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Advocates push back on proposed cuts to EPA

'Protect what you love'

CAMPTON HILLS – About 100 people gathered outside the Campton Hills district office of U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Plano, on March 16 to ask the congressman to resist President Donald Trump's proposed deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Among them was Jeanne Neltnor of Geneva, carrying a sign with a picture of the earth and the words, “Protect what you love.”

“I’m here because we can’t live without clean air and clean water,” Neltnor said. “And to destroy the EPA – it’s going to destroy humankind. I want him to vote against these cuts. Say no and stand up to Trump and his cronies.”

Candida Kyle of Elgin also carried a sign with a picture of the earth – only her message was, “There is no planet B.”

“If we do not have clean water, if we do not have clean air, if our food is not inspected, then what else is there?” Kyle asked. “We will not be able to survive these next four years. We need clean water; we need clean air. We need protected food. … I don’t want him to dismantle the EPA. We need environmental protection.”

Kyle said years ago, the Fox River was polluted and people worked for years to clean it up.

“In a very short time, that can all come back,” Kyle said. “We cannot have that. I want him to vote against the dismantling of the EPA.”

Sugar Grove resident Tabitha Elzer, with her 9-month-old daughter Maxine, said she joined the group because she wants a safe environment for her daughter to grow up in.

“I want to prevent budget cuts for the EPA,” Elzer said. “It should be about the good of the people, not just money.”

As during recent protests at Hultgren's office from Indivisible Fox Valley and other groups, those driving by honked and waved their support.

In an email, Hultgren did not respond to constituent concerns about cuts to the EPA. Instead, Hultgren's email stated the president submitted his budget request for the American people to see where his budget priorities lie.

"As we continue to write the budget and follow through with the appropriations process, members will have their chance to weigh-in on the priorities that matter for our constituents," Hultgren stated.

The event also included six speakers, who all spoke with a bullhorn to be heard above the wind and traffic.

Sugar Grove resident Amanda Tracy of Food & Water Watch, said a clean environment shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

“We know the protections that the EPA offers … are intended to protect everybody’s well-being,” Tracy said. “We want Randy Hultgren to stand up for our environmental protections.”

Reed Scherer, professor of micropaleontology and biostratigraphy at NIU in DeKalb, said “climate change is a reality.”

“Scientists are skeptical by nature,” Scherer said. “That is what we are trained to do. We do not embrace a conclusion before we have any evidence to prove it.”

Scherer criticized EPA Director Scott Pruitt and Trump for making policy decisions about the EPA that are not based on scientific evidence.

Scherer said a proposed 31 percent cut to the EPA and the elimination of NASA’s climate change research would impact the fundamental data on climate change that scientists rely on.

“Randy Hultgren is not a dumb man. He speaks with knowledge of science,” Scherer said. “Yet, he votes in lock-step with his party. The reason I am here today is, if you believe in science, act on your belief and vote.”

Jeff Mengler, president of the Fox River Ecosystem Partnership, said the EPA’s leadership has been essential to the environmental progress of the last decade.

“I have spent a career repairing environmental degradation,” Mengler said. “I am acutely aware of the need for these protections on a local level.”

Mavis Bates, adjunct professor of sustainability at Waubonsee Community College, said she came to environmental awareness after witnessing an atomic blast when she was 12 and living in Hawaii.

“I was, and still am, filled with a sense of urgency, an awareness of the fragility of this planet,” Bates said.

Dr. Adam Cohen-Lewe, a physician, added that environmental protections are public health protections.

“Without them, we would see much higher rates of cancer,” Cohen-Lewe said. “These protections are essential.”

Allison Klein, an organizer for Action 14th District Illinois, said the EPA is not a Democrat vs. Republican issue.

“The EPA was created by President [Richard] Nixon, a wise response to [dangerous] air pollution levels in the 1970s,” Klein said. “It is designed to protect all of us from dangers that we have put out of mind, so we can live our lives without thinking about clean drinking water or if the beach at Lake Michigan is safe.”

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