Society

Report: Administration Will Close Chicago EPA Office

| by Robert Fowler

The Trump administration is allegedly planning to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency office in Chicago, a regional office that oversees six states in the Great Lakes region. The closure would help fulfill the administration's plans to eliminate 3,000 EPA jobs.

On April 15, anonymous sources disclosed that the Trump administration planned to close down the EPA regional branch office in Chicago. The sources asserted the administration planned to let go the office's 1,000 employees and consolidate the oversight of its jurisdictions with the EPA in Kansas, the Chicago Sun Times reports.

The Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney had already asserted that two EPA regional offices would be closed by June 15 as part of the Trump administration's proposed 2017 budget.

On March 16, Mulvaney announced a planned series of sweeping cuts to the EPA budget, proposing that its funding be slashed by one-third. The budget director asserted that President Donald Trump viewed the agency as a waste of taxpayer money.

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"Regarding the question as to climate change, I think the president was fairly straightforward," Mulvaney said, according to CNN. "We're not spending money on that any more. We consider that to be a waste of your money to go out and do that."

The EPA in Chicago oversees Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. All six states surround the Great Lakes.

Nicole Cantello, the president of the union representing the EPA in Chicago employees, believes that closing the regional office would be a severe blow to protecting the environment.

"If you wanted to drive a stake through the heart of EPA enforcement and EPA's ability to protect the country, this would be one way of doing it," Cantello told ThinkProgress.

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If the EPA in Kansas absorbed the Chicago office's jurisdiction, its 500 employees would be tasked with overseeing 10 states.

"You could imagine how 500 people would be able to handle all the issues going on in 10 states," Cantello continued. "It would be virtually impossible ... there won't be an environmental cop on the beat."

The union leader added that she disagreed with the Trump administration's policy that environmental monitoring and enforcement should be handled by state governments.

"All the enforcement we do is requested by the states because they can't do the work we do," Cantello said.

Democratic Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel released an official statement blasting any potential plans to close down the EPA office in his city.

"Whether you believe in modern science and thus believe in climate change or not, the fact is the EPA exists to protect human health and the environment," Emanuel said. "The administration's plan would be harmful to the environment and public health in Chicago ... and in the entire Great Lakes region, and that should outrage all of us living in our nation's heartland."

No reports have said which other EPA regional office would close if the budget is passed.

Sources: Chicago Sun Times, CNNThink Progress / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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