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Environmental Protection Agency

The president of the United States is taking full credit for the relief those crazy leftist environmental groups are feeling in response to the resignation of the latest misunderstood and much maligned member of his cabinet, Scott Pruitt.

You see, President Donald Trump knew that Pruitt would do his bidding, gutting unnecessary government regulations designed to protect the water, air and food that Americans and, indeed, others on the planet need on a daily basis.

He knew Pruitt would do everything he asked, and more. It’s like the old Stalin philosophy. You remember that ruthless Soviet Union dictator, right? He never wanted any of his tank commanders to be too powerful because he didn’t want their leader taking over.

So, he chose Pruitt knowing that he’d do what Trump wanted and then would become so enmeshed in the world he tried to help — lobbyists, coal interests, insecticide manufacturers — that he would eventually cause harm to himself and his political aspirations.

Trump is, rightfully, taking full credit for the resignation of a man he supported when it was expedient to do so and that he needed to cut loose when the combination of foibles and follies entered the public realm.

Sure, some nasty journalists may have quoted unnamed sources who shared questionable details about Pruitt’s spending habits, his requests for football tickets, his security detail and his desire to get his wife a job. Ultimately, it was Trump who made the call, putting the thorn in the side of the environmental groups and then pulling it out ever so quickly and gracefully.

Well, maybe it wasn’t all that quick. Pruitt lasted far longer in Washington than even members of the “Trump Party” — that’s the new name of the group formerly known as the Republican Party — might have wanted. But, hey, the more people who found Pruitt’s actions and decisions questionable, the greater the relief when he was finally removed from office.

OK, so technically the guy resigned, which means he walked out of the seat of power and into an enormous gas-guzzling sport utility vehicle. But, seriously, does anyone believe Pruitt thought he blew it on his own? No, no, people, wake up. News that the environmental groups all thought was good because they imagined that the EPA might return to its mandate of protecting the environment and the people, animals and trees living here came courtesy of His Truly: President Trump.

Yes, of course, you can thank him for taking nuclear weapons out of the hands of the North Koreans, and you can express your appreciation for the incredibly kind way he pulled back from a zero-tolerance policy he established because of laws the Democrats won’t fix, but don’t forget to give credit where credit is due.

You see, if the president had never tapped Pruitt, who built his career attacking the henhouse that was the EPA from his home in Oklahoma, the greenie groups would never be able to celebrate his removal. No, it’s a total credit to Trump that the reality TV show that was the Pruitt era at the EPA has been canceled.

So, take your time, think of the right words and make sure to thank the man in charge of the world for choosing the right man at the right time and then letting that man walk off into a sunset enhanced by all the pollution-generated particulates he helped put there.

Cedar Beach waters in Mount Sinai run into the Long Island Sound. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Suffolk County has signed off on joining New York State in suing the Environmental Protection Agency for dumping dredged materials in Long Island Sound.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) announced last summer the state would be taking legal action against the EPA after in 2016 the agency moved to increase the number of open water dumping sites in the Sound from two to three, despite a call from state government leaders of both New York and Connecticut in 2005 to reduce and eventually eliminate the practice of dumping in the Sound.

The Eastern Long Island Sound Disposal Site, now a permanent open water site for the disposal of dredged materials, is midway between Connecticut and New York, and less than 1.5 nautical miles from Fishers Island, which is part of Southold Town and Suffolk County, despite technically being in Connecticut’s waters. The disposal site is in an area that had never before been used for open water disposal.

Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), who represents Southold, Riverhead and communities in eastern Brookhaven, initiated the legislation directing Suffolk County to join the action against the EPA.

“This is another step in a decades-long fight to try and get the EPA to play by the rules,” Krupski said. “The Long Island Sound is threatened by pollution, warming waters and acidification, and the last thing that should be done is to dump potentially toxic substances into the estuary.”

Legislators Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) and Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) joined Krupski in sponsoring the legislation authorizing the county to join the lawsuit.

“For more than the 30 years, leaders from both shores of the Long Island Sound have invested heavily on a cooperative effort to restore its life and majesty,” said Hahn, the chairwoman of the Legislature’s Environment, Planning & Agriculture Committee. “As such, the decision by our neighbor to the north to dump potentially toxic pesticides, heavy metals and industrial by-products into the Sound is nearly as dumbfounding as the Environmental Protection Agency’s willingness to allow it.”

Cuomo made the case against expanded dumping when the lawsuit was announced.

“We will continue to do everything in our power to protect New York’s environment, and with the EPA’s unfathomable and destructive decision to turn the eastern Long Island Sound into a dumping ground — now is the time for action,” Cuomo said in 2016. “We will establish that this designation not only poses a major threat to a significant commercial and recreational resource, but that it also undermines New York’s long-standing efforts to end dumping in our treasured waters.”

Last year, Brookhaven and Southold towns joined the lawsuit, which contends the EPA failed to adequately investigate alternatives to open water disposal and overestimated the need for the new site. It also alleges the Long Island Sound Dredged Material Management Plan, which was approved by the EPA, violates the Ocean Dumping Act and Coastal Zone Management Act, and cited a “failure to address environmental impacts on the Long Island Sound.” The body of water was designated an Estuary of National Significance by the EPA in 1988 and is recognized as an important economic engine for Suffolk County and all of Long Island, supporting both recreational and commercial businesses and contributing billions of dollars to the regional economy.

“We’re here to send a very strong message — that we are opposed to dumping in the Sound,” Romaine said during a press conference Aug. 28 at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. “The State of New York and this governor, Andrew Cuomo, has done a great service to this state and to the residents of Long Island by working to enjoin, in the court, the EPA from allowing continued dumping in the Sound.”

Those living in older homes should be especially cautious about asbestos. Stock photo

By Charles MacGregor

Last year, Congress passed bipartisan legislation to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act, giving the United States Environmental Protection Agency a few new tools to help better regulate chemicals and protect human and environmental health. Among those tools was a requirement to have ongoing risk evaluations for chemicals to determine their risks to people. When the agency released its list of the first 10 chemicals slated for review, it was a parade of hard to pronounce names that would leave the average person scratching their head, but the list also included a common name with a long history in the United States.

Fifty years ago, when it was in its heyday, asbestos was found in products throughout the home. Vinyl flooring, furnace gaskets and cement, roofing shingles and even crock pots and ironing boards were all known to contain the mineral. Asbestos performs well when it comes to resisting heat and was often included in products used in applications where a lot of heat would be generated. But the material also carries a dark secret in that it’s capable of causing several awful diseases, including asbestosis, a chronic lung disease, and mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer affecting the lining of the lungs.

Mesothelioma is an especially awful cancer because it’s often aggressive and displays symptoms that could be mistaken for a variety of illnesses. By the time it’s actually diagnosed, however, mesothelioma is usually in its later stages when the prognosis is extremely poor and there aren’t many options for treatment. Unfortunately, for many people battling the disease, they weren’t exposed recently, but rather decades ago while working in manufacturing, mining or in the military. Invisible asbestos fibers can become airborne when products are damaged and pose a significant threat of inhalation or ingestion.

When the TSCA was signed into law, asbestos was heavily regulated and its usage has since steadily declined. But when the EPA tried to finally put an end to asbestos in 1989, the final rule banning the material was overturned by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals two years later due to a lack of “substantial evidence” despite tens of thousands of pages accumulated during a 10-year study. After the colossal failure to ban asbestos, the EPA didn’t attempt any additional bans using the old TSCA rules.

The reason the asbestos evaluation matters so much is because these amendments to the TSCA are supposed to ease burdens and make it easier for the EPA to react swiftly to regulate and ban chemicals that are too dangerous for people. It matters because there is proposed legislation known as the Regulatory Accountability Act that would, in essence, resurrect some of the same barriers intentionally removed from the regulatory process. In the case of asbestos, this could delay a possible ban by years while the agency sifts through red tape and challenges from industry lobbyists. A massive cut in funding to the EPA would severely cripple the agency and force it to do more with less, when it can barely keep up with the work it does now. And President Donald Trump’s (R) “2-for-1” executive order, which forces agencies to remove two rules for every new one added without any additional costs, is a direct assault against our health. It forces agencies to pick and choose what rules get enforced and puts the balance sheet above our safety.

The EPA is under a lot of stress, but we also need to understand that the failed asbestos ban nearly 30 years ago is a cautionary tale. If there’s any hope of seeing the material banned, the stars have to align. There’s still an air of cautious optimism, but the deck is heavily stacked against it.

Visit www.mesothelioma.com for more information.

Charles MacGregor is a Community Engagement Specialist with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. He works to raise awareness about environmental policies related to the continued use of asbestos.

Local officials weigh in on President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Paris Agreement

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, helped to establish the United States Climate Alliance in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Lawmakers signed a bill protecting the Long Island Sound last year. File photo from Cuomo’s office

By Alex Petroski

U.S. President Donald Trump’s (R) decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, a global effort to combat the threat of climate change, elicited strong responses from around the world. One of the more notable reactions came from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who along with the governors of California and Washington State established the United States Climate Alliance. The coalition will convene the three states, and others that have come out in support of the initiative, in committing to uphold the parameters of the Paris Agreement despite Trump’s June 1 announcement. As of June 5 the alliance included 13 members — 12 states and Puerto Rico.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order establishing the United States Climate Alliance. Image from governor’s website

“The White House’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet,” Cuomo said in a statement. “New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change, which is why I am also signing an executive order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment and our planet.”

The Paris Agreement, which officially took effect in November 2016, aimed to strengthen the response to climate change globally by keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius during the current century and also strengthen countries’ ability to deal with the effects of climate change. The U.S. is now one of only three nations on the planet not included in the agreement.

According to Cuomo, the United States Climate Alliance will seek to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels and meet or exceed the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan, each of which were self-imposed U.S. goals of the Paris Agreement. The Clean Power Plan was established in 2015 to establish state-by-state targets for carbon emission reductions. Trump signed an executive order early on in his administration placing a hold on the plan and pledging a review. Cuomo also announced New York State will be investing $1.65 billion in renewable energy and energy efficiency in the aftermath of Trump’s decision. In addition he said he aims to create 40,000 clean energy jobs by 2020.

Republican New York State Sens. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) did not respond to requests for comment through spokespersons.

Local officials from across the political spectrum spoke out about Trump’s decision in the aftermath of the announcement.

“We live on an island and have already begun to see some of the effects of our rising seas,” Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in a statement. “To protect Brookhaven for our children and generations to come it is our responsibility to take action now. The president’s announcement today regarding the Paris climate accord is disappointing. On behalf of our residents, I will continue to fight to protect our environment.”

Democrats including 3rd Congressional District U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and others blasted the decision in public statements.

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement is a devastating failure of historic proportions,” Schumer said. “Future generations will look back on President Trump’s decision as one of the worst policy moves made in the 21st century because of the huge damage to our economy, our environment and our geopolitical standing. Pulling out of the Paris Agreement doesn’t put America first, it puts America last in recognizing science, in being a world leader and protecting our own shoreline, our economy and our planet.”

New York State 4th District Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) expressed support for the newly minted climate alliance on Twitter, sharing the hashtag “#LeadNotLeave.”

First Congressional District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said in an emailed statement through a spokeswoman that he supported many of the goals of the Paris Agreement, but thought the U.S. “approached this entire agreement all wrong.” He criticized former President Barack Obama (D), who played a leadership role in establishing the Paris Agreement, for bypassing Congress in reaching the agreement and for what he viewed as outsized pledges made by the U.S. compared to other world powers in the agreement.

“What we need to do moving forward should include continuing to take an international approach to protect clean air and clean water, and reduce emissions that are impacting our climate, but we must negotiate it correctly so that we aren’t over promising, under delivering and causing unnecessary harm,” he said.

Sen. Schumer was among the most forceful opponents of Trump’s decision. File photo by Kevin Redding

During Trump’s June 1 speech announcing the withdrawal, he sited a loss of American jobs in the coal industry and crippling regulations on the business world as the drivers behind his decision.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who was appointed by Trump, praised his decision.

“This is a historic restoration of American Economic Independence — one that will benefit the working class, the working poor, and working people of all stripes,” he said. “With this action, you have declared that people are the rulers of this country once again.”

Administrators from the New York District Office of the U.S. Small Business Administration, a government agency that offers support to small businesses, were not available to comment on Trump’s decision or the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, but a spokesperson for the department instead directed the request to answers U.S. SBA Administrator Linda McMahon gave to Yahoo Global News June 6. She agreed with Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement, adding she believes this will result in more job opportunities for Americans.

“I think [Trump] was making a statement that we’re going to look at what’s good for America first,” she said. “I do think climate change is real, and I do think that man has some contribution to climate change. As to the extent of the science, predictions as to what might happen 20, 30, 40 years from now, I’m not sure we have that totally decided, but I do respect the science behind a lot of it.”

Beetles, which thrive in warmer temperatures, are threatening pine trees

Residents from Cutchogue work together to place sand bags at the edge of the Salt Air Farm before Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Photo by Prudence Heston

While surrounded by salt water, Long Island is in the midst of a drought that is heading into its third year. Amid a trend towards global warming, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation sent a letter to water district superintendents throughout Suffolk and Nassau County to ask them to lower their water consumption by 15 percent in the next three to four years.

“The primary area that is ripe for reduction is summertime watering,” said Bill Fonda, a spokesman for the DEC. The department has asked the water districts to reduce consumption, but it’s up to the districts to determine how they will reach those goals, he said.

The letter, written by Tony Leung, the regional water engineer, indicated that “results for 2015 show both Nassau and Suffolk County have exceeded the safe yield as cited in the 1986 Long Island Groundwater Management Program,” and that “a concerted effort is needed to reduce peak season water demand.”

The letter, which doesn’t cite global warming, indicates that salt water intrusion, contaminant plumes migration, salt water upconing and competing demand have raised concerns about a need to reduce peak season water demand.

Observers suggested the demand was likely rising for a host of reasons, including increased use of underground irrigation systems and a rise in the population of Long Island.

Water experts welcomed the DEC’s initiative, which is one of many steps Long Islanders can and are taking to respond to a changing environment.

“Most people have no clue how much water they use…They get their water bill, it is what it is, and then they write a check and send it in.”

— Sarah Meyland

Sarah Meyland, the director of the Center for Water Resources Management and associate professor at the New York Institute of Technology, commended the DEC for asserting control over water withdrawals.

“Most people have no clue how much water they use,” Meyland said. “They get their water bill, it is what it is, and then they write a check and send it in.”

She admitted changing consumer behavior will be challenging.

The first step in ensuring water suppliers meet this request, Meyland suggested, is to inform the public about the need for less water use, particularly during the summer months. One possible solution is for irrigation systems that turn off automatically after a rainstorm.

The change in climate has posed a threat to trees that commonly grow on Long Island.

Pine trees have faced an invasion from the southern pine beetle, which extended its range onto Long Island in 2014 and is now a pest that requires routine managing and monitoring.

Long the scourge of pine trees in southern states, the pine beetle, which is about the size of a grain of rice, has found Long Island’s warmer climate to its liking.

“We’re assuming either [Hurricane] Irene or Sandy brought it in,” said John Wernet, a supervising forester at the DEC. “Because it’s getting warmer, the beetle has been able to survive farther north than they have historically.”

Forestry professionals in the south have waged a battle against the beetle for years, trying to reduce the economic damage to the timber market. On Long Island, Wernet said, they threaten to reduce or destroy the rare Pine Barrens ecosystem.

The beetle can have three or four generations in a year and each generation can produce thousands of young.

The first step relies on surveying trees to find evidence of an infestation. Where they discover these unwanted pests, they cut down trees and score the bark, which creates an inhospitable environment for the beetle.

“If left alone, the beetle is like a wildfire and will keep going,” Wernet said. Without direct action, that would be bad news for the pine warbler, a yellow bird that lives near the tops of pine trees, he said.

Wernet added Long Island’s drought also increases the risk of
wildfires.

Farmers, meanwhile, have had to contend with warmer winters that trick their crops into growing too soon while also handling the curveballs created by unexpected cold snaps, frosts, and the occasional nor’easter.

Dan Heston and Tom Wickham survey waters that entered Salt Air Farm after Hurricane Sandy. Photo by Prudence Heston

Last year, the colored hydrangeas of Salt Air Farm in Cutchogue budded early amid warmer temperatures in March, only to perish amid two eight-degree nights.

“We lost [thousands of dollars] worth of hydrangeas in two nights,” said Dan Heston, who works on the farm with his wife Prudence, whose family has been farming on Long Island for 11 generations. “Our whole colored hydrangea season was done.”

Heston said he’s been a skeptic of climate change, but suggested he can see that there’s something happening with the climate on Long Island, including the destructive force of Hurricane Sandy, which flooded areas that were never flooded during large storms before.

“I think the climate is shifting on Long Island,” Prudence Heston explained in an email. “Farmers are constantly having to adapt to protect their crops. In the end, pretty much every adaptation a farmer makes boils down to climate.”

Changes on Long Island, however, haven’t all been for the worse. Warmer weather has allowed some residents to grow crops people don’t typically associate with Long Island, such as apricots and figs. For three generations, Heston’s family has grown apricots.

Other Long Islanders have attempted to grow figs, which are even more sensitive to Long Island winters, Heston said. This was not an economically viable option, as each plant required individual wrapping to survive. That hasn’t stopped some from trying.

“People are now finding our winters to be warm enough to make [figs] a fun back yard plant,” Prudence Heston said.

In other positive developments, the Long Island Sound has had a reduction in hypoxia — low oxygen conditions — over the last decade, according to Larry Swanson, the interim dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University.

“The state and the Environmental Protection Agency have agreed to a nitrogen reduction program,” Swanson said. “It appears that the decline in nitrogen may be having a positive effect.”

Brookhaven Town took a similar step in 2016.

The town board approved a local law proposed by Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) last summer that established nitrogen protection zones within 500 feet of any body of water on or around Long Island. The zones prohibit new structures or dwellings being built in that range from installing cesspools or septic systems.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. File photo by Kevin Redding

The quality of Long Island waters has been on the mind of elected officials from all levels of government recently, and a representative from the federal government has joined the fray, calling for more funding for two Environmental Protection Agency programs.

“There’s much we can do to improve water quality in the Long Island Sound and National Estuary and I’ll continue working in congress to ensure our waterways are preserved for generations to come,” U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirely) said during a press conference March 13.

Southold Town Council members and residents from the 1st Congressional District gathered at Veterans Memorial Park in Mattituck as Zeldin called on the federal government to fully fund at least $10 million to the Long Island Sound Study and $26.5 million to the National Estuary Program in its upcoming appropriations process at the end of April, and also to support the passage of the Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act. He said funding for the two EPA programs is essential to address urgent and challenging issues that threaten the ecological and economic well-being of Long Island’s coastal areas, such as nitrogen, harmful algae blooms and flooding or wetland loss.

East Beach in Port Jefferson is on the Long Island Sound. File photo by Elana Glowatz

“Over the years, water quality around Long Island has suffered from pollution, overdevelopment and other negative impacts…and I’m calling on my colleagues to make sure these programs are fully supported and funded, and certainly not eliminated,” Zeldin said, highlighting the significant impacts each of the programs have had on the region.

The Long Island Sound is one of our natural treasures, the congressman said, and is a precious feature of the life, culture and economy of more than 9 million people living in the coastal communities around it. He voiced his admiration of the Long Island Sound Study for its dedication to water quality and wetlands restoration in addition to local conservation projects to restore beaches and protect wildlife.

He called the National Estuary Program “an important EPA wetlands protection program for 28 estuaries in the U.S.,” two of which being Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay. The program was established by the Clean Water Act in 1987 to provide grants to states where nationally significant estuaries are threatened.

Zeldin said he will continue to work alongside Democrats and Republicans in the region to secure the funding as he did to stop President Barack Obama’s (D) proposed 22 percent cut to the Long Island Sound Study in 20

The Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act, he said, was introduced at the last congress by himself and former 3rd District U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and will propose tens-of-millions of dollars in funding per year through 2020 for a water quality and shore restoration program. Zeldin plans to reintroduce the bill during this congressional session.

Setauket Harbor Task Force Trustee George Hoffman voiced support for Zeldin and his call for funding to protect local waters.

“With Congressman Zeldin’s strong advocacy and leadership, the Long Island Sound Study, a consortium of federal, state and environmental organizations has turned the corner on cleaning up the water in LI Sound and its harbors and bays.”

—George Hoffman

“With Congressman Zeldin’s strong advocacy and leadership, the Long Island Sound Study, a consortium of federal, state and environmental organizations has turned the corner on cleaning up the water in LI Sound and its harbors and bays,” he said. “Federal funding is critical to survival of this important and productive estuary.”

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell spoke briefly in response to Zeldin’s longtime presence in the area.

“The people of the East End and people of the first congress have made it clear time and time again that the environment is a top priority and the congressman has been a zealous advocate on behalf of us, on behalf of the environment, and on behalf of our natural resources,” Russell said. “Time and time again, he’s disproved the myth that Republicans aren’t friends of the environment…Republicans are and he is.”

Councilman Bob Ghosio took to the podium to speak about the importance of the proposed funding.

“Talking about nitrogen in the bays and creeks and knowing the Long Island Sound and estuaries [here], particularly in Southold are what drives our economy, our tourism, our jobs and our recreation, just tells me how important this is,” Ghosio said. “Getting the funds to keep this area healthy for the future for my kids, my grandkids and generations thereafter is very important to us.”

When asked by a resident what he thinks of some of his Republican colleagues advancing toward eliminating EPA entirely, Zeldin reminded those in attendance he voted against a 17 percent cut to the EPA last year.

“There are 535 members of congress, all with very different ideologies and backgrounds and you get a whole lot of diversity on these issues and so I have a lot of colleagues who would support completely eliminating the EPA altogether,” Zeldin said. “But again, I voted against the 17 percent cut so to ask me how I feel about a 100 percent cut, there’s some precedent in it.”

Congressman Lee Zeldin and challenger Anna Throne-Holst face off in the 1st Congressional District, which many have called a ‘surrogate race’ for the presidential election. Photos by Alex Petroski

By Kevin Redding

A clashing of opinions on almost every issue gave way to a tense debate between an incumbent Republican congressman and a former Southampton Town supervisor as the race for the 1st Congressional District seat enters its final stretch.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who graduated from Albany Law School before serving in the U.S. Army Reserve, was first elected into the House of Representatives in 2014 and seeks to maintain that position Nov. 8. He must first win re-election, however, against Democrat Anna Throne-Holst, whose work in local government has been guided by a “people over politics” platform in an effort to make government work for everyone.

The candidates sat down at the TBR News Media office Oct. 27 to square off on a variety of pressing local and national topics, like the environment, veterans issues, Planned Parenthood and the presidential election.

Zeldin has accomplished plenty in his 21 months representing the district, which encompasses most of central and eastern Suffolk County, and takes pride in his willingness to work with absolutely anyone, regardless of party.

“Everyone is entitled to and wants clean air and clean water, and whatever we can do to advance that is important.”

— Lee Zeldin

He has worked hard to help veterans suffering from PTSD, secured the repeal of the saltwater fishing license fee, and fought to block the federal government’s proposed sale of Plum Island.

Throne-Holst has built and run organizations mostly geared toward educational and essential services for families in need of support, worked at the U.N. Department of Peacemaking, and wants to utilize the work she’s done abroad to fix what she calls “thorny foreign policy decisions that we are dealing with.”

She’s committed to providing a service to families and young people in the community who she said have been sorely underserved. She said Congress is at an all-time low approval rating and has not done enough to deal with the critical issues the country is facing.

Before the candidates focused their discussion on the environment, there were accusations from both sides regarding the Environmental Protection Agency.

“All due respect, I think it’s important to note the things where funding has either been slashed or not put forward,” Throne-Holst said. “When I think about things, like the EPA, that he voted to decrease funding for … and the kind of funding that supports programs that are crucial to our residents here in district one New York, and that have been mired in partisan politics in Washington, that is part of what I think is troubling.”

Zeldin refuted Throne-Holst’s statements.

“My opponent repeatedly states that I voted multiple times to defund the EPA,” he said, demanding specific bill numbers from Throne-Holst. “That is not truthful. When there was a vote to cut EPA funding by 17 percent, I voted against the cut. My opponent didn’t read the bill. There are ways to improve the EPA and strengthen the relationship between the EPA and Congress and the American people.”

Zeldin introduced a Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act alongside Congressman Steve Israel, and said the health of the Sound would be an important issue if he secured another term.

He talked specifically about his involvement in raising money for the National Estuary Program, which provides grants to states threatened by pollution and overuse, and his proposals in relation to Plum Island.

“Everyone is entitled to and wants clean air and clean water, and whatever we can do to advance that is important,” Zeldin said.

Throne-Holst spoke more broadly about the hazards of climate change, an issue Zeldin has questioned the legitimacy of in the past, and sea-level rise. She said there isn’t a single homeowner or business owner in the region immune to climate change. She said the federal government has a responsibility to lead the way in putting together a climate change resiliency plan, district by district.

The debate turned even more contentious when the focus shifted to their respective stances on Planned Parenthood.

Zeldin, who voted for a bill that would halt funding for the organization for a year, was asked whether or not he believed it should be defunded.

“I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I don’t think it’s a question of a personal experience. I think it’s a question of respecting the civil rights of every American.”

— Anna Throne-Holst

“I respect the position amongst American taxpayers who do not want their dollars to go toward funding abortions,” he said. “I certainly have a sensitivity and respect for both sides of this issue … but the idea that it can be legal for someone to be able to decide to get an abortion in the eighth month or ninth month, that is something that I very strongly disagree with.”

When pressed for clarification on the organization’s funding, Zeldin said “as far as funding abortion services, yeah [it should be halted].”

Throne-Holst called their views on the issue a very clear line in the sand.

“I believe in a woman’s right to choose,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a question of a personal experience. I think it’s a question of respecting the civil rights of every American. The idea that government has any role to play in making that decision for anyone goes against any provision of humanity.”

Zeldin has publicly supported Republican nominee Donald Trump in the race for the White House in the past, though he said we have two flawed options for president, referring to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as well. He offered no defense for Trump’s well-documented controversial statements, including the Access Hollywood leak wherein Trump boasted about sexually assaulting women.

He said he sides with Trump on many issues, like improving foreign, tax and immigration policies and defeating “Islamic Extremism.” He said he agrees with Trump more than he agrees with Clinton.

Throne-Holst accused her opponent of going on CNN numerous times to defend Trump in the past. She said there is no excuse for overlooking the statements Trump has made and “allowing this man to be the supreme leader of this country and be the role model for our children.”

New standards will require school districts in New York state to test for lead in water. File photo

By Rebecca Anzel

Drinking water in public schools across the state will soon conclude testing for lead contamination. Legislation signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in September makes New York the first state to mandate such testing.

The law established a level of lead allowed in drinking water, initial and future testing requirements for schools and deadlines for notifying parents and staff of results.

“These rigorous new protections for New York’s children include the toughest lead contamination testing standards in the nation and provide clear guidance to schools on when and how they should test their water,” Cuomo said in a press release.

Schools are more likely to have raised lead levels because intermittent use of water causes extended water contact with plumbing fixtures. Those installed before 1986, when federal laws were passed to restrict the amount of lead allowed in materials, might have a higher amount of lead.

“We know how harmful lead can be to the health and well-being of young children, and that’s why the Senate insisted on testing school water for lead,” state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said in a statement. “As a result, New York becomes the first state in the nation to perform this testing and protect millions of its students from potential health risks.”

Lead consumption by children is especially harmful because behavioral and physical effects, such as brain damage and reduced IQ, happen at lower levels of exposure, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Even low levels of lead exposure can cause hearing loss, nervous system damage and learning disabilities.

“We know how harmful lead can be to the health and well-being of young children, and that’s why the Senate insisted on testing school water for lead.”

—John Flanagan

In adults, lead can cause damage to the reproductive system, kidneys and cardiovascular system.

The new law required schools teaching children in prekindergarten through fifth grade to test drinking water by Sept. 30 and schools with children from grades six through 12 to complete testing by the end of October.

This affects in excess of 700 school districts and 37 BOCES locations in the state, consisting of more than 5,000 school buildings, according to the state. Private schools are exempt from this testing.

Any lead level exceeding 15 micrograms per liter must be reported by the school to the local health department within one business day. Schools are also mandated to share the test results with parents and staff in writing and to publish a list of lead-free buildings on their websites.

Glenn Neuschwender, president of Enviroscience Consultants, a Ronkonkoma-based environmental consulting firm, said to a certain extent, these deadlines are a challenge, especially those pertaining to the test results.

“I’ve been speaking to the county health department — they’re currently not prepared to receive that data,” Neuschwender said in a phone interview. “The same would go for the state Department of Health. They’re not currently prepared to start receiving data yet, but they’ve told me that they will be within the coming weeks.”

The cost of a lead analysis ranges from $20 to $75 per sample and must be conducted by a laboratory approved by the Environmental Laboratory Approval Program. Long Island Analytical Laboratories in Holbrook and Pace Analytical Services in Melville are two approved labs, according to the state Department of Health.

If the level of lead in a sample exceeds what the law allows, the school is required to prohibit the use of that faucet until further testing shows the issue is rectified. The law also requires schools to conduct testing every five years.

“The law is certainly, I would say, a work in progress,” Neuschwender said. “The law is very short in discussing remediation — it’s more specific to sampling and action-level objectives — so we expect to see some clarification on the remediation side of things as the law is revised.”

Port Jefferson school district conducted voluntary testing of fixtures throughout the district this summer before Cuomo signed the law, and found small amounts of lead in nine locations. All nine fixtures have been replaced, according to Fred Koelbel, district plant facilities administrator.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, center, helped to establish the United States Climate Alliance in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Lawmakers signed a bill protecting the Long Island Sound last year. File photo from Cuomo’s office

By Donna Newman

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is threatening to sue.

State lawmakers have joined forces across the aisle to issue a demand to both the federal government and the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the dumping of dredged sludge in the Long Island Sound at two existing sites.

At Sunken Meadow State Park Aug. 4, New York office-holders from multiple levels of government presented a united front. Gov. Cuomo (D) warned U.S. President Barack Obama (D) and the EPA that a plan to create a third disposal site poses a “major” threat to the ecologically vital habitat and blocks progress to end open-water dumping in Long Island’s waters. He and Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) wrote letters to Obama, EPA Administrator Regina McCarthy and EPA Regional Administrator H. Curtis Spalding about their opposition.

The dredging of Connecticut harbors and rivers, meant to deepen waterways to allow ships clear passage, produces sludge that is being open dumped in the Long Island Sound, according to Englebright’s office.

Local environmentalists are also concerned with the practice being used long-term.

“We are grateful for the strong support of Governor Cuomo and our local state legislators in opposing this ill-conceived plan and putting the federal government on notice that the Long Island Sound is off limits for the dumping of dredge spoils,” George Hoffman of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, a North Shore group that works for clean water in Setauket and Port Jefferson harbors, said in a statement.

Should the federal agency continue its plan to allow dumping of dredge spoils in eastern Long Island Sound, New York State will pursue legal action against the EPA, Cuomo said.

In 2005, the EPA struck an accord with the governors of New York and Connecticut to reduce or limit the disposal of dredged material in the Sound by examining alternative placement practices. Two sites— Western Long Island Sound and Central Long Island Sound — were designated on Long Island to be used for that purpose.

On April 27, the EPA proposed the designation of a dredged material disposal site in the Eastern region of Long Island Sound, a third dumping location that would continue open-water dumping of dredge waste in the Eastern Long Island Sound for as long as 30 years. The two sites open now are set to close Dec. 23.

Englebright doesn’t see the latest proposal as a step in the right direction — according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, approximately 22.6 million cubic yards of dredging will be done over the next 30 years.

“The draft appears to be the same open water dredge-dumping plan we have seen before,” he said. “Federal, state and local governments have spent billions of taxpayer dollars to clean up the Long Island Sound and significant progress has been made … continued dredge dumping will make the task of cleaning up the sound so much more difficult.”

The EPA has maintained that dredging is a necessary part of keeping the sound passable for ships.

“Dredging is needed to ensure safe navigation in the sound,” EPA spokesman John Martin said in an email. “The EPA has not made a final decision, but we believe the proposal strikes an appropriate balance between the need for dredging to maintain safe and efficient navigation and our desired outcome to restore and protect Long Island Sound.”

He referred to the Sound as a nationally significant estuary that has seen the return of dolphins and humpback whales during the past year, thanks to cleanup efforts.

New York State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) agreed that the state has made significant investments to repair decades of damage.

“Real progress is being made, which makes the EPA’s recent proposal to expand the number of dredged material sites in the sound even more difficult to comprehend,” he said. “I fully support using whatever resources the state has at its disposal to fight the EPA’s plan and protect the long-term health of the sound so that it will continue to be an environmental and economic asset for future generations of Long Islanders.”

In his letter to the agency and the White House, Cuomo stressed his intentions to take action to protect Long Island’s waters if the EPA fails to comply with lawmakers’ requests.

“If the EPA ignores New York’s objections and finalizes its rule to permanently designate an open water disposal site in eastern Long Island Sound,” Cuomo said, “ I will take all necessary steps to challenge the rule and stop it from being implemented.”

Victoria Espinoza, Desirée Keegan and Alex Petroski contributed reporting.

According to Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, harmful chemicals are also found in telephone poles. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After four decades the government is finally updating the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 with partial thanks to Brookhaven Town officials.

President Gerald Ford signed the act decades ago to regulate the introduction of new chemicals into society, excluding those found in food, pesticides, tobacco, firearms, drugs and cosmetics. The act gave the United States Environmental Protection Agency the authority to require documentation of chemical substances to determine if the chemical is hazardous to humans. The 62,000 chemicals that existed before 1976 were grandfathered into the act and deemed safe for humans and the act wasn’t updated until last year.

The government amended the act with Toxic Substances Control Modernization Act of 2015. Its bill, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act updates the act and requires the EPA to establish a risk-based screening process for new chemicals. Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and his fellow town board officials proposed the bill, which states the EPA must determine if a certain amount of old or new chemicals are safe for humans by a certain deadline. The EPA will reprimand manufacturers who don’t comply with safety requirements by restricting or prohibiting the creation, processing, distribution and disposal of new chemicals.

The EPA did not return requests seeking comment by press time.

According to Romaine, the uptick in cancer cases, particularly breast cancer on the North Shore, over the years was troubling. With advancements in science and technology scientists have found that some of the chemicals previously deemed as safe actually pose potential health risks for humans. This includes development of cancers and endocrine and immune system-related complications among other issues.

“We have a concern about the high rates of cancer in children and we’re concerned because people are trying to get answers,” Romaine said.

There were around 142.7 cases of cancer in Suffolk County between 2000 and 2004 according to the National Cancer Institute. The cases increased to around 528 per 100,000 people between 2008 and 2012 according to the cancer institute’s State Cancer Profiles.

County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who has focused on the environment and its health effects for more than a decade, said these chemicals could be particularly harmful to children and their health.

“When you’re exposed to something when you’re growing up … it stays in your body,” Anker said. “As you get older something may set off the cancer…It takes decades sometimes for cancer to evolve.”

In a 2008-2009 study from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, scientists found 300 pollutants in the umbilical cord blood of newborn babies. According to the study, children are more vulnerable to chemical pollutants in the environment because of their size and poorer immune systems.

According to Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) these chemicals are found in everyday products like soaps and toothpastes among other items used on a daily basis. There are around 85,000 chemicals that are currently in use. But Zeldin said “the flaws in TSCA have left many of these new chemicals untested and unregulated.”

While Zeldin said the government should update important bills like TSCA, it’s common for some acts to go untouched for several years while others are updated almost annually.

“There are certainly examples of both extremes,” Zeldin said. “TSCA happens to be an example of one of those bills that really should have been updated many years ago, if not decades ago.”

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