest investment in the air quality improvement in the nation's history."


The proposal would cap emissions and allow polluters to buy and sell pollution allowances, but environmental groups complain the new system would be far too lenient. In December a federal appeals court temporarily blocked the new rules from taking effect, agreeing with more than a dozen states and cities that contended the changes could cause irreparable harm to their environments and public health.


"The people we talk to, both inside and outside the administration, say ... that these changes will in fact weaken, not strengthen the Clean Air Act," said the Rev. Bob Edgar, a United Methodist minister and the church council's general secretary.


"And we will in fact have dirtier air and less compliance," said Edgar, who served six terms in Congress in the 1970s and '80s, representing a suburban Philadelphia district. The council is urging ministers across the country to talk about the problems of air pollution during this week's services.


Monica Myers, pastor at Seattle's Northwest Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ congregation, said she doesn't plan to bash Bush in her sermon Sunday. Instead, she said she'll simply remind her congregation that pollution and other environmental problems tend to affect the poor more harshly than those who can afford to live in places far away from polluting factories or toxic waste sites.


"I want to emphasize that their faith should direct them as they vote," she said. "Responsible Christians should weigh the teachings of Jesus Christ, especially as they speak of those who are poor and marginalized."


The council joined the Evangelical Environmental Network in a "What would Jesus drive?" campaign in 2002, urging the auto industry to adopt stricter emissions standards and calling on SUV owners to switch to more fuel-efficient vehicles.

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