By PHIL GARBER, Managing Editor – Observer Tribune
Jan 25, 2018
HARDING TWP. – Nicolas Platt has wasted no time in strongly condemning President Donald Trump’s continuing efforts to water down federal environmental protections, fearing possible effects on the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
“The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the Interior Department, which were put in place to protect national interests, are being compromised,” said Platt, a Harding Township Committeeman and the newest chairman of the Great Swamp Watershed Association. “This is an administration that is not going to listen to the scientists.”
Platt said he spoke with his Harding neighbor, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-11, on Friday night, urging the congressman to speak up to maintain environmental protections.
“I asked what will he (Frelinghuysen) do to keep Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke from going off the rails,” Platt said.
Platt said Zinke and the Trump administration have been reviewing reversing a large amount of regulations, from clean water laws and wetlands building limitations to auto emissions and mandated fuel standards and allowing off-shore oil drilling. He said changing the laws could endanger the environment and specifically the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
“As long as water runs downhill, the Great Swamp will be in jeopardy,” Platt said.
Platt said the Trump administration’s assault on environmental regulations will shift the onus for protections to the states. He said he expects freshman Gov. Phil Murphy will fight to block off shore oil drilling.
Platt said he was concerned that the independence of the EPA and Interior Department were being compromised for political reasons. He said the independence of federal oversight agencies is critical to the public health. As an example, he cited Frances Kelsey, a reviewer for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under President Kenney who is credited with refusing to authorize thalidomide for market because she had concerns about the drug’s safety. It was later shown that use of thalidomide caused serious birth defects.
“Kelsey is an example of what can happen if these organizations are left alone to do what they are supposed to do,” Platt said.
Platt also said he asked Frelinghuysen to stop the Trump administration from further eroding national monuments. Platt was referring to Zinke’s recommendations that Trump followed to reduce the size of 10 national parks, also known as monuments, by two million acres.
“He (Frelinghuysen) said he was surprised that monuments could be reduced without a congressional vote,” Platt said. “But he also said that (presidents) Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama had done it (modified the monuments).”
The monuments were expanded under Clinton, Bush and Obama but no president had reduced the land before Trump’s action.
“The reason they were expanded was for protection,” Platt said.
Platt made his comments in the wake of a decision by most of the members of a federally chartered board advising the National Park Service to resign out of frustration that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to meet with them or convene a single meeting last year.