Lawmakers urge Pruitt not to close Midwest EPA office

Lawmakers urge Pruitt not to close Midwest EPA office
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Three dozen Midwestern Democrats — and one Republican — are urging the Trump administration not to close a regional Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) office as part of an administrative restructuring. 

In a Tuesday letter to EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, the members said they have “grave concerns” about a report this month that said the Trump administration is considering closing the EPA Region 5 office in Chicago. 

The members — led by Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinSenate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting Too many Americans go to prison but Congress can fix this problem This week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation MORE (D-Ill.) and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) — said the regional headquarters is charged with protecting most of the nation’s fresh water supply, the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed, and that it also regulates industrial pollution and works on Superfund clean-up efforts throughout the Midwest. 

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They said the office has a special responsibility to work with Canadian officials on Great Lakes water quality, and they noted the office oversees Flint, Mich., and the water crisis in that city.

“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, it is unclear that it would reduce costs to the EPA as a whole,” the members wrote.        

“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.”

EPA’s Region 5 covers Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. Thirty-eight lawmakers signed the letter, including Republican Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTrump seeks to quell Russia furor GOP moderates hint at smooth confirmation ahead for Kavanaugh Sens introduce bipartisan bill matching Zinke proposed maintenance backlog fix MORE (R-Ohio). 

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last week that the Trump administration is considering closing the Region 5 office as part of an agency restructuring. Agency officials have dismissed that report, with acting regional administrator Robert Kaplan telling the Chicago Tribune, "there's no discussion about shutting the Chicago office."

Trump has proposed a 31 percent cut to the EPA’s $8.1 billion annual budget.

—Updated at 5:18 p.m.