Long Island’s premier scientific research center could lose millions in federal aid under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, lawmakers warned Friday.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer held a press conference at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) in Upton in which he raised concern over the potential loss of funds as part of Trump’s proposed $900 million cut to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The lab, which falls under the purview of the Energy Department, employs close to 3,000 people, many of them decorated scientists. BNL in recent years has received more than $540 million in federal funds from the various agencies that support scientific research, including the Energy Department’s Office of Science.
“This major Department of Energy budget cut is a cut to our future, a cut to our knowledge, a cut to our research and a cut to good-paying Long Island jobs,” Schumer said. “Brookhaven National Lab is home to some of the world’s brightest minds and most cutting-edge innovations, which both advance human knowledge and spur our economy.”
Trump released the first budget proposal of his presidency this week, and it features more robust spending for defense and significant cuts to the State Department and environmental initiatives. A bipartisan group of lawmakers from Long Island and Connecticut have already called on new Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, a climate change skeptic, to ensure funding for Long Island Sound protection projects remains in place.
Among the signatories to the letter to Pruitt was Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) who on Friday said he “strongly” opposes potential cuts to BNL and other research centers in his district, including Stony Brook University.
“Throughout the years, we have seen some of the world’s greatest science research conducted at these facilities,” said Zeldin, adding that he supported more funding for national security and veterans care.
Federal funding for BNL helps the lab conduct cutting-edge research to improve the country’s energy security and is an important economic engine and job creator, Schumer argued.
Loss of federal aid could put a strain on projects like X-ray imaging and the lab’s highly touted Relativistic Ion Collider, which allows scientists from around the world to study the universe’s makeup as it was shortly after its creation.
The president’s budget still needs to go through the legislative process, and it’s possible the budget could take on a different form once Congress has an opportunity to scrutinize the package offered by the administration.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday came out in vehement opposition to Trump’s budget, criticizing certain cuts as anathema to American values.
“Enacting this bill would mark a fundamental transformation in what America stands for, and what role our country plays in the world,” Cuomo said. “We have always maintained a strong military, but we have always offered the world more than arms. The Lady in the Harbor does not brandish her fist at the world; she raises a light.”