Congressman Tim Ryan Joins Bipartisan Great Lakes Coalition Letter Urging EPA Chief to Keep Region 5 Office Open

Apr 25, 2017 Issues: Helping Working Families, Environment

Washington, DC – Congressman Tim Ryan joined in signing onto a bipartisan, bicameral letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt from Members of Congress representing the Great Lakes Region following reports that the Trump Administration plans to abolish Region 5 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – which serves Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio – as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget.  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) led the bipartisan coalition of lawmakers. The letter stressed the importance of the Great Lakes, which provide 90 percent of the nation’s fresh water supply and are a source of drinking water for more than 30 million Americans.  

“The Great Lakes are a vital resource and strategic advantage and it’s critical that we do everything in our power to safeguard their health and well-being. Lake Erie alone supports more than 117,000 full time jobs and provides clean drinking water to approximately 3 million Ohioans. I will do everything in my power to stop this attack on Ohio, the Midwest,  and the Great Lakes region -- including fighting this reckless closing of the EPA Region 5 office,” said Congressman Ryan.  

“We write to express our grave concerns regarding reports that the Administration plans to abolish Region 5 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget.  EPA Region 5 is critical to protecting the air, drinking water, and health of residents in the six Great Lakes states the region serves and closing its headquarters in Chicago would make EPA less efficient and effective in its efforts to protect human health and the environment. Accordingly, we request that you commit to preserving EPA Region 5,” the members wrote.

U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) is leading the House coalition, along with Tim Ryan (D-OH),  Mike Quigley (D-IL), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Bill Foster (D-IL), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Rick Nolan (D-MN), Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Peter Visclosky (D-IN), Robin Kelly (D-IL), Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Sander Levin (D-MI), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Andre Carson (D-IN), John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Danny Davis (D-IL), and Ron Kind (D-WI).  

Along with Durbin, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Gary Peters (D-MI), Al Franken (D-MN), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH). 

Congressman Tim Ryan previously authored legislation to require the EPA to appoint a coordinator to address the issue of harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes. The legislation passed the House of Representatives in April of 2016. Congressman Ryan was joined by a bipartisan group of members, including: Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9), Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11), Jim Renacci (R-OH-16), David Joyce (R-OH-14), Joyce Beatty (D-OH-3), Peter Visclosky (D-ID-1), Chris Collins (R-NY-27).  


Full text of the letter below:

April 25, 2017

Dear Administrator Pruitt:

We write to express our grave concerns regarding reports that the Administration plans to abolish Region 5 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of the fiscal year 2018 budget.  EPA Region 5 is critical to protecting the air, drinking water, and health of residents in the six Great Lakes states the region serves and closing its headquarters in Chicago would make EPA less efficient and effective in its efforts to protect human health and the environment. Accordingly, we request that you commit to preserving EPA Region 5. 

EPA’s Chicago office regularly works closely with state and local governments to effectively address the unique challenges and needs of the region, including protecting 90 percent of the nation’s fresh water supply and a significant portion of the Mississippi River watershed from invasive species, harmful algal blooms, and industrial pollution—preserving the source of drinking water for more than 30 million Americans.  Region 5 experts were among the first scientists to alert officials to the elevated lead levels in Flint, Michigan’s drinking water. Following the 2014 drinking water ban in Toledo, Ohio due to microcystin contamination from harmful algal blooms, Region 5 assisted Ohio and Michigan in upgrading drinking water treatment facilities to protect citizens in the region. 

Additionally, as manager of the Great Lakes National Program Office, the EPA Region 5 Administrator plays a key role in ensuring the U.S. meets its international commitments under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.  The Office also works with Canada to ensure that the Great Lakes continue to support a $5 trillion economy with more than 51 million jobs.  The day-to-day responsibilities of carrying out the Agreement and our promises to Canada would be jeopardized if EPA Region 5 was eliminated.

Region 5 is also responsible for more Superfund sites than any other region and EPA Region 5 experts play a vital role in legacy waste clean-up and environmental justice initiatives.  You witnessed this firsthand when you toured the USS Lead site in East Chicago, Indiana.   EPA Region 5 also maintains staff in each state so that it can quickly respond to chemical spills and other emergencies, like last week’s hexavalent chromium spill at a U.S. Steel Corporation site in Indiana and the 2010 Enbridge oil spill in the Kalamazoo River.  Without EPA Region 5’s presence in the area, timely action would have been significantly less likely and these spills could have done more damage to the environment and surrounding communities. 

While shutting down EPA’s Region 5 Chicago office would make it more difficult and less efficient for the federal government to work in partnership with state and local communities in our region, it is unclear that it would reduce costs to EPA as a whole.  Region 5 does not duplicate enforcement or regulatory actions, rather Region 5 allows the EPA to better coordinate federal efforts with state and local governments.  In fact, state environmental agencies often rely on EPA Region 5 experts for technical assistance and financial support.  More than half of EPA’s budget is sent directly to states to aid in clean-up and other environmental programs.

Closing EPA’s Region 5 office would have a devastating effect on those that call Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, and Ohio home.  Therefore, we urge you to protect the environmental health and well-being of our states by keeping Region 5 intact and fully supporting its critical mission. 

Sincerely,