Great Lakes & Our Environment

As a co-chair of the International Conservation Caucus, Vice Chair of the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus, Co-Chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, and member of the Senate Climate Solutions Caucus, Portman has played a leadership role in protecting our natural resources and wildlife both at home and abroad. Portman continues his efforts to develop bipartisan solutions to support conservation, clean and safe water, and an all-of-the-above energy strategy for our nation.  

Portman has received numerous awards and accolades recognizing his work on these important issues, including the Bruce F. Vento Public Service Award from the National Park Trust; the National Environmental Achievement Award from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies; the Centennial Champion Award from the National Park Foundation; the Centennial Award from the National Park Conservation Association; the Conservation Legislator of the Year from the League of Ohio Sportsmen; the Global Conservation Hero Award from Conservation International; the Conservation Leader Award from The Nature Conservancy; the Renewable Energy Champion Award from the American Council on Renewable Energy; the Energy Efficiency Visionary Award from the Alliance to Save Energy; the Standing Tall for Zoos and Aquariums Award from the Alliance of Zoos and Aquariums; the Conservation Hero Award from the National Audubon Society; the Friend of the Outdoor Industry Award from the Outdoor Industry Association; the Champion of the Environment Award from the Garden Club of America; and the Clean Energy Champion Award from the Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions.

Protecting our National Parks, Heritage Areas, and Historic Sites

  • In August 2020, President Trump signed into law Senator Portman’s bipartisan Restore Our Parks Act to help address the nearly $12 billion backlog in long-delayed maintenance projects at the National Park Service (NPS). The law, which was praised by key Ohio and national stakeholders, established the “National Park Service Legacy Restoration Fund” from existing unobligated revenues the government receives from on and offshore energy development is helping tackle the more than $100 million maintenance backlog at Ohio’s eight national park sites.
  • The fiscal year 2022 government funding bill, which was signed into law in March 2022, included three projects at Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, and the Wayne National Forest that will be funded through Portman’s Restore Our Parks Act. This is in addition to the initial list from the FY 2021 funding bill that included two priority projects for Ohio: the demolition of vacant structures at Cuyahoga Valley National Park and the replacement of the waterline at the Lake Vesuvius Recreation Area within the Wayne National Forest. Portman previously visited Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Wayne National Forest to see their deferred maintenance projects firsthand.
  • In 2016, President Obama signed Portman’s National Park Service Centennial Act. This bill celebrated the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary and was designed to provide additional resources to help protect America’s national parks into its second century. In 2006, when Portman was the Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, Portman helped President Bush to draft the original National Park Service Centennial Challenge Initiative, which provides public and private investments to the National Park Service. The FY 2022 funding bill included $15 million for the Centennial Challenge program and $5 million for the National Park Foundation.
  • In November 2020, the National Park Foundation—the official nonprofit partner to the National Park Service—announced that Portman is one of the Foundation’s inaugural National Park Heroes for his extraordinary service and commitment to the betterment of the national parks.
  • In February 2021, Portman introduced bipartisan legislation to extend funding for the Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area through FY 2036 and increase the lifetime funding cap.  The Ohio & Erie Canalway National Heritage Area spans more than 110 miles between New Philadelphia and Cleveland. This bill will help ensure it can continue to draw investment, and support local jobs, tourism, and economic development in northeast Ohio. The legislation passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee in November as part of the National Heritage Area Authority Extension Act of 2021. The FY 2022 funding bill included this legislation to extend the funding for the National Heritage Area through 2023.
  • In December 2020, Portman’s bipartisan, bicameral legislation to restore and protect the historic Joseph Barker Jr. House along the Ohio River in Southern Washington County, Ohio was signed into law as part of the FY 2021 government funding bill. This legislation authorized the conveyance of the Barker House and land immediately surrounding the house to the local friends group, who will work to restore the house and make it accessible to the public. In December 2021, Portman applauded the completion of an access road to the Barker House.
  • In 2014, President Obama signed into law Portman’s bipartisan legislation directing the Secretary of the Interior to install a plaque at the National World War II Memorial I Washington D.C., honoring the words that President Franklin D. Roosevelt prayed with the nation on June 6, 1944.
  • In April 2021, Portman introduced bipartisan legislation to extend the authorization for Ohio’s National Aviation Heritage Area (NAHA) through FY 2036. The NAHA spans eight counties throughout western Ohio, with a large presence in Dayton, the home of the Wright Brothers. The annual economic impact of the NAHA is valued at $226 million. On an average year, the heritage area welcomes 1.4 million visitors, supports 265 full-time jobs, and 261 part-time jobs. The legislation passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November as part of the National Heritage Area Authority Extension Act of 2021.
  • In February 2022, Portman introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to begin the process of incorporating the John P. Parker House, an important stop on the Underground Railroad, into the National Park System. The Parker House is located in Ripley, Ohio.

Promoting Conservation and Protecting Wildlife

  • Senator Portman secured enactment of his bipartisan Repairing Existing Public Land by Adding Necessary Trees Act (REPLANT Act) as part of the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The legislation will help the U.S. Forest Service plant 1.2 billion trees on national forests and create nearly 49,000 jobs over the next 10 years by removing the cap on the Reforestation Trust Fund. Planting these trees will help sequester 75 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in a decade, which is the equivalent to avoiding the use of 8.5 billion gallons of gasoline. 
  • Senators Portman’s bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act and promote the long-term conservation, education, research, monitoring, and habitat protection for more than 380 species of migratory birds was signed into law as part of the public lands package (P.L. 116-9) by President Trump in March 2019. This program provides the resources needed to protect the migratory bird populations that makes Lake Erie one of the nation’s top birdwatching destination. Birding brings more than $20 million to Ohio’s tourism industry. The FY 2022 funding bill included $5 million for this program to help sustain populations of migratory bird that face threats to their health and habitats.
  • In February 2021, Portman introduced the bipartisan Tropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Reauthorization Act of 2021 to reauthorize the Tropical Forest and Coral Reef Conservation Act program through FY 2026. In January 2019, President Trump signed into law Portman’s bipartisan legislation, which reauthorized the Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) program through FY 2020 and expanded it to include coral reef ecosystems in addition to tropical forests. This program, known as a debt-for-nature-swap, allows developing countries that meet certain criteria to be relieved of debt owed to the United States, in exchange for protecting and preserving tropical forests and coral reefs. Portman first introduced the Tropical Forest Conservation Act as a member of the House of Representatives in 1998. The program has helped protect more than 67 million acres of tropical forests, which has led to the sequestration of more than 55 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere—the equivalent of taking nearly 12 million cars off the road. The FY 2022 funding bill included $15 million for this program, which will allow more agreements to be completed with eligible countries.
    • In March 2021, this bill passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with bipartisan support.  In April 2021, Portman applauded the unanimous passage of the companion legislation in the House of Representatives. 
    • In January 2022, Portman applauded the finalization of the twenty-first agreement through the TFCA program between the U.S. Government and the Republic of El Salvador. This bilateral agreement will redirect approximately $20 million in concessional debt owed by El Salvador to a conservation fund over a period of 10 years. 
  • In March 2021, Portman introduced the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Reauthorization Act, which would require U.S. Postal Service to sell the approximately 41 million remaining Saving Vanishing Species Stamps left in stock. Proceeds from these stamps help support the five Multinational Species Conservation Funds to protect tigers, rhinoceroses, Asian and African elephants, marine turtles, and great apes around the world. Portman has successfully secured language in each of the FY 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022 government funding bills to require the U.S. Postal Service to continuing selling the species stamp. This bipartisan legislation also passed the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee in February 2022.
  • Portman introduced a bipartisan resolution designating April 2022 as “National Native Plant Month” to recognize the important role native plants play in environmental conservation and in supporting wildlife. The resolution garnered widespread support across Ohio—and the nation—from many conservation organizations and unanimously passed the Senate in March 2022.
  • In November 2021, Portman introduced the bipartisan Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Reauthorization Act to support fish and wildlife in the Great Lakes. This bill reauthorizes the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act program through FY 2027, which allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to partner with other federal agencies countrywide to develop and execute proposals for the restoration of fish and wildlife species in the Great Lakes Basin. The FY 2022 funding bill included $2 million for this program. Portman was previously successful in reauthorizing this important program as part of the 2016 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) legislation.  
  • In September 2021, Portman cosponsored the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which provides dedicated annual funding for the conservation of wildlife and plant species of greatest conservation need.
  • 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.
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed Portman’s Defending Economic Livelihoods and Threatened Animals (DELTA) Act in November 2018. This legislation encourages the U.S. to develop a strategy to protect the Okavango River Delta in Southern Africa. This legislation was signed into law in December 2018.  
  • Portman introduced the bipartisan Eliminate, Neutralize, and Disrupt (END) Wildlife Trafficking Reauthorization and Improvements Act to combat international wildlife trafficking and strengthen interagency efforts to tackle the issue in November 2021. This bill reauthorizes legislation that was signed into law in 2016, which Portman cosponsored, expands the responsibilities of the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking, and enhances law enforcement authorities for the Fish and Wildlife Service to better combat wildlife trafficking.
  • In April 2022, Portman introduced bipartisan legislation to reduce the risk of zoonotic disease transmission through working with countries to support conservation and to close down wildlife markets.  The Preventing Future Pandemics Act emphasizes the United States’ role in promoting a One Health approach, which includes collaboration with the private sector and all levels of government, as well as strengthening conservation practices to support resilient ecosystems and reduce the threat of zoonotic disease transmission.
  • In December 2021, Portman introduced the bipartisan Humane Cosmetics Act. This bipartisan legislation would end safety testing of cosmetic products on animals and prohibit the sale of cosmetic products developed using animal testing in the United States, with certain exceptions.

Protecting the Great Lakes

Portman, who serves as co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, has consistently worked to protect Lake Erie. He 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 cleanprotect the lake from dangerous invasive species and harmful algal bloomsstrengthen 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.

  • In January 2021, Senator Portman applauded the signing of the bipartisan Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Act into law, which reauthorized the GLRI program through FY 2026. The GLRI is critical in cleaning up the Great Lakes and waterways and directly helps impact public health and safety.
  • Portman secured $1 billion in new funding over five years for the GLRI program as part of the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA). The IIJA includes more than $5.5 billion in funding to support the Great Lakes and other ecosystems across the country. Portman worked to secure $348 million for the GLRI in the FY 2022 spending bill, which is $18 million above the FY 2021 spending level of $330 million.
  • In August 2021, Portman met with leadership from Clermont Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to see a nutrient reduction project on a tributary to Harsha Lake. Portman highlighted how the bipartisan infrastructure bill can help communities across Ohio combat algal blooms. The bill provides more than $1.4 billion for Ohio through the Clean and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, which can be used for storm water and waste water improvement projects to reduce overflow events. The infrastructure bill also includes $60 million for the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico hypoxia task force.
  • Portman worked to again include language in the final FY 2022 government funding bill 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.  He secured this language in the final FY 2020 and FY 2021 funding bills.
  • Portman led efforts with his bipartisan colleagues to authorize construction of the Brandon Road Chief’s Report to help keep Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes through the Mississippi River and adjust the cost share from 65 percent federal to 80 percent federal, which was included in the 2020 Water Resources Development Act and was signed into law as part of the FY 2021 Omnibus Appropriations Act. Portman and his bipartisan colleagues previously urged the Army Corps of Engineers to remain on target to complete the Brandon Road Chief’s Report by early 2019.  
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) FY 2022 spend plan included $225.8 million in funding for the Brandon Road Lock and Dam project, which was allocated through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).  This funding will allow planning, engineering and design to be completed.
  • The Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act that Portman spearheaded also allowed USACE to allocate $516.2 million in the FY 2022 spend plan for the Soo Locks, located on the St. Mary’s River, to fund the completion of a new replacement lock and to rehabilitate the existing lock and dam. The Soo Locks allow ships to travel between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes with an average of 10,000 ships traveling through the locks each year and about 80 million tons of commercial commodities pass through the locks each year. 
  • The 2020 WRDA bill, included in the FY 2021 Omnibus Appropriations Act, includes the Portman-led bipartisan Great Lakes Navigation Act, to ensure adequate funding to maintain Great Lakes harbors that vessels can continue to travel safely throughout the Great Lakes. Specifically, the final legislation requires the Great Lakes Navigation System to receive no less than 13 percent of total annual funding from the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund.
  • In December 2018, President Trump signed into law the Frank Lobiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act, which included a bipartisan compromise that Portman helped negotiate to establish a rulemaking framework for ballast and incidental discharge regulations. The rulemaking framework ensures the Great Lakes are protected against the spread of invasive species and pollution while creating regulatory certainty for the competitive shipping industry across the region.
  • In March 2017, Portman introduced the Water Infrastructure Flexibility Act, which passed the Senate in October 2017. This bipartisan legislation provides 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 also gives communities more autonomy as they prioritize and plan for wastewater and storm water investments.  President Trump signed this bill into law in January 2019.
  • 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 helps 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. Portman worked to successfully expand and reauthorize the HABHRCA program through FY 2023. The FY 2022 spending bill provides funding for these NOAA programs to address harmful algal blooms.
  • In February 2019, Portman introduced the bipartisan Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization (GLFRA) Act 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 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.
  • 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 language he negotiated in the Frank Liobiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act, signed into law in December 2018, to ensure that Great Lakes are protected against pollution and the spread of invasive species while creating regulatory certainty for the shipping industry across the region.
  • In 2015, Portman’s bipartisan Microbeads Free Waters Act was signed into law. This legislation implemented a common sense way for companies across the U.S. to phase microbeads out of production. Microbeads pose a threat to wildlife and human health alike.
  • Portman’s bipartisan legislation, the Stop Invasive Species Act, was signed into law in 2012, which required the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to issue a report on possible strategies to permanently prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes.

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, and secured key energy wins as part of his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act.

  • Portman introduced the bipartisan Carbon Capture Improvement Act, which will make it easier for power plants and industrial facilities to finance purchase and installation of carbon capture, utilization, and storage equipment, as well as direct air capture projects through the use of private activity bonds. The bill supports domestic energy production and reduces carbon pollution, and was signed into law as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 
  • Portman highlighted the passage of the Energy Infrastructure Act in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which included key provisions from the bipartisan Energy Savings and Industrial Competiveness (ESIC) Act. These provisions will improve energy efficiency in buildings and the industrial sector, ultimately reducing emissions, protecting the environment, and creating jobs. The Energy Infrastructure Act was signed into law as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
  • Portman secured in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act $2.4 billion to support the rehabilitation, retrofit, and removal of dams in the U.S. to support conservation, safety, and clean energy generation.
  • In December 2021, Portman toured Long Ridge Energy Terminal in Hannibal, Ohio to see firsthand the new natural gas power plant on site, which is one of the most efficient power plant in the world. He also got to see the newly installed equipment that will soon allow Long Ridge to produce energy by blending hydrogen with natural gas, the first project like this in the nation. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes $9.5 billion for the development of hydrogen programs at the Department of Energy and $2.5 billion for electric and alternative fueling infrastructure, including infrastructure for hydrogen-powered vehicles. This funding will help support domestic hydrogen production in Ohio and around the country.
  • In July 2020, Senator Portman announced that the Senate-passed FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes $35 million for an Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program (ERCIP) project at Wright-Patt. The ERCIP funds projects that improve the energy resilience and energy and water efficiency at DOD installations. This intelligence facility central utility plant project at the Wright-Patterston Air Force base will help make the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) more energy-efficient.
  • In October 2020, President Trump signed into law Portman’s bipartisan legislation that will help save taxpayer dollars by updating policies to help federal agencies adopt electric vehicles, which are more energy efficient than traditional gas-powered vehicles. The Charging Helps Agencies Realize General Efficiencies Act (CHARGE Act) directs the General Services Administration (GSA) to allow vehicle charge cards to be used to pay for electric vehicle recharging at commercially available charging stations.  
  • In 2019, the President 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.
  • In 2018, Portman’s bipartisan legislation to promote hydropower in the U.S. was signed into law. The Hydropower Development & Jobs Act promotes hydropower development at existing non-powered dams by establishing an expedited licensing process that will result in a decision on an application in two years or less. The bill also required the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Department of the Interior to develop a list of existing non-powered federal dams that have the greatest potential for non-federal hydropower development.
  • In 2015, President Obama signed Portman’s Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015. The bill established a voluntary, market-driven approach to aligning the interests of commercial building owners and their tenants to reduce energy consumption, exempted certain electric resistance water heaters used for demand response from pending Department of Energy regulation, and required that federally-leased buildings without Energy Star labels benchmark and disclose their energy usage data, where practical.

Leading in Recycling Efforts

Senator Portman has taken a leadership role in the Senate in helping to 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.

  • 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 received widespread praise from recycling groups, key business leaders, and national recycling stakeholders. The RECYCLE Act was signed into law as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and fully funded at $15 million per year for five years.

Improving Safe Drinking Water

  • The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that Portman negotiated includes a total of $54 billion to support upgrades to water infrastructure across the country. In addition to providing $1.4 billion for Ohio through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs—which will help finance critical water infrastructure projects throughout the state, including for storm water management and upgrades to water and wastewater treatment system—the bipartisan infrastructure bill also provides $25 billion in funding to address per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and for lead service line replacement to help ensure communities in Ohio and across the country have access to clean, safe drinking water. 
    • Ohio received for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund through three different buckets in 2022: $22 million for the general fund, nearly $35 million for lead service line replacement through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, and $19 million for emerging contaminants. For the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, Ohio received $49 million for the general fund and $5 million for emerging contaminants in 2022. 
    • In December 2021, Portman participated as Ranking Member at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing to examine the federal government’s efforts to address PFAS contamination. Portman expressed his concern about the potential impact of PFAS contamination on the health of his constituents in Ohio and communities across the United States and highlighted the importance of accelerating PFAS research to help ensure a coordinated, effective federal effort to address and minimize PFAS contamination.
  • Portman’s bipartisan legislation, 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.

Portman’s bipartisan Drinking Water Protection Act was signed into law in 2015 and required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish health advisory levels for microcystins in drinking water and develop a strategic plan for assessing and managing risks associated with algal toxins in drinking water.

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