Watchdog: 100 days in, an environmental ‘disaster’

Catastrophic: Trump's coziness with Big Oil, his rollback of environmental regulations and his proposed cuts to funding for alternative-energy research are a disaster in the making, warns Environment New York Director Heather Leibowitz.
By HEATHER LEIBOWITZ, ESQ. //

In his first 100 days, President Trump has taken dozens of actions that threaten clean air, clean water and treasured places.

There is no question, President Trump is a disaster for our environment and public health. His actions will make our air and water dirtier, as well as ensure we experience the worst effects of climate change even more swiftly. The bottom line is: These rollbacks put the health of New York families at risk.

We are quickly approaching the point where scientists say we won’t be able to stave off the most disastrous impacts of global warming. President Trump’s plans and policies move us in the wrong direction. He stacked his cabinet with Big Oil allies and climate-change deniers; he plans to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, which put the first-ever federal limits on global warming pollution from power plants; and he ordered the EPA to reconsider clean-car standards.

This is all happening while weather-related events injure or kill hundreds of Americans and cause billions of dollars in damage every year. Between August 2010 and December 2015, New York experienced 11 weather-related disasters – including Hurricane Sandy, which caused at least 159 deaths and damages with total estimated costs of $67.6 billion.

We used to say climate change was a problem happening somewhere else in the world, to somebody else. Unfortunately, that’s no longer true. It is here and now, and only going to get worse for us here in New York, around the country and the world, if President Trump has his way.

Clean water is vital to our ecology, our health and our quality of life. Many Americans depend on rivers and streams for safe drinking water. But the Trump Administration is working to rewrite the Clean Water Rule, putting drinking water for one in three Americans, including New Yorkers, at risk.

The Great Lakes are vital to our identity and way of life here in New York. Every year, they are inundated with pollution – but President Trump’s proposed 2018 federal budget severely cuts funding for protecting the Great Lakes.

Heather Leibowitz: Trump’s environmental policies put your health at risk.

Our parks, forest, oceans and special places like Stonewall National Monument are part of what makes America great. The Trump Administration has called for a review of all national monuments created in the past two decades, looking to shrink or even fully reverse monument status for some of the country’s most special places.

A swift transition to renewable energy is important for reducing global warming pollution. It will make our air cleaner while keeping many of the nation’s landscapes more pristine. We have the technology and sources of energy needed to make a rapid transition away from dirty energy to renewable power.

Unfortunately, President Trump is doubling down on the dirty energy of the past by approving projects like the Dakota Access and Keystone East pipelines and dramatically reducing funding for needed research. Without a commitment to transitioning to clean and renewable energy, facilities such as Brookhaven National Laboratory here in Long Island and others that focus on research in solar, wind and renewable sources of power are at risk.

President Trump’s policies move us in the wrong direction at a time when we need to be setting ambitious clean-energy goals, bolstering learning and research and driving innovation. New York has been a leader in clean energy. It would be a travesty if President Trump’s policies put all of our progress in jeopardy.

President Trump is also taking action that will expose our children and families to even more toxic chemicals. His budget proposal eliminates two different programs within the EPA that protect kids from lead paint, as well as eliminating $330 million in Superfund money to clean up the worst toxic waste sites, including over 1,800 sites here in New York. His EPA has also approved use of a pesticide, chlorpyrifos, that their own scientific research has shown is unsafe for public health, water quality and wildlife.

No matter who we voted for last November, none of us want to expose our kids to more toxic chemicals or make our air and water dirtier. The vast majority of Americans oppose moving backwards on climate or selling off our public lands to the highest bidder. Any way you look at it, these last 100 days have been a disaster for our environment and our families’ health.

Ms. Leibowitz is the director of Environment New York, a statewide advocacy organization.