Concerns over the environment and controlling immigration were among the topics at Rep. Tom Reed's town hall meeting

MIDDLESEX — Immigration, the environment, energy and infrastructure topped the list of what came up at Tuesday’s town hall meeting with U.S. Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning.

Reed entered the Middlesex Hose Company fire hall to a warm reception from a number of those who turned out for the event, which had been rescheduled from Monday due to Reed staying in Washington for a vote on ending the government shutdown.

Immigration, a key issue that caused the partial three-day shutdown over political infighting, came up early in the one-hour town hall. A man who identified himself as a physician expressed the need for more skilled workers and people going into the field of medicine, positions that young adults known as “dreamers” could help fill.

Reed said he believes Congress can agree on border security and a long-term solution for "dreamers" — young people who were brought illegally into the country as children. “We have an appetite to tie those two together,” he said.

On handling the estimated 800,000 “dreamers,” Reed said he supports them being given a path to citizenship, along with programs to help them earn skills for the workforce. He does not support giving citizenship to their parents. “There needs to be a penalty for the parents who brought them here,” he said.

On border security, several people questioned what that should look like. Reed didn’t talk specifics but noted the issue boils down to how much money will go into keeping people from entering the country illegally — who will pay for it and what methods and structures will be used.

“Throwing up a border wall is absolutely ludicrous,” said Beth Altemus, one of several dozen people who attended the town hall.

On the environment, Lanny Hotelling asked why he doesn’t see Reed taking a stand on environmental protection and against the pulling back of environment regulations under Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt.

“I do support the EPA,” said Reed, adding “the EPA has gone overboard” with regulations.

“Without the environment we are all in trouble,” said one citizen. “Why is it drilling everywhere — except off Mar-a-Lago,” he said, referring to President Donald Trump’s resort in Florida.

Reed said “no one is talking” about dropping all controls, but talking about “reasonableness.” He mentioned the progress made since the 1970s with EPA. “But where do we declare success?” he added.

“Success is not making coal clean,” said Hotelling. “It cannot be made clean. It always pollutes.”

Reed countered by asking why he said that, stating an absolute. “We have never been a country of ‘no we can’t,’” said Reed.

Another person said “all it takes is one mistake,” referring to oil spills and other catastrophes.

Steve Richards commented on the changes for the better he has seen due to the EPA, comparing the conditions of lakes in the 1970s and 1980s compared with today. He said he saw lakes in the Adirondacks decades ago dying before the switch from burning coal to natural gas.

Someone else mentioned blue-green algae and its growing threat to the region’s lakes and tourism and the need to recognize the worth of land, lakes and woods.

Reed — whose 23rd District includes largely rural Southern Tier counties along with Yates and Tompkins counties and parts of Ontario and Tioga counties —  talked about his support for infrastructure and updating wastewater treatment systems to prevent water pollution.

Finding ways to raise revenue for roads was also raised by a person asking about increasing gas tax. Reed said he opposes that method but supports finding other ways to raise revenue that wouldn’t affect average commuters. In his largely rural district, many people have a distance to drive to work and spending more money for a higher gas tax is not a good idea, he said.

No one asked about the effect of the recently-passed tax overhaul. But Reed brought it up in his opening remarks. According to the congressman, the average taxpayer in his district will see an average tax reduction of $1,600. In addition, Reed said he is already hearing about workers doing better with employers giving higher hourly wages and bonuses.