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Candidates took the stage in Charleston, South Carolina, ahead of Saturday's South Carolina primaries, but also ahead of next week's Super Tuesday. Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg took some hits, but Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the national frontrunner, was the main target.

Energy & Faith: VA Religious Leaders Testify at EPA Hearing

May 25, 2012

RICHMOND, Va. – Faith leaders from Virginia and around the country convened in Washington D.C. on Thursday, to give statements to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in support of its first-ever proposed limits on carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants.

The EPA says power plants in the United States emit 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually, an amount second only to China. The new limits would reduce that yearly total by an estimated 123 billion pounds. Trieste Lockwood, director of Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, was among those who testified at the hearing.

"We feel this is a good move in the right direction to protect our air quality for future generations, which is one of the reasons why the faith community is involved. It's just really time to take action – carbon pollution causes smog, which triggers a variety of respiratory problems, especially in children and the elderly."

While not everyone agrees about the need for government involvement and regulations, Rev. Paul McAllister with the Church of God, says the scientific evidence of the harmful effects of carbon pollution are clear. He points out that we already have the technology needed for the new plants, and sees pollution limits as a social justice issue.

"We are a vast country with many resources and this is the right thing to do, going forward. I am pleased that the EPA recognizes that it would not be very cost-effective to require older power plants to update their systems."

According to the Center for American Progress, some companies that have new coal-powered plants in the works are considering switching from coal to natural gas, which is cheaper and cleaner to produce.

If enacted, the new rule would limit new power plants to releasing no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon per megawatt hour of power produced. The public comment period on the EPA carbon pollution rule ends on June 25.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA