By KATHY CHANG
EDISON — Congressman Frank Pallone (D-Middlesex, Monmouth) said rallies in support of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) like the one held in front of one of the agency’s Region 2 Laboratory and Environment Center facility on Woodbridge Avenue last week will have an impact in Washington.
“You may not see it, but these energetic grassroots efforts have been having an impact,” he said. “It’s important for us to bring [these concerns] to light.”
Pallone, who is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, joined Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, state Sen. Patrick Diegnan (D-Middlesex), Assemblywoman Nancy Pinkin (D-Middlesex), Edison Councilman Joseph Coyle, members of the Sierra Club and members of the public for a rally to oppose the news of President Donald Trump’s moves to roll back environmental regulations last week as the president’s pick to lead the EPA Scott Pruitt entered office.
The congressman said they are committed to defend the EPA’s vital programs to ensure they have clean air, safe drinking water and a strong agenda to combat climate change.
Many attending the rally on Feb. 23 held signs reading “Global Warming is Real, its 70 degrees in February,” “There is no Planet B,” “EPA is for Environmental Protection, not corporate.”
Many tractor trailers and motorists driving past the rally honked their horns.
Somerset resident Karen Reilly said she saw it fitting to recycle her Geico commercial Halloween costume — a piece of currency made out of a cardboard box — to represent her distaste of corporate greed.
Edison resident Joanne Cory held a sign “We need the Environmental Protection Agency.”
She said with New Jersey having so many Superfund sites and 126 miles of ocean coast, it needs federal protection.
Even Cookie, a 6-year-old papillon, joined in on the rally wearing a sign around his collar “We all need clean air and water.”
Tittel pumped his fist, saying they are joining together because people in the country want clean air, clean water, toxic sites cleaned up and action on climate change.
“We are here today because the EPA, which has had this lab here for decades with important research being done on cleaning up toxic sites, clean energy and everything else is under threat,” he said. “Not only is the EPA under threat — we are under threat, the clean air is under threat, clean water is under threat because we have an administration that clearly sides with corporate polluters, big oil and gas and not for the people they are supposed to represent.”
Pallone said the country cannot move backwards on climate change, slow the development of clean energy or allow drilling off New Jersey’s coast.
“We need to protect Americans’ fundamental right to clean air, clean water and a safe environment to raise their families,” he said. “I am proud to stand with the Sierra Club and committed citizens against President Trump’s dangerous environmental policies.”
According to multiple press reports, Trump is planning to gut the EPA budget by $1 billion, while cutting the EPA from 15,000 employees to 5,000 employees. These changes would have a devastating impact on New Jersey, Pallone said.
In Region 2 alone, which includes New Jersey, there are 10 offices that work on issues from clean air to emergency and remedial issues, clean water, public affairs as well as enforcement and compliance.
The proposed cuts could also impact cleaning up toxic sites, water quality testing as well as funding on climate change and the 319 program for stormwater, the congressman said.
The EPA is also responsible for responding to chemical spills, monitoring and combating ocean pollution, ensuring that the country’s drinking water is safe and air is clean.