Mar 23, 2017
In another of his controversial initiatives, President Trump has stirred angry disbelief among US and Canadian municipal and government officials in the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence region inhabited by over 17 million people. The total ‘gutting’ of funding by the Trump Administration for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in the proposed 2018 federal budget unveiled late last week has sparked widespread shock in a region surrounded by one of the largest freshwater resources in the world.
“Our members are appalled, given the success of and bipartisan support for the program,” said David Ullrich, Executive Director of the Chicago-based Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (Cities Initiative), a bi-national coalition of 128 mayors. GLRI has been a major contributor over the last eight years in helping clean up toxic hotspots, better manage polluted storm water runoff, addressing invasive species, and protecting habitats and wildlife.
Québec Premier Philippe Couillard indicated today (March 22) he had contacted Michigan Governor Rick Snyder and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne as part of efforts to develop “a regional consensus” for protecting the ecosystems of the Great Lakes.
The scrapping of GLRI is part of a larger effort by the Trump Administration to scale back (EPA) Environmental Protection Agency funding by 31.4%, or approximately $2.4 billion while eliminating more than 3,000 staff jobs. Biggest priority of the America First budget is a dramatic increase in military spending to strengthen safety for all Americans.
“The Budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to State and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities,” states the Budget document.
The previous Obama Administration had approved GLRI funding of about $300 million annually for the next five years.
However, before such funding drops to virtually zero, it remains to be seen how the proposed budget navigates through Congress where many Great Lakes lawmakers support the GLRI, commented Scott McKay, Quebec Program and Policy Manager of the Cities Initiative. “There is a long process before the end result.”
“I believe the American Government’s budget does not reflect the great importance of these environmental questions related to climate change and water issues, and that we all have, at every level of government, a responsibility in this regard,” said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, Chairman of the Cites Initiative.
“The Great Lakes are a national treasure similar to the Grand Canyon and it is not solely the responsibility of state and local governments to invest in their protection,” added Mayor Paul Dyster of Niagara Falls, New York, Vice Chair of the Cities Initiative. “Local governments already invest over $15 billion per year and rely on investment from the federal government for Great Lakes restoration and protection efforts.”