As The White House released in May its budget request for the 2018 fiscal year the Trump administration made good on its promise to target deep cuts to federal spending on climate and other programs. White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told reporters that the government has been spending too much money on climate change and Trump’s proposed budget intentionally rebukes the Obama administration’s support for federally funded climate research.
Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a former New Jersey congressman, told reporters, “If the White House budget plan were to become law, it would devastate America’s science and technology enterprise.” Another scientist said the budget “undermines scientific progress needed to protect the U.S. from natural disasters.”
On July 12 a House Appropriations subcommittee passed a bill to fund the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and related agencies in Fiscal Year 2018. The EPA’s budget was cut by 6.5% or $528 million, which is far less than the 31% ($2.6 billion) cut requested by the Trump Administration. The bill will next be considered by the full committee.
Now is our opportunity to protest/encourage our Representatives to introduce amendments to further increase spending for specific programs and to oppose detrimental Trump policies. Unfortunately, NJ has no Representative on the Natural Resources House Committee which deals with the EPA, however a variety of other committees also have some jurisdiction. The House Appropriations Committee, chaired by NJ Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen, plays an important role in spending matters. Frelinghuysen, has said that he cannot agree to many of the cuts that Trump has proposed. In the U.S. Senate Cory Booker is a member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Sen. Robert Menendez also speaks out on these matters.
The future landscape of New Jersey’s environment remains grim. Although our EPA could lose tens of millions of dollars under Trump’s proposed federal budget, Commissioner Bob Martin told lawmakers he has not developed any plans to deal with the potential cuts. Protests should be directed to him, Governor Christie and our state legislature currently in recess. Our likely next governor Phil Murphy should be working on this problem and speaking out against proposed cuts and policies.
Here are just a few examples of what may lie ahead:
- In July Trump said, “We’re creating a new offshore oil and gas leasing program.” His plan is to resume seismic testing in the Atlantic, which is conducted to look for possible oil and gas deposits. All 14 New Jersey lawmakers in D.C. have asked Trump to reject drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. So far there is no sign of Trump relenting.
- New Jersey tests its ocean water once a week on Mondays. The federal government pays for it – about $470,000 a year, but the Trump administration is threatening to zero out the funding.
- Christie Whitman, former NJ governor who ran the EPA under President George W. Bush, has expressed concern over the plan to roll back regulations and reduce staffing which would harm NJ residents who live near any of the state’s 115 Superfund sites monitored by the EPA.
- If Trump gets his way, the Clean Power Plan could be left to die and there would be no constraint on coal-fired utilities’ carbon dioxide emissions for the foreseeable future. This matter is before a court.
- On Thursday the House Natural Resources Committee is holding a a hearing to prohibit Environmental Protection Agency, from considering the social cost of carbon, the social cost of methane, or the social cost of nitrous oxide.
As we spend this summer at beaches, visit our parks and spend more time outdoors, we can marvel at what we now enjoy but may soon lose if we don’t engage. NJ Citizen Action points out as a small and highly developed coastal state, no one will be exempt. Pick your own environmental concerns, visit the numerous NJ environmental websites that highlight key issues, and get involved.