Deep Proposed Budget Cuts Would Scrap EPA's Great Lakes Cleanup | NBC4 Washington

Deep Proposed Budget Cuts Would Scrap EPA's Great Lakes Cleanup

"Federal funding has gone up and down over the years, but I’ve never seen anything of this scope"

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    NOAA/inset: Jeff Reutter, OSU Sea Grant
    The NOAA satellite image of Lake Erie shows green algae which can be extremely toxic when found in large quantities, like that shown in the inset photo provided by Dr. Jeff Reutter.

    If President Donald Trump's proposed budget is passed in its current form, funding to monitor and clean up toxins in the Great Lakes would virtually disappear. 

    In Trump's preliminary budget, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) would be slashed by 97 percent, dropping from $300 million to about $10 million. The Environmental Protection Agency is the single-largest financer of the GLRI. If the EPA funding is slashed as proposed, scientists’ ability to measure toxins in the water would be “greatly diminished,” said longtime Lake Erie researcher Jeff Reutter.

    Trump Signs Order Aimed at Opening Arctic Drilling

    [NATL] Trump Signs Order Aimed at Opening Arctic Drilling

    On the 99th day of his presidency,  Donald Trump reversed some of his predecessor's environmental protections with an executive order that could expand offshore gas and oil drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. The order directs Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to review a plan that dictates what locations are open to offshore drilling. 

    (Published 3 hours ago)

    That money goes to programs like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Sea Grant College Program, which monitor toxin levels via satellite images and scientists' daily trips to buoys on Lake Erie.

    “Federal funding has gone up and down over the years, but I’ve never seen anything of this scope,” Reutter said of the proposed cuts. He has been working on Lake Erie since 1971.  

    Trump has vowed to roll back many environmental regulations enacted by former President Barack Obama. He proposed to cut about 25 percent of the EPA's budget and slash about 3,000 jobs, or 19 percent of the agency’s staff, according to the budget outline released in late February.

    Environmental justice programs and the climate protection budget would be cut by 79 percent and nearly 70 percent, respectively.

    Tillerson Calls for UN Sanctions on North Korea

    [NATL] Tillerson Calls for UN Sanctions in Response to North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Program

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called for North Korea's "financial isolation" at Friday's U.N. Security Council meeting. Tillerson also threatened sanctions on countries that continues to trade with North Korea, singling out China.

    (Published 3 hours ago)

    Trump and his EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, have made skeptical comments about climate change. Trump once called climate change a "hoax." Before Pruitt became the EPA’s new leader, he sued the agency more than a dozen times as the attorney general of Oklahoma.

    During his presidential campaign, Trump said that he is a proponent for clean water. On his campaign website, he called the need for safe drinking water one of the "real environmental challenges," as opposed to "phony ones." 

    The Great Lakes make up about 95percent of the U.S.’s freshwater supply, and about 20 percent of the world’s freshwater, according to the EPA. The lakes’ contamination could lead to economic and health consequences. 

    “If we lose the U.S. EPA, if the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative goes away, if NOAA’s satellite program goes away, so does our ability to manage all of the fresh water in the country," Reutter said. "I would be very concerned for human and environmental health. We know how important it is to protect human health, environmental health, coastal citizens and jobs.”

    Looking Back: Trump's First 100 Days

    [NATL] Looking Back: Trump's First 100 Days

    President Trump came to Washington with an aggressive legislative agenda dubbed the "100-day Action Plan to Make America Great Again."

    (Published Thursday, April 27, 2017)

    Molly Flanagan, the vice president of Alliance for the Great Lakes, said that without funding multiple threats would arise: halted clean-up of the lakes and beaches, the inability to detect and warn people of water toxicity and the potential invasion of ocean-based aquatic species. 

    The proposed budget cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is the worst possible scenario, carrying "devastating impacts," Flanagan said.

    "If you were to see cuts, you would see a number of GLRI programs grind to a stop," she said. "Thirty million people depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water, jobs and recreation."

    Despite this, she said she is hopeful that Congress will step in and fight for the restoration initiative, which has historically had bipartisan support.

    Flynn Was Warned About Accepting Foreign Payments in 2014

    [NATL] Flynn Was Warned About Accepting Foreign Payments in 2014

    President Donald Trump's former national security adviser Michael Flynn was warned by the military in 2014 not to accept foreign payments without prior approval, according to documents released on Thursday by Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking member of the House oversight committee. Separate letters released Thursday show no evidence that Flynn ever sought that approval.

    (Published Thursday, April 27, 2017)

    Two senators from across the aisle are fighting the proposed budget cuts to the lakes, their offices told NBC.

    Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat, was just named to a subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Safe Drinking Water Act and other critical issues. Sean Savett, a spokesperson for Duckworth, said she would fight the proposed budget cuts to the Great Lakes.

    "Sen. Duckworth is urging the administration to prioritize funding for programs that protect the Great Lakes from pollutants and invasive species,” Savett said. “The Great Lakes are a vital source of clean drinking water for tens of millions of Americans and dismantling the EPA would jeopardize the safety of families across Illinois and the entire country.”

    Republican Sen. Rob Portman, of Ohio, also plans to continue to fight for the Great Lakes funding.

    Trump Tax Reform Plan Cuts Personal and Corporate Rates

    [NATL] New Trump Tax Reform Plan Cuts Personal and Corporate Rates

    A tax reform plan outlined by the Trump administration two days before the president's 100th day in office proposes deep cuts to personal income tax as well as corporate taxes. The plan also repeals the estate tax. 

    (Published Wednesday, April 26, 2017)

    “This initiative has been a successful tool in our efforts to help protect and restore Lake Erie, and Rob will continue to fight for it just as he did when the Obama administration proposed cuts to the program,” spokesman Kevin Smith said.

    The EPA declined to comment. The White House did not immediately respond to NBC's request for comment. 

    The EPA declined to comment. The White House did not immediately respond to NBC's request for comment. 

    Former EPA leader Gina McCarthy said the cuts to the EPA prioritize the special interests of big businesses.

    Trump Looks to Cut Corporate Tax Rates With New Plan

    [NATL] Trump Looks to Cut Corporate Tax Rates With New Plan

    The Trump Administration, along with House Republican lawmakers, is looking slash corporate tax rates in a new outline coming out three days before Donald Trump's 100th day in office. Trump has also given up on his $1 billion request from Congress to fund a wall between Mexico and the United States. 

    (Published Wednesday, April 26, 2017)

    “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,” she said in a statement to The Associated Press.

    Scientists like Reutter worry that with a drop in federal investment, the country could see a return to the 1960s, 1970s condition of the Great Lakes, when they were contaminated with industrial waste.

    The EPA, NOAA and the National Sea Grant College Program, like the one Reutter works for at Ohio State University, have provided information about toxic algae blooms that build up as a result of high levels of phosphorus in the water.

    Most of the blooms that form today are from agricultural runoff, but historically they have also been caused by poor sewage.

    'Late Night': A Closer Look at Trump's Executive Orders

    [NATL] 'Late Night': A Closer Look at Trump's Executive Orders

    Seth Meyers talks about President Donald Trump's efforts to commemorate his 100th day in office by signing a slew of executive orders.

    (Published Thursday, April 27, 2017)

    The industrial waste from the 1960s and 70s, such as PCBs, mercury and metals, has seen improvements in recent decades, but the issue of blooms remains. According to Reutter’s estimates, to reduce the imminent threat caused by blooms, phosphorus levels in the lakes need to be reduced about 40 percent.

    Next week, more than 100 Great Lakes advocates will make their annual trip to Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress. This year, they will urge them to push back on the Trump administration's cuts. While the president proposes the budget, it is up to Congress to revise and pass it. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, 2017.

    Flanagan said that they're ready to counter the threatening cuts.

    "We're not gonna go down without a fight," she said.

    Trump Pledges to 'Confront Anti-Semitism'

    [NATL] On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump Pledges to 'Confront Anti-Semitism'

    President Donald Trump on Tuesday gave his strongest condemnation of anti-semitism to date, pledging to "stamp out prejudice," "condemn hatred," "bear witness" and "act" against bigotry against Jewish communities and Israel. He spoke on Holocaust Remembrance Day on Capitol Hill. 

    (Published Tuesday, April 25, 2017)