With the help of allies on Capitol Hill, the Trump administration is refusing to stand up for science.
by Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, represents Maine’s 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives
Portland Press Herald op-ed
Maine’s largest city just tied the record for its hottest summer. Warming ocean waters have shifted lobster populations northward. Invasive species, like green crabs, have decimated our state’s clam harvests. The number of Lyme disease cases in Maine has increased twentyfold in less than 20 years. Rising waters have decreased coastal property values nationwide, spelling disaster for a state with one of the longest coastlines in the continental United States. Meanwhile, extreme hurricanes and wildfires have devastated entire communities across the country.
Scientists sing nearly in unison that our reliance on burning fossil fuels is to blame for these changes to our environment. The Obama administration had taken steps to reduce fossil fuel use and mitigate how carbon emissions have permanently changed our planet – putting in place policies to incentivize solar and wind energy and requirements for cars to be more fuel-efficient. Sadly, with the help of some in Congress who refuse to stand up for science, the Trump administration is seriously damaging these efforts.
President Trump’s refusal to recognize or address climate change was evident immediately. Within days of taking office, the administration deleted climate science data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. At the same time, the Department of Energy’s website ditched its long-standing support for renewable energy and replaced it with a pitch for more fossil-fuel use.
These were more than small editorial changes. These moves foreshadowed a full-blown assault on the merits of science and our planet by the executive branch. This willful ignorance harkens to the Dark Ages. But occurring in 2018, after so many incredible advancements made possible through empirical research, it is lunacy that Congress must defend basic science against partisan attacks. Yet here we are.
When President Trump appointed Scott Pruitt and Rick Perry to oversee agencies critical to the health of our environment, he did so because they’d both made it clear that they wished to destroy those very agencies. As a member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, I challenged Scott Pruitt on everything from his uninformed denial of climate change to his accepting favors from an oil lobbyist. He never gave a clear defense of his positions or bottomless corruption. And although Pruitt is gone, his successor is no more willing to address the crisis of climate change. President Trump can’t simply accept the bad-faith resignation of one of his nominees and reverse the damage his administration has done to our irreplaceable natural resources. For coastal communities and economies like Maine’s, the consequences are real.
From my seat on the House Appropriations Committee, I’ve held Trump administration officials accountable for their short-sighted proposals to slash EPA funding by 30 percent. If the Trump administration had gotten its way, municipalities like Biddeford, which received more than $1 million to clean up hazardous waste, would have lost critical EPA grant money.
Despite being in the House Democratic minority, I’ve led the push to preserve conservation programs in the 2018 farm bill so that future generations will experience the great outdoors. I’ve spoken out against the administration’s silencing of highly qualified climate scientists like Maine’s own Joel Clement, who was pushed out of the Department of the Interior for blowing the whistle on the agency’s climate change denial. I opposed the deficit-exploding tax bill crafted by the White House and passed by Republicans in Congress that gave Big Oil a $1 billion windfall and opened up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling. And I’ve pushed back on the administration’s proposal to eliminate fuel efficiency standards, which have saved Mainers thousands of dollars at the gas pump.
With so much conclusive science about the link between carbon emissions and climate change, it is appalling that this administration continues to prolong our dependence on fossil fuels. Most infamously, the administration has proposed opening America’s coast to drilling for oil and natural gas. In June, I introduced language to prohibit Big Oil’s exploitation of our coastal waters, but Republicans, who refuse to be a check on this president, rejected my amendment in committee and have done nothing to prevent this drilling plan from moving forward. It isn’t hyperbole to say that Maine’s tourism and fishing industries might never recover from an oil spill or the permanent damage to ocean waters.
We owe it to our children and grandchildren to put politics aside and face the serious reality of climate change. In Congress, I will keep fighting to for common-sense reforms to reduce fossil fuel use and support job-creating renewable energy plans so that climate change doesn’t make our way of life extinct.