SARATOGA SPRINGS — A former regional director for the EPA on Tuesday urged Skidmore College students to devote themselves to environmental issues as she outlined moves by President Donald Trump she feared would exacerbate climate change.
Judith Enck, who served under President Barack Obama, ticked off a litany of policy and personnel moves the Trump administration has made that she argues are harmful to the environment and public health. They included efforts to roll back regulations over fossil fuel industries, rules guiding development, leaving the Paris Climate Accord, even the removal of a bike docking station at the White House.
“I cannot point to one positive accomplishment,” she said of Trump’s environmental policies. “Not one.”
She called EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt the worst director in the agency’s history and said he walks into the office everyday with the goal of “dismantling the agency.”
She ticked off — nearly by the day — what she called the administrations “particularly bad policies.”
Day 55: The administration reopened the fuel efficiency standards. Day 98: An executive order promotes drilling in the Arctic. Day 159: A proposal is released to undo parts of an Obama-era rule intended to protect waterways and wetlands — a rule many argued was a federal overreach.
She pointed to efforts to expedite plans to establish oil pipelines, open public lands to fossil fuel extraction and work in developing nations to build new coal power plants.
“This is happening at a time when we need to be rapidly working to drive down carbon emissions,” she said.
Spelling out the stark statistics of America’s use of the world’s resource — the country represents less than 5 percent of the world’s population but uses 30 percent of its resources — Enck said Americans need to take sustainability more seriously. “The broader issue is we as a nation are not serious about sustainability,” Enck said.
But Enck also laid out 10 things students and others can do to fight for better environmental policies:
- Call your representative: Enck said she keeps her senators and congressman on speed dial, dropping them a call to voice support or opposition to important environmental issues. She said students should invite U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, to speak on campus or track her down to ask questions.
- Work on local environmental issues: She said Skidmore students should join a club or work to make the campus more sustainable.
- Get Skidmore to divest from investments in fossil fuels.
- Support environmental litigation: She said lawsuits against Trump’s policies may be one of the strongest bulwarks to protect the environment. “You should give a lot of money to environmental groups and you should give more than you typically would because this is a state of emergency,” she said.
- Support local media on campus and in the community: She urged the audience to subscribe to local papers, contribute to public radio and to call on those outlets to increase coverage of the local environment.
- Be vocal in the media, write letters to the editor.
- Use social media.
- Run for public office, “especially the women.”
- Watch Fox News: She said it was important to engage with people who don’t share your political beliefs, starting with those closest to you.
- Make protecting the environment your life’s work and help mobilize other environmental activists.