Great Lakes & Our Environment

Senator Portman continues to be a leader in the bipartisan effort to protect our Great Lakes and the environment.  Whether it is promoting energy efficiency legislation, protecting our national parks, or improving the health of Lake Erie and Great Lakes, Portman continues to deliver results for Ohio.

Protecting the Great Lakes

Portman, who serves as co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, has a lengthy record of accomplishments in protecting Lake Erie. This Congress, Portman has led the effort in the Senate to reauthorize and fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), a results-driven program to address the most serious issues that threaten the ecological and economic well-being of the Great Lakes basin, including invasive species, pollution, and toxic contamination. By fighting to keep the lake clean, protect the lake from dangerous invasive species and harmful algal blooms, strengthen fish and wildlife restoration efforts, ensure that Ohioans have safe drinking water, and much more, Portman has demonstrated his commitment to improving the health of Lake Erie and supporting the tourism, fishing, and recreation industries that depend on it.  

    • Following news in 2017 that the administration proposed to eliminate funding for the GLRI, Portman fought for and secured full funding for GLRI.  In February 2018, the administration once again proposed to cut funding for GLRI in the President’s FY 2019 budget request. Portman, once again, fought for and secured full funding for GLRI at $300 million for FY 2019. Earlier this year, he secured an additional $9 million for GLRI in the Senate-passed FY 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, Interior, Agriculture, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies funding bill. The funding, a $9 million increase from the FY 2020 proposed level of $301 million, brings the total amount of Senate-passed funding for GLRI to $310 million for FY 2020. The final FY 2020 funding measure went above that to include $320 million for GLRI, the largest investment in the program since its enactment.
    • On July 25, 2019, Portman introduced the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2019 with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and expand funding for the Great Lakes. The GLRI Act will reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which is set to expire at the end of FY 2021, for another five years. The bill increases the current authorization level from $300 million to $375 million in FY 2022 and increases funding by $25 million per year until it reaches $475 million in FY 2026.
    • Portman’s bipartisan Harmful Algal Blooms and Hypoxia Research and Control Amendments Act was signed into law by President Trump on January 7, 2019. The legislation will help protect freshwater bodies such as Lake Erie by reauthorizing the Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act (HABHRCA), which was first enacted in 1998. For almost two decades, the HABHRCA program has served as the federal government’s research and response toolkit for harmful algal blooms.
    • In March 2017, Portman introduced the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act, which passed the Senate on October 5, 2017. This bipartisan legislation will provide local communities with increased flexibility, including the use of green infrastructure, when complying with Clean Water Act requirements for updates to water infrastructure projects. The bill would also give communities more autonomy as they prioritize and plan for wastewater and stormwater investments. The House passed it in December and the president signed it into law on January 15, 2019.
    • Senator Portman worked to include language in the FY 2019 spending bill that has been signed into law to prevent the Army Corps of Engineers from dumping dredged material from the Cleveland Harbor into Lake Erie without the approval from the Ohio EPA to prevent contamination. Senator Portman worked to again include this language in the final FY 2020 funding bill which was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
    • Portman and his bipartisan colleagues urged the Army Corps of Engineers to remain on target to complete the Brandon Road Chief’s Report by early 2019. The Army Corps released its Chief’s Report in May 2019, which recommends ways to ensure that Asian Carp do not enter the Great Lakes and threaten the lakes’ $7 billion fishing industry. The Corps is now working on the Preconstruction, Engineering, and Design for the project.
    • In February 2019, Portman introduced the bipartisan Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization (GLFRA) Act with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) to give the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) the legislative authority to support the $7 billion Great Lakes sport and commercial fishery industry. This legislation was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
    • On July 30, 2019, the Senate passed Senator Portman’s bipartisan resolution marking 50 years of environmental progress since the last time the Cuyahoga River caught on fire on June 22, 1969. The Senate resolution describes how the fire spurred important federal environmental action, including passage of the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
    • Senator Portman’s legislation with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the Safe Drinking Water Assistance Act, was included in the Senate-passed FY 2020 NDAA conference report which was signed into law on December 20, 2019. The legislation improves coordination across the federal government in identifying and responding to emerging contaminants like per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and cyanotoxins, which contribute to harmful algal blooms (HABs). The bipartisan bill also provides support and resources to states dealing with the health challenges posed by these potentially harmful materials.
    • In August 2019, Portman attended the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (GLMTF) annual event where he received the 2019 Great Lakes Legislator of the Year award due to his efforts to help advance commerce on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway.

Protecting our National Parks and Ohio’s National Heritage Areas

Senator Portman introduced the Restore Our Parks Act, bipartisan legislation that would help address the nearly $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS). The bill, which has been praised by key stakeholders, will establish the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” from existing unobligated revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development to fund deferred maintenance projects at NPS sites across the country. Notably, the measure would help tackle the more than $100 million maintenance backlog at Ohio’s eight national park sites. The Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee approved Portman’s Restore Our Parks Act in November 2019 and the legislation now awaits action by the full Senate.

  • In March 2019, President Trump signed into law Portman’s bipartisan legislation to provide greater funding certainty to the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area, which spans more than 110 miles between New Philadelphia and Cleveland, and ensure it can continue to draw investment and support local jobs, tourism and economic development in northeast Ohio. Portman’s measure was included as part of a broader public lands package (P.L. 116-9) that was signed by President Trump.
  • In March 2019, Senator Portman introduced the National Aviation Heritage Area Reauthorization Act with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to extend the authorization for the National Aviation Heritage Area in for seven years. NAHA spans eight counties throughout western Ohio, with a large presence in Dayton, the home of the Wright Brothers. The bill will provide funding certainty for the site, which is home to more than two million visitors annually, generating $35 million in economic impact and supporting 1,500 jobs in the region. Portman introduced similar legislation in November to reauthorize NAHA through FY 2022.  This legislation was signed into law on December 20, 2019.

Leading in Recycling Efforts 

Senator Portman has taken the lead in the Senate to introduce legislation to help educate and promote recycling in communities in Ohio and across the country, which will help increase recycling rates and reduce contamination in the recycling stream.

    • In November 2019, Portman introduced the bipartisan RECYCLE Act to create a new federal grant program through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help educate households and consumers about their residential and community recycling programs. This legislation has already received widespread praise from recycling groups, key business leaders, and national recycling stakeholders. In the New Year, he will introduce another bill to incentivize upgrades to recycling infrastructure, which will allow waste management entities to more effectively collect and sort recycled material or include additional types of material to recycle so that more material is diverted from landfills and reused.

Promoting Conservation and Protecting Wildlife

As co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus, Portman has worked to protect our natural resources and wildlife both at home and abroad.

  • Senators Portman and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced legislation in January to reauthorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act (S. 310) to promote the long-term conservation, education, research, monitoring, and habitat protection for more than 380 species of migratory birds. The bill was signed into law as part of the public lands package (P.L. 116-9) by President Trump in March 2019. 
  • In January 2019, President Trump signed into law Portman’s bipartisan Tropical Forest Conservation Reauthorization Act (TFCA), which reauthorizes a program that has saved more than 67 million acres of tropical forest by allowing developing countries that meet certain criteria to be relieved of debt owed to the United States in exchange for their conservation efforts. In addition, the bill expands these efforts to coral reef ecosystems. To date, the TFCA program has sequestered 56 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of taking 11.8 million cars off the road. The bill was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
  • In March 2019, Portman introduced the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Reauthorization Act, legislation to extend the authorization of a special postage stamp that funds conservation programs. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, since the first of these stamps went on sale in 2011, more than 50 million have been sold, raising more than $5.7 million. This has helped fund 99 projects in 35 countries. This legislation was signed into law on December 20, 2019.
  • On February 26, 2019, U.S. Senators Portman and Chris Coons (D-DE) introduced a bipartisan resolution designating March 3, 2019 as “World Wildlife Day.” The resolution was unanimously passed in the Senate. The resolution supports raising awareness of the benefits that wildlife provides to people and the threats facing wildlife around the world.

Leading in Energy Initiatives

Senator Portman has been a strong advocate for a comprehensive energy strategy while also protecting our environment. He has continually worked to keep Ohio’s energy sector competitive while promoting energy efficiency.

    • In July 2019, Portman introduced the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act (ESIC) with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). The measure contains important energy efficiency policy reforms that will strengthen the economy and reduce pollution without any new taxes or mandates. Components of the bill were signed into law by President Obama in April 2015 and are already helping individuals and companies use less energy, create jobs, and reduce emissions. Taken together, these bipartisan reforms include common-sense initiatives that will create nearly 200,000 new jobs, save consumers $15 billion annually in reduced energy costs, and reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking nearly 13 million cars off the road. It has received widespread praise from business and efficiency leaders across the country. The Senate Energy Committee approved this legislation on September 25, 2019.
    • In January 2019, President Trump signed into law Portman’s bipartisan legislation aimed at saving energy and protecting the environment by promoting the re-refining of used oil and other lubricants. Specifically, the bill requires the Department of Energy (DOE) to work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update their 2006 study of the energy and environmental benefits of recycling used oil and develop specific policy options to increase the use of used oil to produce lubricantsThe re-refining process, using used oil as the feedstock, is much more energy-efficient than using crude oil as the feedstock. Not only is the re-refining process more energy-efficient, but it also helps protect the environment.
    • In June 2019, Portman introduced the Carbon Capture Improvement Act with Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO). This legislation would help power plants and industrial facilities finance the purchase and installation of carbon capture and storage equipment, allowing states like Ohio to continue to utilize our natural resources while reducing our impact on the environment. Specifically, this bill would allow businesses to use private activity bonds (PABs) issued by local or state governments to finance a carbon capture project, storing carbon dioxide that would have otherwise been emitted into the atmosphere.
    • On September 26, 2019, the Senate unanimously passed Portman’s resolution designating October 2, 2019 as “National Energy Efficiency Day.” Senator Portman has introduced this resolution with Senator Shaheen for the past three years (2017, 2018, 2019). The resolution recognizes the economic and environmental benefits of energy efficiency and celebrates the support of energy efficiency from a diverse coalition of businesses, environmental and conservation groups, public-private partnerships, and State and local governments.
    • In October 2019, Portman announced the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) awarded a nearly $1.5 million POWER grant to Shawnee State University. Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) grants are a congressionally funded initiative that targets federal resources to help communities and regions that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America's energy production. These funds will support Shawnee State’s Lights Inclusive program which combines shared knowledge, talent, and connections throughout their multi-state networks to create a system that leverages resources for those in recovery. Earlier this year, Portman sent a letter to ARC urging the awarding of this grant to Shawnee State. 

​​​​​​​This summer, Portman traveled nearly 700 miles along Ohio’s north coast. He saw federally-funded research at Ohio State’s Stone Laboratory at Gibraltar Island, hosted a tourism roundtable in Sandusky, visited ports in Cleveland and Ashtabula to highlight economic development, and held his annual fishing trip and Lake Erie roundtable in Lake County with federal, state, and local water quality experts.  He will continue his efforts to make a difference for Ohio and be a leader in Washington in preserving and protecting our environment.

Summary
Senator Portman continues to be a leader in the bipartisan effort to protect our Great Lakes and the environment.