Brown Demands Answers after President’s Flip-Flop on GLRI Funding

Letter Asks Administration to Clarify Why President’s Budget Slashes Funding for Great Lakes While President Calls for Full Funding

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) demanded answers from the Trump Administration as President Trump claimed to support full funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) at the same time his own budget proposed a 90 percent cut to the program. 

In early March, President Trump released his budget proposal that included a $270 million cut to the GLRI, a highly successful program that has jumpstarted restoration efforts to protect, maintain, and restore the chemical, biological, and physical integrity of the Great Lakes like Lake Erie. At a rally in Michigan last week, President Trump vowed to secure the full $300 million for GLRI. 

The letter presses the Trump Administration to answer questions about the decision to cut funding, who originally proposed the cut, and the potential for the Administration to recommend full funding for the GLRI. 

“A thriving Great Lakes ecosystem provides more than clean water and wildlife habitat – it provides an economic engine for surrounding communities. Economic impact studies conducted by the Great Lakes Commission have shown that GLRI funds achieve a return of $3.35 for every dollar invested and that homeowners in areas receiving GLRI funding enjoy a $.08 increase in home values for every dollar invested. I appreciate your thoughtful response to my requests, and I hope that this serves as a wakeup call for this Administration that protecting the Great Lake must remain a national priority,” Brown wrote. 

Brown has long fought to secure full GLRI funding. He and Senator Portman announced full funding of $300 million for the GLRI last year. In Fiscal Year 2018, the President proposed eliminating GLRI and Senators Brown and Portman worked together to ensure it was fully funded in the two most recent appropriations bill. 

A copy of the letter can be found below and here.

Director Mulvaney: 

At a rally in Michigan on March 28th, President Trump vowed to secure $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) in Fiscal Year 2020. This promise stands in stark contrast to the President’s budget request which – for the second year – proposed to slash funding for the GLRI by 90% compared to FY 2019 funding levels. I write seeking information regarding the decision-making process that has led to a $270 million discrepancy between the President’s stated wishes, the budget proposal issued by his White House and the Environmental Protection Agency, and proposed cuts to the program in previous budgets. 

Since it began in 2010, GLRI has been an unequivocal bipartisan success – spurring the restoration of a freshwater system that contains more than 20% of the world’s surface fresh water and supplies drinking water for 30 million people. GLRI has become a focal point for coordinating a constellation of actors that includes Canada, eight states, and thousands of communities across the basin. GLRI’s first two action plans achieved 72% and 90% of their goals, respectively, and the third plan is in the final stages of development. In the process of completing the first two plans, significant steps were taken to address long-standing pollution including Areas of Concern (AOCs), along Ohio’s Black and Cuyahoga Rivers. Three AOCs have been successfully delisted, and three more await official delisting  now that all tasks have been completed. 

Given GLRI’s proven track record of funding environmental victories, it is apparent to me and a bipartisan majority in Congress that this worthwhile program deserves continued funding. In that regard, as the FY 2020 budget was prepared;

1) Did EPA initially propose eliminating or dramatically cutting funding for the GLRI from the FY 2019 enacted level?

  1. If so, what was the stated rationale?

2) If EPA did not propose cutting the program in its initial budget submission to OMB, what was OMB’s rationale for submitting, on the President’s behalf, a budget that cut the program by 90%?

3) Will there be an addendum to the Administration’s FY 2020 budget request to support full funding for the GLRI?

A thriving Great Lakes ecosystem provides more than clean water and wildlife habitat – it provides an economic engine for surrounding communities. Economic impact studies conducted by the Great Lakes Commission have shown that GLRI funds achieve a return of $3.35 for every dollar invested and that homeowners in areas receiving GLRI funding enjoy a $.08 increase in home values for every dollar invested.

I appreciate your thoughtful response to my requests, and I hope that this serves as a wakeup call for this Administration that protecting the Great Lake must remain a national priority. 

Sincerely,

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