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Islander receives League of Women Voters Award

Sat, Jun 10th 2017 07:00 am
Terri Parks, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Buffalo/Niagara, left, presents Roger Cook of Grand Island with the `Making Democracy Work` award.
Terri Parks, co-president of the League of Women Voters of Buffalo/Niagara, left, presents Roger Cook of Grand Island with the "Making Democracy Work" award.
Grand Island resident Roger Cook received the "Making Democracy Work" Award from the League of Women Voters of Buffalo/Niagara last Saturday, June 3.
Cook's activism evolved from his early years in college in Michigan to Western New York, where he pursed a doctorate at the University at Buffalo. As director of the WNY Council on Occupational Safety and Health for 29 years, he was instrumental in forming coalitions like the OSHA-Environmental Network, the Ecumenical Task Force of the Niagara Frontier, the New York State Labor-Environmental Network and the New York State Coalition for Economic Justice.
More recently, Cook has been political chair of the Sierra Club, a member of the WNY Working Families Party executive board, and a co-facilitator of the Climate Justice Campaign of Western New York. On Grand Island, he's been an active member of Quality Quest and presently serves on the Grand Island Economic Development Advisory Board.
"I want to commend the League of Women Voters who have so much to do with making our democracy work," Cook shared in his acceptance speech. "'Your candidate voter guides, your comprehensive studies and reports on legislative issues, your participation in issue campaigns and your candidate forums are an essential part of the political fabric of Western New York."
Reflecting on the Clean Air Act - legislation passed during the Nixon Administration - Cook said that the League of Women Voters joined with stakeholders in the environmental, labor and public health arenas to stave off an assault on the act by President Reagan's EPA administrator Ann Gorsuch. "Our local OSHA-Environmental Network was one of the strongest chapters in the country," Cook said. He noted that Gorsuch became so unpopular that she resigned in 1983 and her deputy was jailed for lying to Congress. "The Clean Air Act and Superfund were saved, but today we see new assaults on environmental protections," Cook noted. "Our president's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords is but the latest in efforts to roll back environmental protections that began under the Nixon Administration."
Cook ended his comments on an optimistic note. "Many in the majority party in the U.S. Senate and House know that climate change is real and must be addressed," he said. "But they are intimidated by the prospect that the fossil fuel lobby will run candidates against them if they don't protect their interests." He noted that today hope lies at the state level where Gov. Cuomo's Clean Energy Standard calls for 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. "Over 100 New York state environmental justice, labor and community organizations in the NY Renews coalition support these benchmarks and are promoting the NYS Climate and Community Protection Act. The act would require both the private and public sector to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and create a 'polluter penalty fund' from fines collected on companies that fail to meet the emission limits. That fund, in turn, will be used to incentivize business investments in renewables, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and provide a safety net for those workers, families and communities whose fossil fuel-based plants are phased out during the transition."
"Think of it as a 'Green New Deal' for New Yorkers," Cook concluded.

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