We’ve seen (here in REVITALIZATION) how bipartisan efforts in Congress have been successfully preserving—and even increasing—the 2020 federal budget for restoring the Great Lakes. This is great news for the Great Lakes economy, since it will boost community revitalization, human health and natural resources simultaneously.
But it will come as little surprise to intelligent Washington watchers that the Trump administration’s 2020 budget undermines that good news by simultaneously increasing the level of Great Lakes pollution. Trump tried repeatedly to cut Great Lakes restoration funding entirely, but Congress wouldn’t let him. When forced to include it in the budget, Trump then claimed it was his idea all along, in order to win Great Lakes votes.
“This budget is one step forward and three steps backward,” said Laura Rubin, director of the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition.
“The Trump Administration’s proposed budget undermines efforts to protect our drinking water and our Great Lakes. With many of our towns and cities still struggling with unsafe drinking water, now is not the time to cut funding or clean water protections. We need a White House that will use all of the tools at its disposal to fight for clean drinking water for all of the people,” she added.
Drastic cuts to programs that support drinking water infrastructure, wastewater infrastructure, the Environmental Protection Agency, research, and more are to blame. Declaring the president’s budget a “non-starter,” the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition is looking to work with Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress to restore funding for essential clean water programs.
The White House budget, which comes on the heels of the Trump Administration’s historic roll-back of clean water protections, would lead to the loss of tens of millions of dollars for clean water programs in the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York.
The proposed budget includes:
- $863 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund to help communities pay for drinking water infrastructure – almost $266 million less than fiscal year 2020 (the current fiscal year);
- $1.12 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to help communities pay for sewer upgrades and repairs – almost $500 million less than fiscal year 2020;
- An elimination of $171 million for non-point source pollution grants that the administration is replacing with a new $15 million program to combat toxic algal blooms;
- An elimination of the $25 million EPA grant for small and disadvantaged communities;
- An overall 27 percent cut to U.S. EPA budget; and
- $320 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to clean up toxic pollution, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and fight invasive species – the current funding in the budget.
“Unfortunately, support for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is undermined by the vast cuts to essential clean water programs in the budget,” said Chad Lord, policy director for the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition.
“The president’s budget weakens the federal government’s partnership with our region to ensure that people have clean, safe and affordable drinking water. At a time when many of our cities and towns are living with unsafe drinking water, that is not acceptable. We will work with bi-partisan leaders in the House and Senate to fund essential programs that people depend on for their drinking water, health, jobs and way of life” he added.
Federal Great Lakes restoration investments are producing results, but more work remains. The EPA estimates that at least $179 billion is needed over the next 20 years to fix and update drinking water and wastewater infrastructure in the Great Lakes states.
Since 2004, the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition has been harnessing the collective power of more than 160 groups representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes.
Photo of Great Lakes dunes courtesy of U.S. EPA.