Editor’s note: The Sierra Club sponsored a panel discussion April 13 at a venue near an EPA hearing in Oklahoma City to educate Oklahomans about the effects of coal pollution. Bruce Prescott served as one of the panelists. Below are his remarks.

I am here to speak in favor of the EPA’s plan for implementing the Clean Air Act in Oklahoma. I think the time is overdue for Oklahoma, Texas and the other states in our region to retire their outdated, dirty coal-fired power plants.

I am a Baptist minister and, as a Christian, I believe that we are required to be responsible stewards and caregivers of all that God created. Little connected with the mining and burning of coal could be associated with responsible stewardship.

There are a lot of good reasons to stop using coal. Strong arguments can be made for ecological and economic reasons, but the adverse effect that coal has on human health outweighs all other considerations.

Those adverse effects make it imperative that we make the transition away from using coal as soon as possible.

More than 100,000 children in Oklahoma have asthma. More than 300,000 adults in Oklahoma have asthma. A lot of families in Oklahoma have at least one family member with the condition.

My family is no exception. My wife has asthma and that means that the quality of the air we breathe is of the utmost importance to me and my family.

Coal-fired power plants spew tons of acid gases, benzene, dioxins, formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, sulfur and mercury. All of these chemicals and particulates are poisoning both the air that we are breathing and the water that we are drinking.

These pollutants are bad for everyone’s health. They are particularly dangerous and deadly for people with asthma, heart disease and lung diseases.

We owe our wives, children and grandchildren the cleanest air and water that we can give them. They deserve nothing less than the very best. That will require that we exercise the greatest caution in using sources of energy that will poison our planet.

We have cleaner, cheaper and healthier sources of energy in abundant supply right here in Oklahoma. It is time to retire our coal-fired power plants and switch to healthier energy sources like wind, solar and natural gas.

I strongly encourage our state leaders and Oklahoma’s power companies to implement the EPA’s plan. Please make the transition away from coal and move toward cleaner sources of energy as rapidly as possible.

Bruce Prescott is executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, president of the Norman, Okla., chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and host of “Religious Talk” on KREF radio. He blogs at Mainstream Baptist.

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