News Feature | April 25, 2017

EPA Refutes Rumors Of Great Lakes Office Shutdown

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

Month ago, in order to increase federal spending for the military, President Donald Trump proposed significant cuts to the U.S. EPA’s funding. This has become a point of particular concern around the Great Lakes.

Early on in his presidency, The Hill reported that “Trump officials will propose a $6.1 billion budget for the EPA next year, a $2 billion cut from current levels.”

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said “that he would work to end several regulatory efforts that the agency has in the works.” If the cuts do take place, then it is possible that “the agency’s budget would be at its lowest level since the early 1990s, and its staffing levels would be lower than any time since the 1980s.”

According to The Huffington Post, a policy memo that had been leaked detailed plans to cut millions of dollars from the EPA’s budget. Aside from cuts to a variety of grants to states and Native American tribes, Trump is thinking of closing the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.

Pruitt said that because of the EPA’s actions under the previous administration “the proposals to abolish the EPA were ‘justified.’”

Earlier this month, the EPA refuted “rumors” that it is attempting to close its Great Lakes office in Chicago in order to meet Trump’s budget cuts, according to The Washington Examiner.

Staff had received a memo from EPA Region 5 acting director Robert Kaplan “called the news stories ‘rumors’ and ‘pure speculation,’ which ‘undermine our ability to communicate with the public the real information we have.’"

EPA's response came after “the Chicago Sun-Times reported … that it was planning to close its Region 5 office as part of the Trump administration's budget plan to shave 3,200 jobs at the agency.”

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that “Scott Pruitt walked out of a news conference without taking questions after he and other elected officials discussed their visit to a Superfund cleanup site at a lead-contaminated public-housing complex.”

The visit came after the initial reports that two regional offices, including the Regional 5 Office, would close.

According to the Examiner, Kaplan said that discussions are underway "to better integrate our efforts with the states, as well as eliminate excess office space, so that we can be more effective and save money," according to the memo. "At this time, our discussions have not veered into the subject of an office closure. Anyone stating anything to the contrary is spreading false information," he said.