Alliance for Great Lakes: Cuts to EPA program 'would be a disaster'

Reports say Trump administration plans 97% cut to EPA Great Lakes program

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DETROIT - An advocacy group for Great Lakes protection is responding to reports that President Donald Trump's administration plans to reduce funding for the EPA's Great Lakes restoration program. 

According to a report first released this week by OregonLive, the EPA's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) program would receive a 97 percent cut as Trump's administration plans to reduce the EPA's budget by $2 billion. Alliance for the Great Lakes said this "would be a disaster."

"Gutting the U.S. EPA and its programs tasked with protecting clean water would be a disaster, rolling back decades of hard work to restore and protect our nation’s greatest fresh water resource – the Great Lakes," the group said in a statement.

The White House has plans to cut the EPA budget from $8.2 billion to $6.1 billion, reports say. Under the plan, EPA staffing would be reduced by 3,000 employees, which was first reported by the Washington Post this week.

"Its annual budget would drop from $8.2 billion a year to $6.1 billion. And because much of that funding already goes to states and localities in the form of grants, such cuts could have an even more significant effect on the EPA’s core functions," the Post reports.

According to the EPA, GLRI resources are used by federal agencies "to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward long term goals." Focus areas include toxic substances, invasive species, pollution, and habitats and species. 

Here is the full statement from the Alliance for the Great Lakes, pointing to Flint as an example for why clean water programs need appropriate funding: 

“We’ve seen numerous news reports this morning that the Trump Administration may propose massive reductions in funding for the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency and essential programs within the agency, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Gutting the U.S. EPA and its programs tasked with protecting clean water would be a disaster, rolling back decades of hard work to restore and protect our nation’s greatest fresh water resource – the Great Lakes.

Memories are short. But it was not so long ago that our country united for change, shocked by images of a river on fire. Federal laws are the cornerstone of bringing clean water to people, and they only work when enforced.

We have seen the tragedy and heartbreak that occurs when our nation’s clean water programs fail. Lead-tainted drinking water flowing from taps in Flint, Michigan. Toxic algal blooms shutting down Toledo, Ohio’s drinking water system. These are just two examples from a list longer than is acceptable in the United States of America. If anything, evidence indicates that federal environmental protections should be more aggressive and accountable, not less.

Restoring and protecting the Great Lakes is also inextricably linked to regional prosperity. It is impossible for our nation’s leaders to fulfill campaign commitments to grow jobs, improve quality of life in our cities, and redevelop the economic strength of the Midwest without protecting the Great Lakes.

Great Lakes protection is not a partisan issue. No matter how different our backgrounds, Great Lakers value clean water. For decades, people of all political affiliations from all corners of the region, have consistently shown strong support for protecting the Great Lakes. And, some of the most critical programs and regulations targeted by President Trump’s proposed cuts have been supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

During their campaigns, lawmakers from both parties in the Great Lakes Congressional delegation pledged support for Great Lakes protection and clean water. We will hold our region’s lawmakers accountable for their promises. Congress must stand strong in favor of the Great Lakes and clean water."

Headquartered in Chicago with Michigan offices in Detroit and Grand Haven, Alliance for the Great Lakes is a non profit which "works to protect the Great Lakes for today and tomorrow" -- view its website.

Meanwhile, the Great Lakes Commission said this week drinking water crises in Toledo, Ohio and Flint show how systems have deteriorated. The commission wants governments in the U.S. and Canada to fund massive infrastructure upgrades to provide safe drinking water and support waterborne freight transport.

READ: Great Lakes Commission: Billions needed for water upgrades

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