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EPA head backs funding for Great Lakes cleanup

EPA head backs funding for Great Lakes cleanup
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The head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supports a House proposal to continue funding a popular cleanup program for the Great Lakes.

Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittBiden to enlist Agriculture, Transportation agencies in climate fight Democratic lawmaker calls for DOJ investigation of entire Trump administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump races clock on remaining environmental rollbacks | New Interior order undermines conservation bill Trump campaigned on, critics say | Trump administration to further advance lease sales at Arctic refuge: report MORE told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he agrees with the House Appropriations Committee, which approved Tuesday a bill to put $300 million into the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in fiscal 2018, the same as its current funding level.

President Trump’s budget proposal, which Pruitt defended to lawmakers, sought to eliminate funding for the Great Lakes program, leading to bipartisan backlash among lawmakers, state leaders and others.

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“I understand the investment that’s been made historically,” Pruitt told the Star Tribune Wednesday. “It’s a continuing need and we have to see that it’s adequately funded.”

Trump’s budget eliminated funding for all regional environmental programs, including cleanups for the Chesapeake Bay and the Puget Sound. The administration argued that those efforts should be funded only by the states and localities around them.

Pruitt told lawmakers last month that the EPA would continue a coordinating role in those programs, but with the administration looking to slash budgets, agencies have to set priorities.

“Obviously, money is important. But this leadership role is important as well, and it’s going to continue,” he told a panel of the House Appropriations Committee.

But he also left the door open to increased funding if lawmakers wanted it.

“Those are important partnerships that have existed for a number of years,” he said. “And as we go through this process together, I want to work with you to achieve good outcomes in each of those areas.”

The House’s bill, which still needs to be passed by the full House and the Senate, and be signed by Trump, also would keep similar funding levels for other regional cleanup programs with strong bipartisan support.