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EPA hearing on cuts in carbon emissions draws hundreds

YANKTON -- Hundreds of people came before a regional hearing of the Environmental Protection Agency in Denver this week, as the agency takes public comments on rules that would cut carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Many scientists believe power plant emissions are the most significant contributors to climate change.

Among those testifying in Denver was Brian Depew, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Neb. He says if climate change is not addressed, it will be costly for agricultural producers and consumers.

"It's projected there will be yield declines in our region of 20 percent by mid-century if we do nothing about climate change and yield declines of up to 50 percent by the end of the century," says Depew. "Those are really steep costs for our economy in the Midwest and Great Plains."

Depew said most farmers are good environmentalists and concerned about the impacts from climate change. He notes the new EPA rules are aimed at power plants but agriculture can play a role in making changes.

"There is a lot of opportunity for farmers to respond to climate change, both through soil carbon sequestration and participating in the new clean-energy economy through wind production, solar production and biofuel," Depew said.

The Denver hearing was one of four two-day hearings the EPA is holding around the country this week, including stops in Atlanta, Ga.; Pittsburgh, Penn.; and Washington, D.C.