McKibben on Bill Maher: The Way Forward
March 6, 2017
With reports swirling that President Donald Trump intends sharp cutbacks at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Detroit Free Press reports that a drastic reduction may be under consideration for Great Lakes restoration efforts, which in the past have received bipartisan support.
The National Association of Clean Air Agencies confirmed for the Free Press late Thursday that an initial proposal from the White House Office of Management and Budget calls for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to be cut from $300 million a year to about $10 million.
The Washington Post first reported this week that the White House was looking at cutting the EPA budget from $8.2 billion to $6.1 billion and reducing staffing by 3,000 employees as it looks to increase funding for the military and slash regulations.
If the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is targeted for such a drastic reduction — and it is by far the largest dollar cut on Davis’ partial list from the association’s data — it would decimate a program that has helped pay to restore wetlands and improve water quality across the Upper Midwest.
Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania — Great Lakes states that backed Trump in the election last year — have all received funding under the initiative, which many lawmakers of both parties in the region have steadfastly supported even when other Republicans have moved to reduce it.
In Michigan, it has helped to pay for improved fish habitat and a pier at Detroit’s Belle Isle; altered channels and dredged river bottoms to remove mercury pollution; created artificial lakes for lake sturgeon and other fish species, and added thousands of acres of wetlands to protected areas as well as funding scores of other projects.
Jordan Lubetkin, a spokesman for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said that even with a long legislative process to follow when the Trump administration submits its final budget proposal to Congress, there are reasons to worry.
“From what we’re hearing these kinds of cuts to EPA programs and EPA staff are very concerning and very troubling,” he said. “The scale at which these cuts are being discussed would be devastating.”
Also targeted for steep spending rollbacks are the agency’s monitoring and enforcement of compliance with environmental laws, as well as regional projects intended to benefit degraded areas such as the Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound and the Gulf of Mexico. A program dealing with San Francisco Bay that received $4.8 million last year would be eliminated, as would initiatives for reducing diesel emissions and beach water quality testing.
Former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy called the proposed budget “a fantasy” that ignores the EPA’s mission to protect public health.
“It shows the Trump administration doesn’t hold the same American values for clean air, clean water and healthy land as the vast majority of its citizens,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Our health comes before the special interests of multibillion-dollar industries.”