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Celebrating the environment

Local club gathers to take planet’s temperature

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“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better; it’s not.”

This quote, from Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax,” was displayed on a rotating PowerPoint slide before the opening of the Levittown, Seaford and Wantagh Democratic Club’s Earth Day symposium on April 22 — the 49th anniversary of the first Earth Day.

Kevin Gorman, the club’s president, said the group likes to keep the community informed about current issues. “This being Earth Day, we thought it would be appropriate to have a program on the environment,” Gorman said. “We can basically go back and tell people what we’re doing, and hopefully encourage them to be more proactive in what they do.”

State Sen. Kevin Thomas, a Levittown Democrat, spoke about recent and pending legislation at the symposium, as well as upcoming state-level environmental plans, emphasizing that local residents have a collective responsibility to protect the lakes, rivers and land. “We don’t have a planet B if we destroy this planet,” he said, “so it’s important to talk about these things . . . We need to protect New York.”

Thomas highlighted two of the bills he has cosponsored in the Legislature: the Climate and Community Protection Act, which, he said, would push New York to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, and the offshore drilling ban in New York waters that Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law on April 29.

“We know what took place with the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico,” Thomas said, referring to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in 2010, which killed 11 crewmen and caused the largest oil spill in American history. “We don’t want that kind of spill coming here.”

Thomas also talked about the plastic bag ban, which the Legislature passed and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed on April 22, and which was included in the state budget. “It’s a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags,” he said. “Humanity has basically survived without plastic for quite some time, and this is actually hurting our environment.”

Thomas mentioned that the budget also secured more than $100 million for cleanup of the Bethpage Plume. Initial efforts will focus on toxic volatile organic compounds such as trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene, according to the Massapequa Water District website. The compounds are suspected of entering several Long Island water systems from manufacturing facilities on the current site of the Northrop Grumman aerospace company in Bethpage.

More than $500 million has been secured for clean water, he added. “This is incredibly important,” Thomas said, “because when we go to our taps for water, we don’t have to be scared as to what’s coming out there.”

Dr. Charles Bevington, of the Sierra Club of Long Island, also spoke at the event. He discussed several environmental protection bills, including the Nitrogen in Fertilizer Ban, which Thomas is cosponsoring; banning purse seines — fishing nets — for menhaden, a small fish; and the Clean Water Protection and Flood Prevention Act.

The Nitrogen in Fertilizer Ban is intended to help reduce nitrogen contamination in the water, according to a summary on the State Senate website. The second bill would ban the use of purse seine nets for menhaden fishing. And the Water Protection and Flood Prevention Act would help protect New York’s wetlands, according to Bevington’s PowerPoint presentation.

Charles Nieves, 43, of Massapequa, said he came to the symposium because he believes in Earth Day. “I believe it’s a good chance to show support for the initiatives that Earth Day was meant to support,” he said, adding that he also wanted to hear what Thomas had to say. “It’s important to see where our elected [officials] stand on environmental issues,” he said.