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Commentary: New year, new approach to climate change

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Our nation spent nearly $7 billion responding to extreme weather in 2013 — events that endanger livelihoods, especially in rural and small-town America. These destructive storms, devastating droughts, dangerous flooding and paralyzing winter weather highlight the need for action.

We must confront threats that climate shifts pose to rural communities and the nation.

The new year provides an opportunity to take commonsense steps to address carbon pollution, a major contributing factor to these threats. Currently, there is no limit on the amount of carbon pollution that American power plants can emit, but new rules from the Environmental Protection Agency would help limit these emissions.

Closing loopholes for high-polluting power plants is crucial to protect community health and our natural resources. Several other power plant by-products are limited, but carbon emissions have been overlooked, leaving the door open for some of the biggest polluters in the nation to get off scot-free.

We have an opportunity to retire older power plants - some of the heaviest polluters - and further our position as a renewable energy leader. We’ve begun developing renewable, homegrown energy that helps power our country. And these energy sources provide new rural economic opportunities, bringing along jobs, tax revenues and related industry.

This isn’t something we should ignore. We have commonsense solutions to implement that will benefit us in the long run.

2014 can be a year where we invest in decreasing pollution; while improving our health, our environment, and economic development in small town America.

Lu Nelsen

Lyons, Neb.

Lu Nelsen is director of the Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization based in Nebraska.

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