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Students protest Trump’s environmental policies, call for University to divest

| Wednesday, January 25, 2017

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order aimed to revive negotiations for the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline — a pipeline that has been of major interest to environmentalists in the fight for clean water because of damage to the environment and water supply that could happen in the case of an oil spill.

WEB_ClimateChangeProtest_EmmetFarnanEmmet Farnan | The Observer

In response to Trump’s recent actions and his nominations to various cabinet posts, Fossil Free ND hosted a march Tuesday afternoon from O’Shaughnessy Hall to Main Building.

Sophomore Tessa Bonomo, a member of Fossil Free ND, said the organization hopes to force change on the University level.

“We are asking [University President] Fr. [John] Jenkins and the administration to divest from fossil fuels,” Bonomo said.

Bonomo also said the organization wants to draw student attention to some of Trump’s cabinet picks for his new administration — especially in the Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — which she said do not represent the needs of the nation. 

Freshman and Fossil Free ND member Greg Campion stressed the importance of campus-level action.

“Last semester we circulated a petition asking for divestment and more efficient renewable energy goals for the campus and we got about 1,200 signatures,” Campion said. “There was not a word of acknowledgement from the administration, which we feel is not acceptable.” 

Campion said he was motivated to march for climate justice in part by the Trump administration’s recent actions.

“It didn’t take long for [the Trump administration] to delete information about climate change, and a lot of other social justice issues from the White House website,” Campion said. “It’s despicable.”

Freshman Cameron Ray said personal experience with the effects of climate change, as well as “Walk the Walk Week,” pushed him to attend the march.

“I’m from a small agricultural town, and we really get affected by the weather and big sweeping climate change — it has long-term effects,” Ray said. “It’s Walk the Walk Week, and I’ve never been able to express my opinions like this and wanted to be a part of something that’s happening on campus.”

Once the march reached Main Building, members of Fossil Free ND spoke about the problems they saw with some recent cabinet appointees.

Sophomore Adam Wiechman, another Fossil Free ND member, spoke on the actions of EPA nominee Scott Pruitt.

“As the attorney general of Oklahoma for the last six years, Scott Pruitt has leveled lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency, the very department he is being nominated to lead,” Wiechman said. 

Bonomo said there are issues with Energy Secretary nominee Rick Perry.

“Perry was governor of Texas from 2000 to 2015, a time during which he received over $14 million of donations from the fossil fuel industry while proudly expanding both oil and natural gas production,” Bonomo said. “After serving as governor, Perry was a member of the board of directors of the Energy Transfer Partners — the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline.”

After speaking about these nominees, members presented a letter to Jenkins’ office urging for fossil fuel divestment.

“The University of Notre Dame, as a premier Catholic institution and moral leader, holds great influence over fellow universities, the Catholic community, and people across the world who know and love Notre Dame,” the letter said. “If it is wrong for fossil fuel companies to wreck the climate, then it is wrong for Notre Dame to profit from that wreckage. By continuing to financially support the fossil fuel industry, Notre Dame is standing with them and not our collective future.

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About Lucas Masin-Moyer

Lucas Masin-Moyer is a Sophomore at Notre Dame majoring in Political Science and American Studies, with a minor in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy. He serves as Associate News Editor, lives in Morrissey Manor and hails from Telford, Pennsylvania.

Contact Lucas