Donald Trump’s pick for EPA chief is bad for our state, its farms, fishing, wildlife and people.
by Ralph Tucker, Special to the Press Herald
Portland Press Herald op-ed
About the Author Rep. Ralph Tucker, D-Brunswick, is co-chair of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.
This holiday season, our Christmas tree farms were under attack – and not from hatchet-wielding holiday revelers.
Climate change makes extreme weather, like drought, wildfires and even hurricanes, more frequent and more severe. And experts even suggest it may be the reason the drought is decimating our pine tree farms this holiday season.
Thanks to climate change, northeast Christmas tree farmers got drought in their stockings this year. Across New England, farmers are losing as much as 80 percent of their plantings, forcing them to cut selling seasons and lose income. As one story put it, “It’s a tale that climate scientists and forest ecologists say may become more common with warmer temperatures associated with climate change.”
But it’s not just a war on Christmas we have to worry about. Maine’s coastline is threatened by sea level rise, which causes harmful flooding and erosion. Our coasts and the tourism industry that depend on them are in danger.
Climate change is also causing the tick population to boom, as more ticks and larvae survive shorter, milder winters. These ticks spread Lyme disease, and even affect our hunting. In 2014, the winter tick-related mortality caused officials to reduce the number of the state’s moose-hunting licenses by 25 percent and then another 9 percent in 2015.
And nearly 130,000 adults and children in Maine suffer from asthma, which is made worse by climate change and the dangerous ozone smog it exacerbates.
That is exactly why President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Environmental Protection Agency administrator is bad for Maine.
Mr. Trump has nominated Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head the EPA – the very agency that Pruitt has been vigorously opposing. Pruitt is a renowned climate denier, who’s used his position of power to prevent lifesaving public health protections like the Clean Power Plan.
The Clean Power Plan sets the first ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants, our country’s biggest source of the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. It would prevent up to 3,600 premature deaths and 90,000 asthma attacks in children every year by 2030.
Climate change threatens our coasts, our economy, and our prosperity. The lobster industry is Maine’s most lucrative commercial fishery, bringing in $457 million in 2014. But climate change puts Maine’s fisheries in the crosshairs, with climate impacts like warm water, acidification and disease all contributing to declining seafood populations, from lobster to shrimp to cod. It even harms the blueberry and maple syrup industries. Climate change would increase the costs of business in Maine by threatening economic activity and services while pushing insurance premiums higher to pay for increasingly frequent natural disasters such as floods and wildfires, putting 32,069 Maine small businesses at risk.
Climate change makes extreme weather more frequent and more severe. Total Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster spending in Maine was almost $5.26 million in 2015. The effects on Maine can be felt in every part of the state.
Mainers understand the threat. That’s why 76 percent of Mainers support treating carbon pollution as a pollutant and 62 percent support setting limits on carbon pollution from existing coal fired power plants.
We need an Environmental Protection Agency administrator who protects our environmental laws, is guided by science when crafting and implementing policy, puts public health ahead of special interests and has the qualifications necessary to safeguard the American public from climate change.
Scott Pruitt meets none of those criteria and is in the pocket of the very industry the EPA was created to oversee. In fact, the industry has invested nearly $350,000 in Pruitt’s campaigns, and is looking for a return on that investment.
Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King should oppose Pruitt’s nomination. They should do so not just for our Christmas trees, blueberries, lobsters, and maple syrup, but for our kids and our future. Scott Pruitt is bad for Maine and bad for our health. Mainers deserve better.