Locals react to changes in federal EPA

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"We as Republicans don't have anything to be apologetic about with respect to the environment," Scott Pruitt said. "Nothing. We have always believed that you can grow jobs, grow an economy, while also doing what ...being a good steward of the environment."

That's Scott Pruitt, the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency. In his last job, he sued the federal EPA more than a dozen times.

A new report from the Washington Post says the Trump Administration wants to cut one fifth of the EPA's workforce in the near future. Another report issued Friday said that the Trump White House may slash 97% of the Great Lakes restoration fund.

Some people feel that Lake Erie's future health is in jeopardy. And that doesn't just impact local scientists, but tourism dollars, as well.

"Kind of sacrificing the long-term for generations for a short term for a few," Mark Shieldcastle said. He's a long-time birding expert and works on Lake Erie's shoreline at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory.

"Lake Erie would be in a much different state today, if it weren't for the EPA," Dr. Tom Bridgeman said. He's a professor at the University of Toledo and is part of UT's Lake Erie Center.

That's where House Bill 861 comes into play. The one paragraph bill would totally close the EPA by the end of 2018. The EPA is the main watchdog of the Great Lakes.

"Quite frankly, we would be kidding ourselves to say that we could have a clean environment like you would want with a drastically reduced EPA," Ken Kilbert said.

Ken Kilbert is the Director of the Legal Institute of the Great Lakes. He's been fighting for the environment for decades. Same for Mark Shieldcastle.

"I've been up here along the lake shore since 1976," Shieldcastle said.

He's concerned about what a dirty Lake Erie would mean for birding, and ultimately tourism money. So is Dr. Bridgeman, who researched the impact of the Maumee on Lake Erie algae, using EPA funding.

"Getting the states together to clean up the Great Lakes is one of the big roles of the EPA," Dr. Bridgeman said.

These experts say we need a bigger group to sort these multi-state fights out. However...

"A lot of the funding that goes to the state agencies, comes from US EPA budget," Kilbert said. "So to the extent that the US EPA budgets aren't going to be there, the state budgets aren't going to be there as much."

The University of Toledo was just chosen as one of a few sites for a public forum for the International Joint Commission. You can attend in just three weeks' time on March 23rd at the Lake Erie Center.