On Earth Day, Stand Up to Trump's War on the Environment
April 23, 2017 Jeff Tittel / Star-Ledger & Former Gov. James J. Florio / Star-Ledger
This year's Earth Day is the most critical since the first one in 1970. Donald Trump is trying to roll back 47 years of protections. Before the first Earth Day, rivers caught fire, smog and air pollution clogged major cities and people wore masks. Some of our rivers were nothing better than open sewers. After 20 million people across the country came together and marched for the Earth, a law was passed to create the Environmental Protection Agency and people began to talk about the dangers of climate change.
Sierra Club: Stand Up to Trump's
War on the Environment this Earth Day Jeff Tittel / Star-Ledger Guest Columnist
(April 22, 2017) -- This year's Earth Day is the most critical since that first one because President Trump is trying to roll back 47 years of protections.
Before the first Earth Day in 1970 rivers caught fire, including the Passaic. Smog and air pollution clogged many major cities and people wore masks. Some of our rivers were nothing better than open sewers.
On that day, 20 million people across the country came together. Hundreds of thousands of people protested in Philadelphia, New York, Los Angeles, Boston and dozens of other places demanding action to protect our air and water. In New Jersey, I helped organize the clean-up of the Elizabeth River with other 7th-graders.
After this, the law creating the Environmental Protection Agency was passed as people started to talk about the dangers of climate change.
We also demanded the passage of the Clean Water Act. And after Richard Nixon vetoed the legislation in 1972, large numbers of people marched on Washington gain. As a result of the public outcry, Congress overwhelming overrode his veto.
Here we are, nearly 50 years later, and President Trump has declared war on the environment, by ending programs to stop climate change and reduce air pollution. He's rolling back protections to allow coal ash to be dumped into rivers, while renewing GOP attempts to dismantle the EPA. For him, climate change is a dirty word that scientists at the EPA are forbidden from using.
He eliminated Obama's Clean Power Plan, gutted rules to reduce methane emissions, and stopped environmental reviews from considering climate change. We're concerned that he may even pull the U.S. out of the Paris Accord.
Not only is President Fossil Fool going after climate change, he's going after almost every environmental program. He's opening public lands and coasts for drilling and pushing through pipelines without environmental reviews. He's rolling back fuel economy standards for automobiles which means higher costs and more pollution. Trump is siding with corporate polluters over our public health.
When you roll back protections on climate change and sea level rise, more communities are devastated.
When you cut enforcement, chemical plants blow up.
When you allow coalmines to dump toxic waste into our rivers, they get poisoned.
When you eliminate clean air protections, our air becomes poisoned.
When you cut programs for lead, children get poisoned.
There are real consequences to Trump's war on the environment.
Trump is cutting the EPA budget by 31 percent and getting rid of thousands of staff. He's cutting science by 50 percent. Trump plans to cut the EPA budget will cause states to lose 45 percent in funding. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection gets half of its money from the EPA. This means Trump's cuts will have a drastic effect on our ability to protect our resources and will lead to layoffs.
He is also cutting funding for Superfund Sites by 30 percent, which means delays or cancellations of clean-ups of New Jersey's 118 sites such as the chromium site in Garfield or the Passaic River. Trump and EPA chief Scott Pruitt are siding with corporate polluters instead of our health and climate.
Despite the current threats to our environment, people are more engaged than ever. More than 60 percent of Americans disagree with Trump's environmental actions. Increasing numbers of people have become more active by attending Congressional meetings and local town halls. We need to come together on this Earth Day like we never have before. A generation of progress is at risk, as is the future of our state, our country and our planet.
We need to stand up for science at the March for Science on Saturday in Trenton and Washington. We need to protest against climate-deniers in Washington D.C. on April 29 at the People's Climate March. We need to stand together for clean air, clean water, and to protect our planet from climate change.
Jeff Tittel is director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. The Sierra Club is the nation's oldest and largest environmental group with millions of members worldwide. Click here to learn more about the People's Climate March on April 29th.
TRENTON, New Jersey (April 22, 2017) -- In the 20th Century, oil was literally the major indispensable lubricant in the transportation sector and figuratively in the economic and social sectors. In the 21st Century, with a new awareness of the problems associated with fossil fuels, water has assumed that role.
Water is the new oil!
Like oil, shortages of water, the pricing of water, questions related to quality and quantity, can determine economic outcomes, social stability -- even questions of war and peace . . . If that is the case, there is serious cause for concern.
As we celebrate Earth Day today, we need to re-educate ourselves to what the day is all about. Most immediately, there must be a rejection of the Trump administration EPA budget with its 31 percent reduction in funding.
Earth Day in the Trump Era should be a weeklong event: It begins with Saturday's March for Science in D.C. -- with 425 satellite marches around the globe -- and culminates in the People's Climate March on April 29
The obvious purpose of this action -- resulting in 3,100 layoffs -- is the non-enforcement of existing environmental laws. The impact on New Jersey's need for an adequate water supply is devastating. The near drought conditions we experienced last year are a warning to all.
EPA reductions on SuperFund cleanups will particularly impact our State with more such toxic sites than any other State. With over 110 toxic sites within our 21 counties, we average about five sites per County. That means no one lives very far from one of these toxic locations that are officially designated as "imminent and substantial hazards to human health and the environment".
Leaching as they do into our surface and ground drinking water supplies, expeditious remediation is essential to deal with these catastrophic problems of past practices.
In a related issue defending existing laws, such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery act (RCRA), which prospectively regulates the disposal of toxic waste, insures the creation of new SuperFund sites.
Likewise, the failure to take seriously climate change concerns, denying even the existence of the problem by the Trump-appointed head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, is a major threat to New Jersey's water supply.
Rising sea levels with resultant salt water intrusion up the Delaware and Hudson Rivers jeopardize fresh water aquifers.
In similar fashion, debilitating cuts to the Clean Water Act limits our ability to remove storm water from our Waste Water Sewage Treatment Plants resulting in combined sewage overflows (CSO) such as experienced in SuperStorm Sandy with resultant water contamination.
New Jersey has already experienced Flint, Michigan-like incidents of lead-contaminated water in our school systems. This proposed reduction in funding and personnel cannot be helpful.
The N.J. chapter's director is urging people concerned about the environment to join the protests against Trump on Earth Day and April 29.
New Jersey's thoughtful Republican leaders, Gov. Thomas Kean and Gov. Christie Whitman have stood tall for protecting our water systems.
Hopefully, their examples will influence our Congressional delegation to actively oppose the Trump administration's effort to "deconstruct" the system we have established to insure clean water supplies for everyone.
If water is the new oil, the key to social and economic well-being, the task of insuring the quality and quantity of our water supply should be an essential goal we dedicate ourselves to this Earth Day.
James J. Florio is a former New Jersey governor, senior fellow for public policy and administration at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers.
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