Saturday, April 1, 2017

Judith Enck On EPA, Trump, and #MarchforScience

I miss Richard Nixon. I really do. Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) forty-six years ago. Since then, the EPA has been at the forefront of issues that have improved the environment and public health. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Adirondack Park.

Remember acid rain? In the early 1970s, air pollution from fossil-fuel plants had made rain and snow so acidic it killed wildlife in hundreds of Adirondack lakes and streams. Ironically, the water looked crystal clear, but the pH balance could not sustain healthy fish and plant populations.

EPA came to the rescue.

EPA adopted new clean-air rules that required fossil-fuel power plants to reduce the pollution belching out of its smokestacks. The results were dramatic. From 1970 to 2012, national emissions of particulates, lead, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide had dropped an average of 72 percent. When we reduced the levels of air pollution, we lowered acid rain by 70 percent. This is not to say that the EPA has solved the entire problem, but Adirondack lakes and streams, once damaged by acid rain, are bouncing back.

Under President Donald Trump’s proposed policies, the EPA could not have accomplished this and, sadly, will not be able to effectively address our current environmental threat — climate change.

The president appointed former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. During his short tenure, Pruitt is shaping up to be the worst EPA head in the history of the agency. When he was a state attorney general, he sued the EPA fourteen times. He recently said that he does not believe that carbon pollution is the main source of climate change, a position at odds with 97 percent of scientists.

Our climate is changing rapidly, and the impact could wreak havoc on the Adirondacks. Temperatures are rising, and weather is becoming more extreme. Anyone who lives in the Adirondacks knows this from experience. Noted scientist Jerry Jenkins literally wrote the book on this (Climate Change in the Adirondacks, Cornell University Press, 2010). He predicts that by the year 2100, the climate in the Adirondacks will be similar to the current climate of West Virginia. This difference will radically change the forest-products industry, the ski industry, tourism, and the kinds of birds and wildlife that live in the Park. You and I may not be alive to see this change, but our grandchildren certainly will.

One would think that this would sound the alarm in Washington. Remarkably, we see just the opposite. The president’s proposed budget would slash EPA funding by 31 percent. He wants to cut the EPA science office by half. His budget director, Mick Mulvaney, recently said: “We are not spending money on climate change anymore. We view it as a waste of our money.” I had to read that quote a few times before it fully sank in.

Without resources and responsible leadership, EPA will not be able to enforce the environmental laws of our nation. Without the enforcement of our laws, EPA will not be able to ensure clean air and clean water for the American people.

When I served as EPA regional administrator, I visited the Adirondack Park Agency to announce a major federal grant to protect wetlands in the Park. Wetlands, home to scores of fish and wildlife, also help prevent flooding.

I also had a great afternoon at Paul Smith’s College to announce a grant to the school to combat aquatic invasive species that are wreaking havoc on lakes in the Adirondacks. The project at Paul Smith’s focused on keeping them out of the lakes rather than trying to fix the problem after the fact. Unless Congress steps in, do not expect projects like these to be funded by the EPA.

It is difficult to overstate the seriousness of the environmental threats coming from the Trump administration. We have never had an EPA Administrator so hostile to the mission of the EPA, and we have never had a president so unwilling to make decisions based on science and the law.

You have a role to play. Make your voice heard. Attend the March for Science on April 22 in Washington, D.C., or Albany or New York City (see #MarchforScience). Attend the People’s Climate March on April 29 in Washington, D.C., or Albany. Can’t make it south? Reduce your fossil-fuel use and organize a satellite march on these same dates. One is planned in Keene Valley on April 22.

Look for me at one of the marches. I will be the one wearing the Nixon button.

This article will appear in the May/June issue of the Adirondack Explorer newsmagazine.

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Judith Enck is the Elisabeth Haub Visiting Scholar at Haub Law School at Pace University. She served seven years as the EPA Region 2’s regional administrator, appointed by President Barack Obama, a post she left on January 20. Follow her on Twitter at @Enckj.

19 Responses

  1. Pete Klein says:

    It’s April 1. It’s snowing. Global warming can’t come fast enough.

    • CommunityGuy says:

      It is global warming, Pete. Think of it as Climate Disruption, which is what is happening. Expect more droughts, late snowfalls, bare winters, etc.

    • Smitty says:

      Move south if you don’t like snow. We bought a camp in the Adirondacks for retirement because there’s no longer reliable snow in PA.

      • Becker says:

        Some (many? most?) would say there’s no longer reliable snow in the ADK either.

        • Paul says:

          Climate change is a real thing and we are a major part of the problem.

          With that said the Adirondacks has had “unreliable” snow for a very long time.

          Look at the history of the winter Olympics in Lake Placid. In 1932 there was barely enough snow and warm weather was a problem. In 1980 there was cold weather but very little snow. Remember them making snow for the cross country events and spreading it out with a manure spreader?

          From the history of the 32 games:

          “contend with the most unusual weather
          conditions in Adirondack history. Lack of
          snow in December and January, an unprecedented
          situation, made the task doubly difficult.”

  2. Lorraine Duvall says:

    Also a March for Science April 22 at Paul Smith’s College and at Clinton Community College. April 29 People’s Climate Change March in Plattsburgh and Glens Falls.

  3. Jim S says:

    It sounds like an April Fools joke, a Republican doing somethimg positive for the environment.

    • Boreas says:

      Jim S,

      Your instincts are correct. Nixon didn’t create the EPA out of thin air to help the planet. He basically reassigned several duties that were scattered around other government agencies into one agency – the EPA. It was basically a political diversion to draw attention away from the escalating anti-VietNam war movement.

    • CommunityGuy says:

      The environment had crashed by 68. Burning rivers. Dead lakes in the Adirondacks, with whole mountain sides of burned out Spruce and Fir from Acid Rain. There was then, like there is now, a determined core of not-to-be-deterred environmental warriors. Nixon understood he had to make government work, and this was a crisis!

      We now have a ruling mob of Taliban Republicans who were educated under the Reagan holy stupidness that “Government is the Problem.” Having lived only in luxury, they think government doesn’t matter and should be destroyed so as to not discomfort the only people who matter – the Rich.

      Nixon knew government matters. This ruling gang insists it doesn’t and behaves way outside the norm. They are the radicals they warn us about – a perversion of Republicanism.

      Nixon would not have tolerated the ruling Republicans of today.

      • Boreas says:


        There also was a lot less money in politics back then. Ordinary citizens still had some say in government, and politicians listened. Now money and corporate greed is the lifeblood that flows in the veins of government.

  4. April is going to be a busy month! There is also a Rally for Adirondack Wilderness scheduled for Monday, April 24 in Albany:

  5. Nicole Morin says:

    Paul Smith’s College is also hosting a March for Science on Saturday April 22nd, at 10 AM marching from the college to the VIC where we will be kicking off this year’s Science Art and Music Festical (SAM Fest 2017). Keep an eye out around Saranac Lake for posters with more information, or if you have questions feel free to email Nicole Morin the march coordinator at ! #MarchForScience

  6. Todd Eastman says:

    Nixon established the EPA in part because the regulatory tools beginning to be used by the Department of Justice were actually capable of shuttering polluters with administrative actions. The Republicans and the polluting industries helped establish the EPA as an agency that had fewer powers than Justice had…

    … Nixon was true to his funders, the public got limited enforcement and weak environmental laws…

  7. Charlie S says:

    “Pruitt is shaping up to be the worst EPA head in the history of the agency. ”

    “The president’s proposed budget would slash EPA funding by 31 percent. He wants to cut the EPA science office by half.”

    “We have never had an EPA Administrator so hostile to the mission of the EPA, and we have never had a president so unwilling to make decisions based on science and the law.”

    The republicans…. aka conservatives. They tend to go against all that is good for the common man and woman. They see more value in a monetary note than they do the dame nature. If fire is going to be rained down upon this earth…it is they who will kindle the flames. Never is there a sense of hope when conservatives have control…unless yours is a blind faith and nothing matters but the narcissist in the mirror. There is an emotional deadness in them….to not see this you’d have to be a stiff or equivalent in their thinking. They are as cold as the north side of a gravestone in the dead of winter. Let the truth be known!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • CommunityGuy says:

      Reagan’s EPA Director, Gorsuch, was so bad she was removed. She is also the mother of the latest Activist Conservative Judge to be nominated for the Supreme Court. Awful families producing just what you would expect.

      I think trumpy is very similar to Reagan. His appointments are anti-appointments.

  8. Charlie S says:

    Pete Klein says: “It’s April 1. It’s snowing. Global warming can’t come fast enough.”

    Their is an air of arrogance in what you say Pete and I find no humor in it. What of the record highs we keep breaking year after year for at least the past fifteen years? What of those icebergs that are pulling disappearing acts? You seem to have a desire to downplay what many of us consider to be a serious matter. Or am I misreading you?

  9. Charlie S says:

    CommunityGuy says: “We now have a ruling mob of Taliban Republicans who were educated under the Reagan holy stupidness that “Government is the Problem.”

    They use these catch phrases to throw off a misinformed, unintelligible constituency Guy. Little do they realize that when there’s less government there has to be somebody who fills the vacuum and who do you think that just might be? Those same arrogant uber-rich fools that our newly erected leader is now putting into power. By design of course. One wonders how they (Trump’s constituency) feel about this. I suppose you’d have to have sensibilities in the first place to really ‘feel’ anything.

  10. John Warren says:

    TriCounty NY Transition is hosting a climate march in Glens Falls on April 29. (see event at for details) This is a sister march to the Washington DC Peoples Climate March. We will gather at City Park (next to Crandall Library) at 10am , march up Glen Street (9N) to Crandall Park where we will rally until 2pm. There will be area speakers, musicians, local organization information and activities for children. This march supports the People’s Climate March in DC, the Science March and week of action in DC 4/22-4/28 and the urgency of speaking out for the continuation of a fully funded Environmental Protection Agency, the US actively remaining in the Paris Accords and for the 12 counties in the 21st who are networking to take action to create a sustainable and renewable future. For information call Catherine at 480-5817 or find up to date information on their facebook page.

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