Portman, Brown Lead Bipartisan Great Lakes Coalition to Press EPA Chief to Keep Region 5 Office Open
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following reports that the Trump Administration plans to abolish Region 5 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – which serves Ohio, as well as Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Minnesota – as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) helped lead a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from the Great Lakes region in calling for the Region 5 office to remain intact and fully supported. In a bicameral letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the members stressed the importance of the Great Lakes, which provide 90 percent of the nation’s fresh water supply and are a source of drinking water for more than 30 million Americans.
“We write to express our grave concerns regarding reports that the Administration plans to abolish Region 5 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget. EPA Region 5 is critical to protecting the air, drinking water, and health of residents in the six Great Lakes states the region serves and closing its headquarters in Chicago would make EPA less efficient and effective in its efforts to protect human health and the environment. Accordingly, we request that you commit to preserving EPA Region 5,” the members wrote.
Along with Portman and Brown, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Gary Peters (D-MI), Al Franken (D-MN), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) is leading the House coalition, along with Mike Quigley (D-IL), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Bill Foster (D-IL), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Rick Nolan (D-MN), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Peter Visclosky (D-IN), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Sander Levin (D-MI), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Andre Carson (D-IN), John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Danny Davis (D-IL), and Ron Kind (D-WI).
Full text of the letter below:
April 25, 2017
Dear Administrator Pruitt:
We write to express our grave concerns regarding reports that the Administration plans to abolish Region 5 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget. EPA Region 5 is critical to protecting the air, drinking water, and health of residents in the six Great Lakes states the region serves and closing its headquarters in Chicago would make EPA less efficient and effective in its efforts to protect human health and the environment. Accordingly, we request that you commit to preserving EPA Region 5.
EPA’s Chicago office regularly works closely with state and local governments to effectively address the unique challenges and needs of the region, including protecting 90 percent of the nation’s fresh water supply and a significant portion of the Mississippi River watershed from invasive species, harmful algal blooms, and industrial pollution—preserving the source of drinking water for more than 30 million Americans. Region 5 experts were among the first scientists to alert officials to the elevated lead levels in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water. Following the 2014 drinking water ban in Toledo, Ohio due to microcystin contamination from harmful algal blooms, Region 5 assisted Ohio and Michigan in upgrading drinking water treatment facilities to protect citizens in the region.
Additionally, as manager of the Great Lakes National Program Office, the EPA Region 5 Administrator plays a key role in ensuring the U.S. meets its international commitments under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The Office also works with Canada to ensure that the Great Lakes continue to support a $5 trillion economy with more than 51 million jobs. The day-to-day responsibilities of carrying out the Agreement and our promises to Canada would be jeopardized if EPA Region 5 was eliminated.
Region 5 is also responsible for more Superfund sites than any other region and EPA Region 5 experts play a vital role in legacy waste clean-up and environmental justice initiatives. You witnessed this firsthand when you toured the USS Lead site in East Chicago, Indiana. EPA Region 5 also maintains staff in each state so that it can quickly respond to chemical spills and other emergencies, like last week’s hexavalent chromium spill at a U.S. Steel Corporation site in Indiana and the 2010 Enbridge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River. Without EPA Region 5’s presence in the area, timely action would have been significantly less likely and these spills could have done more damage to the environment and surrounding communities.
While shutting down EPA’s Region 5 Chicago office would make it more difficult and less efficient for the federal government to work in partnership with state and local communities in our region, it is unclear that it would reduce costs to EPA as a whole. Region 5 does not duplicate enforcement or regulatory actions, rather Region 5 allows the EPA to better coordinate federal efforts with state and local governments. In fact, state environmental agencies often rely on EPA Region 5 experts for technical assistance and financial support. More than half of EPA’s budget is sent directly to states to aid in clean-up and other environmental programs.
Closing EPA’s Region 5 office would have a devastating effect on those that call Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio home. Therefore, we urge you to protect the environmental health and well-being of our states by keeping Region 5 intact and fully supporting its critical mission.