EPA's Pruitt praises Great Lakes restoration program

Aug 9, 2017
Originally published on August 9, 2017 10:47 am

The EPA has released its annual report highlighting work under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative -- and environmentalists might be surprised by the high praise from Scott Pruitt.

In a statement accompanying the report, Pruitt, who leads the EPA, said the initiative "is protecting public health in the Great Lakes more than any other coordinated interagency effort in U.S. history."

Those words come just five months after President Trump proposed eliminating the $300 million program from the federal budget. And they follow Pruitt's own moves to pull back on EPA programs and spending.

Still, the restoration initiative, which funds a wide range of environmental programs, is likely to survive thanks to strong bipartisan support across the region. Congress is moving to maintain full funding in the 2018 federal budget.

In his message, Pruitt says the initiative's investments -- "approximately $2.3 billion supporting more than 3,500 projects -- are making a tremendous difference from Isle Royale National Park to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River and points in between."

Pruitt's message -- and the 34-page report -- note success in cleaning contaminated land, reducing nutrient runoff and keeping the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.

But environmentalists question whether Pruitt -- who battled the EPA as Oklahoma attorney general -- and  the Trump administration will aggressively pursue those issues.

They have noted that the EPA is cutting millions from its Superfund program. Some have called for strict agricultural regulations to limit runoff that triggers toxic algae blooms in western Lake Erie and other parts of the Great Lakes.

And they have criticized the administration for delaying the release of a plan to combat the Asian Carp. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers released the plan on Monday; it calls for a $275 million project to keep the invasive species out of Lake Michigan.

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