EDITORIAL: More reason to get active

MY PLASTIC SNOW BLOWER is buried in a drift. I can’t find it, and even if I could all it would do is rearrange the snow beneath the surface. Blizzards are not our friends.

It’s March and the weather in the Northeast is reliably fickle. A TV network reporter intoned before the storm that this would likely be the largest snowfall ever recorded in March. She must never have heard about the Blizzard of ’88. From March 11 to 14 of 1888 Albany measured nearly four feet of snow. We got clobbered this week, but it was well short of a record.

That’s kind of reassuring. Until the last few weeks it was looking like we weren’t going to have much of a winter at all. The evidence backed up that expectation, too. January of this year has produced the second highest average global temperature for the month since these measurements were first gathered back in the 1880s. And yearly data show that the rate of temperature increase worldwide is speeding up.

If you’re busy digging out from under this snowfall, maybe the prospect of a warmer Columbia County doesn’t sound so bad. But the research tells us that sudden changes in climate won’t improve the long-term survival prospects for the human race. And since we also know that reducing the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide is the surest way known to slow down this climate change, this is an opportunity for each of us to do something–or something more–that might help.

There are plenty of ways to participate in reducing the threats of climate change, whether it’s personal behavior or cooperative action like, for example, participating in (or starting) your town’s Climate Smart Communities program. There’s also the unavoidable need for political action.

The president has said climate change is a hoax. So it comes as no surprise that his appointee as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, made a false statement last week about the climate subject. The overwhelming consensus of scientists is that emissions of carbon dioxide from human activities are a primary factor causing rapid warming of the Earth’s atmosphere. But Mr. Pruitt denied it.

What’s this have to do with Columbia County? A lot, because the EPA has a big but not always visible impact here. Just north of us is an immense burial pit of poisonous industrial waste called the Dewey Loeffel Landfill. It’s so hazardous that in 2011 the EPA declared it a federal Superfund toxic waste site. The EPA has monitored the effort to clean up polluted water seeping out of that site. The treated water is released into the Valatie Kill, which runs through northern Columbia County and eventually empties into the Hudson River.

Early this week the supervisor of the Town of Nassau, where the Superfund site is located, requested that the EPA improve its water filtration so that less of a suspected carcinogenic chemical from the landfill is released into the stream.

This is a straightforward request that the staff at the EPA might be able to handle on its own. But along with climate science denial, EPA Administrator Pruitt has promised deep cuts in EPA staff–25% or more. And the administration has even nominated an assistant administrator to handle water regulation. But through regulations already rolled back or the ones that are targeted to go, it’s clear that while Trump administration officials talk about clean water it is not a priority.

The threat of pollution reaches beyond the communities embraced by the latest news cycle. All Americans deserve regulations that keep our water safe through actions based on science not ignorance or greed. We need rules that protect us from the fate of Flint, MI, or Hoosick Falls. And the same principles that apply to the water we drink should govern the air we breathe and the temperature of the atmosphere all human beings share.

Congressman John Faso has taken heat locally for his stand on many national issues, but he recently testified before a House committee on behalf of a federal program that helps small communities protect their water supplies from toxic chemicals and this week he co-sponsored a resolution urging the House to take action on climate change.

It will take more than that to blunt the administration’s distortions of fact and disregard for the health and well being of the country. But he has taken important first steps. Tell him you approve. Encourage him to say and do more.

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