Politicians, Environmentalists Rally Against EPA Cuts

Congressman Frank Pallone (D-6th) speaks out against proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency at a press conference at the Mantoloking Bridge County Park. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

BRICK – The Jersey Shore needs every single dollar of funding from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and cuts proposed by the Trump administration have the potential of undoing years of environmental protections in the state, according to Congressman Frank Pallone (D-6th).

Pallone joined state and local elected officials, Barnegat Bay environmentalists and members of the public for a press conference at the Mantoloking Bridge County Park on Thursday morning to demand protection for EPA funding.

In September, the House of Representatives will vote on a budget that would cut seven percent, or $.5 billion from the EPA, which would “devastate the agency,” Pallone said.

Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ Sierra Club, speaks out against proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency at a press conference at the Mantoloking Bridge County Park. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

The New Jersey coastal community would be particularly vulnerable, he said.

“It’s not too late,” Pallone said. The cuts were connected to the idea that jobs and the environment can’t go together, “but that’s totally false.

“When I was elected to Congress in 1988, the beaches up and down New Jersey were closed because of garbage, toxic waste and medical waste in the water, and the state lost millions of dollars in jobs,” he said.

Pallone said he wanted to address offshore drilling, which President Trump has moved to expand, and would include areas left out by President Obama, which include the Atlantic Coast and U.S. Arctic waters.

“They feel they should be able to drill anywhere,” Pallone said. “They’re big on fossil fuels, but we should be focusing on renewable energy, like wind and solar.”

“The cuts are an effort to dismantle the EPA, and that would manifest itself in so many ways,” he added.

Pallone said that Scott Pruitt, who Trump chose to run the EPA, does not consult with any of the agency’s employees.

“The EPA should be the most transparent department in government, because people have the right to know and to be empowered to learn and deal with pollution,” Pallone said. “The EPA has become a secret body, and that goes against the whole idea of environmental protection.”

Zach McCue, who represented Cory Booker, read a statement from the senator, who had a scheduling conflict.

“The Trump administration values ideology and misinformation over protecting the environment,” he read.

Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, and his agenda is “taking our nation backwards. We can’t sit idly by as the rest of the world addresses climate change. Enough is enough,” wrote Booker.

Brick Mayor John G. Ducey said cuts to the EPA budget would affect the health, safety and welfare of all residents.

Locally, EPA funds allow for the monitoring of the drinking water, the beaches, and the ground water that runs from the superfund site on Sally Ike Road.

“We have a superfund site because there was no monitoring and no care, because there wasn’t the knowledge. Now we have the knowledge, so the superfund site has been capped and redeveloped as a solar farm,” Ducey said.

Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ Sierra Club, said Trump has declared war on the environment with his budget cuts and it would have a disastrous effect in New Jersey.

Brick Mayor John Ducey speaks out against proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency at a press conference at the Mantoloking Bridge County Park. (Photo by Judy Smestad-Nunn)

Some of the programs that would be eliminated include pollution testing for coastal waters, the elimination of the National Estuaries Program, the elimination of climate, clean water and superfund programs, and more, he said.

“We are here today to say to President Trump, ‘hands off our environment.’ We’re here to stand up and say not anymore,” Tittel said. “No drilling off our coast. We want clean energy for a clean environment. Don’t turn science into political science,” he said.

Mayor Bill Curtis of Bay Head agreed. “Offshore drilling would destroy our beaches. One oil spill would affect all ecological factions in our ocean. Cut other areas, not areas that affect our environment,” he said.

Other attendees included Ed Potosnak, NJ League of Conservation Voters, Point Pleasant Beach Mayor Steve Reid; Lavallette Council President Anita Zalom; Brick Councilman Jim Fozman; Cindy Zipf and Dave Pringle, Clean Ocean Action; Britta Wenzel, Save Barnegat Bay; Tim Dillingham, American Littoral Society; Doug O’Malley, Environment NJ; Junior Romero, Food & Water Watch; Sandra Meola, NY/NJ Baykeeper; Trisha Sheehan, Moms Clean Air Force.

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Judy moved to Ocean County from New York City in 1988, and began her second career as a feature and news reporter in the mid-1990's. She has worked for Micromedia Publications since 2008, primarily reporting for The Toms River Times and The Brick Times. Judy has also worked for The Leader Review in Point Pleasant Beach, The Brick Communicator and The Asbury Park Press. Reach Judy by e-mail at [email protected]