By Jessica Nolte
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – After President Donald Trump proposed slashing the budget of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, students with the group Environment Virginia urged Sen. Tim Kaine to fight back.
Trump’s budget would cut funding for the EPA by about a third and eliminate federal funding to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The proposed budget cuts followed Trump’s selection of Scott Pruitt as administrator of the EPA. As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt sued the EPA more than a dozen times and has questioned whether humans are responsible for global warming.
About a dozen students from Virginia Commonwealth University visited Kaine’s Richmond office Thursday afternoon to protest the Trump administration’s actions that they say will hurt the environment. The students met with John Knapp, Kaine’s state director.
“There’s a lot of energy out there, and it’s good. It’s exciting, and it’s good for our democracy,” Knapp said.
The students aren’t the only Virginians worried about the impact of Trump’s budget. State Democratic officials also have expressed concerns.
“Eliminating federal support to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, doing away with the Appalachian Regional Commission and slashing investments in community development, affordable housing, home weatherization, and heating assistance will do significant harm to Virginia families and our economy,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement Thursday.
Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, who hopes to succeed McAuliffe as governor, also criticized the budget. “I am particularly disappointed by the total elimination of funding to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. As an Eastern Shore native, I know protecting the bay has both economic and environmental impacts.”
VCU students also are concerned about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which the energy giant Dominion hopes to construct through Virginia. Dominion says the interstate pipeline would transmit natural gas to multiple public utilities and serve the “growing energy needs in Virginia and North Carolina.” McAuliffe supports the project.
During the meeting with Knapp, Crystal Bishop, an intern for McAuliffe in constituent services, said she has received a lot of calls with concerns about the pipeline, which spawned protests in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and Charlottesville, Virginia.
Bishop also shared her concerns over the state of recycling in Virginia. She said she comes from Montclair, a community in Prince William County that does not have easy access to recycling. There’s a wide discrepancy in access to recycling across Virginia, Bishop said.
Bishop said her concerns grew after she spent time in Belgium, where even the tiniest piece of trash is recycled.
Knapp encouraged the students to stay active. He said:
- Individual voices do matter. Knapp urged individuals to call their representatives. Elected officials do listen, he said. A lot of people get discouraged when the phone lines are busy, but that means people care and are making their voices heard. If you cannot get through, email the office, Knapp said.
- Collective voices matter. Knapp told individuals to find an organization that supports what they believe in.
- Voting in state elections is crucial. No matter what your opinion or political affiliation, voting in this year legislative, gubernatorial and other elections is sure to send a message to D.C., Knapp said. Only Virginia and New Jersey are holding statewide elections this year.
- People should run for office or get involved by working for someone with a platform they support.