- Associated Press - Friday, September 25, 2015

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - The nation’s top environmental regulator reiterated the words of Pope Francis, saying Friday the time to act on global climate change is now and everyone has a moral responsibility to take action.

“This isn’t about polar bears. It’s about our own kids,” Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said. “It’s about impacts we’re feeling already. It’s about the droughts. It’s about the wildfires. It’s about sea level rise. It’s about increases in vector-borne diseases. There’s nobody that is going to hide in our common home if we don’t tackle this challenge of climate change.”

McCarthy held a news conference at the University of Notre Dame after speaking to students and faculty about climate change during a meeting closed to the media. She said President Barack Obama did his part to try to address climate change last month by announcing unprecedented pollution controls aimed at drastically reduce overall U.S. emissions.

She said she expects those plans to result in state plans that will slash carbon emissions in the United States by as much as 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Indiana and 15 other states will have tougher carbon dioxide reduction targets than they originally planned.

Gov. Mike Pence last month vowed to vigorously fight the president’s plan to battle climate change by requiring reductions in emissions from coal-fired power plants, saying Indiana homeowners and businesses rely on coal-burning power plants. He also has said it would make Indiana electricity more expensive and less reliable.

McCarthy said she thinks most states, including Indiana, will come up with plans to reduce carbon emissions. She said she wasn’t surprised by the “pushback” from Pence.

“A little bit of pushback is fine. I think what we wanted to do was make sure that we made the plan … as flexible as we could. But we also left states an opportunity to take a closer look at it,” she said “I think the governor’s been very reasonable in saying, I have to step back, I have to take a look at it and I have to see what’s in my best interest.”

Pence spokeswoman Stephanie Hodgin said the governor “will base his final decision on whether to file a state plan according to what is in the best interest of Hoosiers.”

McCarthy said the EPA can take action if states fail to come up with plans.

McCarthy said the pope’s visit to Washington was personal to her as a Catholic and someone who has been in the fight against climate change for many years.

“His trip reaffirmed that the tide really has turned. That we’re past the old days of debating the science and making incremental progress,” she said. “Right now we do have solutions available to us so we can take actions now that are not just good at addressing climate, but also good for our economy and those most vulnerable.”

McCarthy also praised an announcement on Monday by the University of Notre Dame that it plans to stop burning coal in its on-campus power plant in five years and hopes to reduce its carbon footprint by half by 2030.

“Every university should look at what this university is doing,” she said.

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