President Trump’s announcement on Monday of his new budget and his 1.5 trillion-dollar infrastructure proposal is not exactly being met by cheers from the environmental community in the Great Lakes Region.
Once again, Trump wants to slash funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. This time, rather than zeroing it out, he proposes a 90 percent cut: from $300 million to $30 million.
He also proposes chopping funds to the EPA by 2.8 billion dollars – that’s about 34 percent of its current funding level – and eliminating all climate change-related programs. In addition, the EPA’s Office of Science and Technology would be pared back by half, to $489 million from $762 million.
The Trump administration also says it wants to speed up the environmental reviews for major projects so that they will take no longer than 21 months.
The Trump Administration’s infrastructure plan isn’t exactly generous to the Great Lakes, either: the 1.5 trillion dollar proposal to help improve roads, bridges and water infrastructure doesn’t appear to include any funds to help improve the Soo Locks so they can handle getting bigger ships across the lakes.
There is some good news for the Great Lakes: the budget calls for $2.65 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds, which provide low-interest loans to communities to fix and build wastewater and drinking water infrastructure—an increase of $397 million from fiscal year 2017 budget levels. But the proposal pushes the responsibility for water infrastructure improvements on cities and states.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s office says the Governor is “happy to see President Trump and his team discussing infrastructure across the board.” Governor Snyder says he’s looking forward to “working with the Trump Administration and serving as a role model for infrastructure development solutions.”
But Executive Director of the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center Mike Shriberg is not so upbeat.
[caption id="attachment_5230" align="alignright" width="268"] Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation, courtesy of nwf.org[/caption]
He tells Great Lakes Now, “A national infrastructure plan that runs roughshod over environmental protections and ignores climate change cannot be taken seriously—and threatens to throw good money after bad while failing to address urgent water needs for the region and exacerbating pollution. Climate change has numerous potential impacts on the Great Lakes over the coming decades, many of which we are already seeing. More frequent and intense storms increase runoff into the lakes and stress our water infrastructure, and accelerate harmful algal blooms.”
Shriberg adds, “Local communities have borne the brunt of expensive water infrastructure fixes for the last 40 years, and any plan that places further financial burdens on communities by relying on the fool’s gold of privatization will only exacerbate water affordability issues that harm those who can least afford them.”
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat from Michigan, released a statement immediately following Trump’s announcement, saying. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned, we can’t take it for granted that others understand how important our water is. This is outrageous. People across Michigan spoke out and took action last year to stop these cuts and I know they’ll do so again.”
Campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition Todd Ambs says, “The Trump plan is pure fantasy and will not help solve the nation’s water infrastructure crisis.”
[caption id="attachment_8413" align="alignleft" width="300"] Todd Ambs Speaking at Great Lakes Day 2015, courtesy of HOW Coalition[/caption]
Ambs says, “The Trump Administration missed a major opportunity to help communities restore their water infrastructure. It places the financial burden on local communities, which have taken on the lion’s share of funding these expensive projects over the last 40 years and have consequently seen water bills skyrocket for individuals and families. And, the Trump plan guts clean water protections that every American depends on for clean, safe drinking water. In all, it makes no sense.”
There is a bi-partisan push back by Great Lakes leaders against Donald Trump’s newly released budget and infrastructure proposals.
[caption id="attachment_8414" align="alignright" width="300"] U.S. Congressman Fred Upton, courtesy of upton.house.gov[/caption]
U.S. Congressman Fred Upton, a Republican from Michigan, released the following statement: “Michigan deserves better than this. The health of our Great Lakes must be a higher priority. While this budget proposal – like all other presidential budget proposals – is merely a blueprint, it does set the administration’s priorities. It’s clear that when it comes to the Great Lakes our priorities are at odds with the administration. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a vital tool used to boost our Great Lakes both environmentally and economically. Just like last year, I will fight alongside colleagues on both sides of the aisle to promote, strengthen, and preserve our Great Lakes.”