Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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EPA’s Great Lake protectors are under attack

Lake-Erie-Algae-42

A docked boat is reflected in the algae-covered water of Lake Erie’s Maumee Bay in Oregon, Ohio.

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You may not realize it, but the Environmental Protection Agency has two offices that protect the health of the people of Ohio — one in Westlake, and one in Chicago, Ill.

Scientists and engineers who believe in protecting the air, land, and water of the Great Lakes, and the people of Ohio, staff these offices, which are collectively known as EPA Region 5. But the dedicated Region 5 staff — your environmental cops on the beat, the ones who work hard to track and stop pollution entering your environment — are under attack from the Trump administration.

While they work hard to protect Lake Erie, your source of drinking water, and track the extent of the dead zone, trying to figure out ways to fix it, their jobs — and the entire EPA — are under threat. The scientists who work to curb air emissions from industry to your communities, so that your children and your elderly can breathe easier, are themselves endangered at the EPA. They clean up hazardous waste sites, and also respond quickly to environmental emergencies when there is a release of hazardous material to the environment.

Since the Trump administration took power, it has pursued a strategy of undermining the EPA, causing major staff reductions. Region 5 alone has already lost about 100 of its EPA engineers and scientists. That loss will cripple environmental protection in the state of Ohio and throughout the Great Lakes.

Incredibly, the EPA, under the leadership of scandal-plagued administrator Scott Pruitt, has only replaced one of those employees. It is clear that Mr. Pruitt plans to artificially hold down the staff levels at EPA, even though Congress has appropriated sufficient funds for EPA to hire replacements.

This is a transparent attempt by the Trump administration to reduce the EPA’s effectiveness. Mr. Trump’s plan, as clearly delineated in his budget proposal and touted in the press, is to reduce the number of scientists and engineers at EPA Region 5 by half.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur was clearly concerned about Mr. Trump and Mr. Pruitt’s plan to deprive the Region 5 of crucial staff. Miss Kaptur used the few allotted minutes she had to grill Mr. Pruitt during his recent rare appearance before Congress about the Trump administration’s failure to replace Region 5 scientists or engineers lost through attrition and retirement since Mr. Trump took office. Mr. Pruitt had no answer for her.

We ask you to fight this latest attack on public health, along with policy rollbacks to the Clean Power Plan, the Clean Water Rule, and the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. EPA scientists and engineers are the last line of defense standing between you and those who profit by polluting. We must demand that our elected officials continue to fight for fully funding EPA and for the full staffing of EPA’s Region 5 Office with engineers and scientists.

These public servants must be kept on the job, fighting for your public health, your environment, and for your Great Lakes.

Mike Mikulka is the president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 704.

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