Maryland and the Not-So-Fake Environmental Threat That is the Trump Presidency

We are just under nine months into the presidency of Donald J. Trump; and yet, overwhelming nostalgia has already set in, as I reminisce about a time when The White House was occupied by a Commander-in-Chief that believed in climate change, and that refrained from pawning off the future of our environment in order to satisfy his base. After all, climate change isn’t exactly fake news and after a double dose of devastating, record slashing hurricanes ravished parts of the United States this month and a third continues to approach, you would think that even the most entrenched skeptics of climate change would be willing to concede. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, and the most frightening thing about this is that it almost seems as if it would require a cataclysmic act of Mother Nature in order for lawmakers from all political ideologies to come to a consensus that climate change is real, and that promoting and implementing anti-climate policies is irresponsible and dangerous.

Mr. Trump has made it quite clear that he desires to be the leader of the anti-environment delegation. Instead of serving as the standard bearer for preserving precious natural resources and aiding restoration efforts, his administration submitted a budget proposal that would decimate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), resulting in either substantial cuts to programs or the complete dismantling of them. This budget, entitled “America First,” serves as the economic roadmap for the Trump administration’s efforts to increase defense funding by gutting numerous programs including social and environmental mainstays. Any budget that reduces protections for its natural resources — whether by severely decreasing its funding or doing away with it entirely — could never be billed as serving the interest of its homeland first. America doesn’t reside inside of a bubble that shields it from the positive or negative environmental actions of the billions of people who don’t call the United States home. Mr. Trump has established himself as global businessman, however, he doesn’t understand that there is no such thing as a nationalistic and/or isolationistic approach to the environment. Every continent, country, state, and city serves as a puzzle piece that collectively forms the environment and the environmental successes and failures of these respective lands are intertwined.

Here in Maryland, we would be at great risk under the federal government’s proposed policy actions. Under the Trump budget, multiple programs would be ended, significantly affecting our state. One such effect would strike The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in North America and the environmental crown jewel of Maryland and neighboring watershed states. The Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional partnership which holds the responsibility of protecting and restoring the bay, would be amongst those initiatives on the chopping block. This unique collaborative effort consists of officials from the EPA, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative body, and various citizen advisory groups. This program serves as the marquee advocacy body for the Chesapeake Bay and losing it would leave the bay vulnerable. More than 17,000,000 people called the Bay watershed home as of 2010. A few months ago, several lawmakers from the states that would be directly affected by such a devastating policy shift pressed the Trump administration to refrain from ending the program. Congress was able to keep the program active; however, only through the end of September.

Additionally, the Department of Energy is facing a 5.6 percent cut, impacting programs focused on renewable energy innovation and energy efficiency. As a result of this, the State Energy Program, which has a proven track record of increasing energy efficiency, enhancing reliability, decreasing costs, and promoting economic growth would either face funding cuts or be cut altogether. As of 2015, the state of Maryland has collected $58 million as a result of this program. Additionally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would suffer over $250 million in cuts to coastal and marine grants and programs. Amongst the programs at risk is the Sea Grant Program, which directly funds the Maryland Sea Grant College. The college plays an intricate part in efforts to preserve the environment through bay research, development of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education initiatives and aiding oyster aquaculture businesses. Since taking office in January, the Trump Administration has launched an all out effort to roll back environmental protections – and they’re just getting started.

I have lived in the great state of Maryland my entire life. One thing that makes me appreciate of this wonderful state is the fact that it has a little bit of everything. Whether you’re seeking an urban, suburban or rural environment, we have it all here. As beautiful, vibrant and culturally diverse as this state is, it requires upkeep and protection. Marylanders, regardless of their political affiliation, know the importance of protecting our environment for our future generations – giving our state a unique opportunity to combat the Trump administration’s reckless attempts to eliminate environmental protections and funding for environmental programs.

Several states have stepped up and taken actions to ensure that they are on the right side of the climate change fight. For instance, Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states put forth a proposal to cut power plant pollution by a minimum of 30 percent from 2020 to 2030. Greensburg, Kansas was the first state to reach 100 percent renewable energy, the city of Aspen in Colorado has committed to the same goal in order to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and Colorado Gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis has proposed 100 percent renewable energy statewide by 2040 as part of his campaign.

However, here in Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vetoed legislation in 2016 that expanded the state’s renewable energy goals from 20 percent to 25 percent by 2020 – luckily, state lawmakers were able to override this veto. Early this month, environmental advocates launched an effort to further increase Maryland’s goal to 50 percent by 2030 and some lawmakers are considering introducing a measure to take the goal all the way to 100 percent by 2035.

Sustaining our environment and ensuring that we leave future generations a healthy and thriving world should not be held as a Democratic obligation or a Republican obligation, but as a shared moral responsibility of the party of humanity.