Congresswoman Nita Lowey was in Rockland County Monday at one of the largest earth science research institutions in the world. The Hudson Valley Democrat was there to highlight what she called “devastating” local impacts on science during the first 100 days of the Trump administration. Her visit comes a few days after the White House removed climate change data from the Environmental Protection Agency website. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne has more.
Congresswoman Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, visited Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades.
“Just 102 days in, the Trump administration is already the most anti-science executive branch in history,” Lowey says. “President Trump named climate change denier Scott Pruitt to be administrator of the EPA. He signed executive orders to gut the Clean Power Plan and other regulations vital to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”
Paul Gallay is president of Riverkeeper.
“You can summarize his policies on the environment up in two words — chaotic and nihilistic, and I don’t use those words lightly,” Gallay says.
Lowey, who had been negotiating the budget deal that would keep the government funded through September, says it’s the 2018 proposed budget that has her concerned, especially on the science front.
“So when you look at what they call the skinny budget, which is 2018, we’re hoping we can feed a little more, it would eliminate $102 million from NASA’s earth research budget; $250 million from NOAA climate research; and unprecedented $2.6 billion with a “b” from EPA programs that protect the air we breathe and the water we drink.”
And she expects that in addition to places like the Environmental Protection Agency, there will be other proposed cuts. Meanwhile, the White House announced Friday it was taking down the EPA’s climate change website, and there is now a message there that reads, “We are currently updating our website to reflect EPA's priorities under the leadership of President Trump and Administrator Pruitt.”
Sheean Haley is senior staff associate at Lamont-Doherty in Biology and Paleo Environment. She says rebuffing the scientific consensus on climate change hurts international competitiveness in science and technology.
“Other nations are actively encouraging scientists like us to leave the United States and take our talents elsewhere,” Haley says. “If we want the next discovery in medicine, engineering or technology to be labeled ‘Made in the U.S.A.,’ we need to support young scientists like us and the great work that we do on behalf of this nation.”
Lowey says the support should be there not only for today’s scientists, but tomorrow’s.
“If this kind of cut continues to be talked about, all these brilliant students, all these brilliant researchers like all of you could do other things with their lives,” says Lowey. “And that to me is the biggest threat, when one research I met with recently said, ‘well, it may not be too late, should I change careers,’ I mean, this is very, very scary.”
Riverkeeper’s Gallay says now is not the time to slash the federal environmental budget.
“The proposed budget for 2018 could gut research funding at a time when we need to increase research,” says Gallay. “New York state just passed the Emerging Contaminants Protection Act, which requires municipalities across the state to test for pollutants that we’re just now starting to learn of that could be doing untold damage to our health and to the environment. We need to do more research about issues like this, not less.”
He refers to such emerging contaminants as PFOA and PFOS found in drinking water in Hoosick Falls and Newburgh. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Deputy Director Dr. Arthur Lerner-Lam took the opportunity to show how the earth observatory, in addition to research, is doing its part to combat climate change.
“In a few weeks we will be breaking ground on a solar farm that will provide 75 percent of our electricity consumption here from renewable resources,” Lerner-Lam says.
Others who stood with Lowey in speaking against anti-science initiatives included Rockland County Legislature Environmental Committee Chairwoman Harriet Cornell.
“The Trump administration is not seeking truth, but rather hiding it from the light of scholarship and scientific research,” Cornell says.
A Sierra Club Lower Hudson Group representative also attended.