By Noah Buttner and Jordan Boyd
The Environmental Protection Agency could be terminated following a bill proposed by Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz on February 3rd, risking all grants and contracts including research projects affecting students on Long Island.
The bill, H.R.861, was proposed only a week after an executive order was issued by President Trump in late January.
Close to the end of his first week in office, President Trump issued a suspension of all new business activities at the agency until January 30th. The new bill, which seeks to shut down the EPA, would impact studies and research at more than 20 environmental organizations here on Long Island according to The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. The EPA, alongside The Long Island Sound Study, has helped raise more than $50 million for projects dedicated to restoring and protecting the Long Island Sound, according to the longislandsoundstudy.net. The recipients of this funding range from students doing independent studies to entire programs, like those at the Stony Brook School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS).
“The EPA funds internships and research programs– and without it– what we’re studying seems kind of useless,” Courtney Biggers, an Environmental Sciences Major at SUNY Oneonta, said.
The EPA has been under fire since President Trump took office and this bill is just the latest action taken by the GOP looking to affect more than 7 million long islanders by stripping researchers and scientists of funding they need to maintain environmental conditions, such as air, water, waste cleanup, and pesticide use on Long Island. These are the conditions that are being monitored at schools like SOMAS.
“This decision could have damaging implications for communities across New York state and the country, from delaying testing for lead in schools to restricting efforts to keep drinking water clean to holding up much-needed funding to revitalize toxic brownfield sites,” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Though the President has stated he does not believe in human driven climate change, the executive order may harm not only the nation’s ability to respond to changes in the environment, but also the educations and research of those who seek to maintain it.
“You can choose how to approach certain things with different policies, but you can’t choose to reject scientific evidence. The greed of few threatens progress,” Anthony Depinto, a native Long Islander and Molecular Biology major at Boston University, said after hearing about the proposed bill.
Dean Larry Swanson of Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Science believes that students studying environmental science and sustainability should not be discouraged by Trump’s actions.
“It’s more important than ever that they stick with it… we have to have people that are capable of going out and telling our politicians and our fellow citizens what environmental conditions might be if we don’t have research and regulation,” Swanson said.
“In regard to funding, there are alternatives,” Swanson said. He predicts that if the EPA is abolished New York State would create some sort of alternative fund to replace the same funds the EPA provided to students, educators and scientists all across Long Island.
Environmental Education on Long Island will be stunted if the EPA is unable to fund research. Marc Fasanella, author of several ecology books and the owner of Hampton Bays non profit organization Ecological Cultural Initiative (ECINY) offers some encouraging words.
“You have to look at it so that you’re on the side of trying to enact positive change so that future generations of not only our species but other species will have a better chance of survival, if you’re not on that side and you’re not working towards that and you’re not hopeful then what are you doing? you’re just wallowing in self misery,” Fasanella said.