By Joseph Sapia
The election of Donald J. Trump as president has some area environmentalists concerned, especially regarding climate change and drilling for gas and oil in the Atlantic Ocean.
“We think the Trump administration will be very bad for the environment,” said Colette Buchanan, a Monmouth Beach resident who is president of the Monmouth County Audubon Society, a bird-watching and conservation group.
“President Trump will be an unnatural disaster unleashed on the environment,” said Andrew L. Chambarry, an Asbury Park lawyer who is a founder of Citizens in Opposition to Beach Restrictive Access (COBRA) and serves on the legal issues team of the Surfrider Foundation.
In January, the presidency passes from President Barack Obama, not viewed as an overt protector of the environment, to Trump, not viewed as an environmentalist at all.
“Trump and his team will dismantle regulations, which would have helped guard against climate change,” Chambarry said. “His policies will benefit big business and corporate greed. The effects will be widespread and could lead to hasten an environmental crisis that many say is imminent.”
Backing off on the prevention of climate change will create a domino effect, with other countries emboldened to do the same, said Bill Williams, co-chair of the Surfrider Foundation’s Jersey Shore Chapter.
“Sea levels will rise and there is not enough money or sand to dredge and fill our way out of this problem in New Jersey,” Williams said. “With the policies Mr. Trump has proposed, we need to get serious about other strategies like retreat along our coast.”
Debbie Mans, executive director of the Keyport-based NY/NJ Baykeeper, a group concerned with the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary, said “New Jersey is surrounded by water and we have already experienced the impacts of increased storm events and localized flooding.
“His promises to roll back regulations addressing the emissions contributing to climate change and lack of commitments to adapt to sea-level rise place New Jersey coastal communities and industries at risk, from Newark to Cape May (and up) to Trenton,” said Mans.
“Trump denies that human-cause climate change is real and has no intention of addressing it,” Buchanan said.
“President-Elect Trump’s platform, repeated campaign pledges, First 100 Days agenda, and denial of climate change could cause profound harm to the ocean environment including making deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education, re-opening of oil and gas exploration and extraction in the Atlantic, increasing fossil fuel production, and rolling back clean water and emissions rules,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of the Sandy Hook-based Clean Ocean Action environmental group. “These do not bode well for marine life and our clean ocean economy.
“However, it is important to note, the actual Trump administration’s ocean policy is uncertain and time will tell,” Zipf said. “What is certain is that Clean Ocean Action will continue to be vigilant, vocal and vigorous in protecting and sustaining the ocean, and New Jersey and New York’s $50 billion tourism and fishing economies that depend upon it.”
Buchanan and Mans worry the federal Environmental Protection Agency would be weakened or eliminated under Trump.
For the Mid-Atlantic region, Obama issued a five-year moratorium on offshore gas and oil drilling. This “proactively prevented oil spills for the next five years that could greatly affect our recreation, fishing and tourism industries,” Williams said.
But Williams fears Trump will lift the moratorium as soon as he can.
“Drilling in the Atlantic will pose serious threats to many marine species, while reducing areas for fishing and boating,” Chambarry said. “Environmental disaster could reach the beaches of New Jersey at any time. We will have to prepare for such a sad state of affairs under President Trump.”
“I am not sure President Trump has the attention span and insight to focus on long-term, gradual progress and am worried he simply will react and focus on short-term goals that result in a reduction in man-nature sustainability,” said Rik van Hemmen, who lives in Fair Haven and is active with Navesink River boating and environmental issues.
Van Hemmen said he was not pressuring Trump to make the environmental progress Obama has made.
“But I would be very disappointed in any steps that would be backwards,” van Hemmen said. “Such behavior is unnecessarily costly and counters the conservative political outlook, which, as far as I can see, should conform to first, do no harm to the country at large.”
Buchanan expressed concerns for wildlife under Trump.
“As an organization that is focused on bird conservation, Monmouth County Audubon is concerned that the Endangered Species Act will be weakened or eliminated,” Buchanan said. “Additionally, many North American bird species are already threatened by ongoing climate change.”
But Van Hemmen did not expect to see blatant change under Trump.
“On the local level, I think we will not see much change,” van Hemmen said. “I hope that our community commitment to sustainable man-nature interaction will simply continue.”
Van Hemmen had a greater concern on a wider level, however.
“On the national level, I am worried and can only hope for the best,” van Hemmen said. “We often lose sight of what works and what does not work. We often think that any type of regulation is bad, but more often forget these regulations have actually improved our environment and made it fairer to all, rather than a few exploiters.”
Van Hemmen noted local environmentalists should not lose focus on their own causes.
“No matter what the political situation is, we can always act locally – discover, engage and sustain,” van Hemmen said.
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