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Advocates address Trump administration’s environmental pitfalls

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Advocates address Trump administration’s environmental pitfalls

On June 7, Judith Enck, hosted by the Environmental Advocates of New York (EANY) and the Albany SEIU 1199, brought together local advocates for bright and early breakfast, addressing Trump’s June 1 withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord and current EPA leadership.

The former Region 2 EPA administrator addressed the first 146 days of the Trump administration with an uncharacteristically somber tone. “When it comes to the environment, I cannot point to one positive accomplishment. Not one,” Enck said. “The first 100 days of the Trump presidency have been an environmental disaster. The next 100 days will likely be worse.”

Enck addressed the “milestones” in the administration’s attack on environmental regulation such as the attempt to deregulate measures of mercury pollution, the advancement of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the 2-for-1 executive order, and the appointment of climate deniers such as Scott Pruitt, Rex Tillerson and Rick Perry.

“What really struck me is this administration’s use of coal miners as media props,” Enck said. “If they really wanted to support coal miners…first, you get them access to good health care because working in mines leads to black lung disease and all sorts of respiratory illnesses. Secondly, you work on job retraining. There are twice as many solar workers as coal miners in the country,” Enck said.

The former regional administrator cited a recent New York Times article reporting that the coal industry employed just over 160,000 workers while solar staffs more than 373,000 Americans worked part or full time in 2016.

According to the Department of Energy data, the argument in defense of coal industry jobs may lie in the few states which have a high concentration of employment in the fossil fuel industry–such as Wyoming, West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma.

However  in these locations, the wind power industry is catching up quickly, especially in states like the Dakotas and Iowa. Enck argues that national employment concerns should be steered towards training job-seekers to work in the clean energy industries such as solar and wind.

Enck also voiced concerns about Trump’s March 28 executive order which calls for executive review of any existing regulation that may “potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources,” such as fossil fuels, and consequently suspend such “burden” of regulation.

“We are at risk of not only wasting precious time in tackling climate change, but also sliding back on basic environmental protections,” she said. “The Trump policies could lead to half a billion tons of greenhouse gases in the environment by 2025. What does that number mean? It’s the equivalent of the annual electricity emissions of 60 percent of U.S. homes. This is getting very serious, very fast.”

Despite Trump’s pull from the Paris Accord, several businesses, state governors and city officials–such as Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Kathy Sheehan–have committed to the voluntary agreement. While this is a positive step, Enck says the federal government still has a responsibility to address the issue.

“Air pollution does not recognize state boundaries,” Enck said, adding that she expects higher concentrations of acid rain and carbon levels as well as the acceleration of sea level rise to be major issues for states in the upcoming years.

According to the 2014 U.S. Energy Information Administration ranking, New York places ninth out of the 50 states and District of Columbia in carbon emissions at 170 million metric tons per year.  

On the local level, Enck told Albany advocates to keep an eye out for any news on Bakken Formation. The crude oil company ships the majority of their oil by rail, their major hub being the Port of Albany. The oil trains have been a major health and safety concern to residents–especially those living closest to the parked trains in low-income areas such as the South End.

In order to keep the pressure on local legislators to pass environmental protection bills and statutes, Enck advised community member to keep in contact with their representatives.

“Put the number of your house member in your phone and call them a lot,” she said, adding that citizens should always insist to leave their name and address with the representative’s office.

Peter Iwanowicz, executive director of EANY, also advised the group to keep in contact with members of the state Senate as well as Congress. Iwanowicz says the body is instrumental in halting the president’s proposed executive orders. “Trump proposes, Congress disposes,” he said.

Image courtesy of WikiMedia

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