Lucas County Commissioners demand no EPA cuts

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TOLEDO, Ohio (13abc Action News) - The proposed plan to cut $2.1 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency's budget has Lucas County Commissioners concerned.

Included in that proposal is a plan to cut the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million to $10 million.

Water quality in the great lakes affects the drinking water of millions.

Tourism, economic development and recreation are at stake as well.

That was vividly displayed during Toledo's water crisis in 2014.

In the last 15-years, local taxpayers have spent $500 million trying to reduce chemical runoff and improve water treatment.

But after hearing of the proposed EPA cuts, Lucas County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution demanding the agency continue funding Great Lakes clean up or risk losing the progress made.

Commissioner Tina Skeldon-Wozniak says, "In order to fix the algal blooms, it takes research and it takes practical projects on the ground. If we lose these funds, we'll take a giant step backward."

Commission Pete Gerken agrees, saying, "We need more not less at this point. We're turning the corner on Lake Erie and the river. Anything that rolls that back diminishes our taxpayer investment."

But not every dollar spent in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative goes to the lake or even the Maumee River.

For instance, an economic development commissioner with the City of Toledo tells us trees at Detroit and Central and at Edison Park were planted because the EPA required it as part of GLRI funding.

And the business community has complained for years that many EPA regulations stifle job growth.

But EPA dollars with regard to brownfield clean up have helped business development.

The Port Authority tells us, the EPA spent $1-million helping clean up the old jeep site.

Janet Schroeder, a spokesperson for the City of Toledo says, "Had it not been for these brownfield dollars, that property may not have been remedied."

And other properties could benefit from that funding, like the old Champion Sparkplug site.

But local governments know if they don't spend every dollar this year they will get less the next year.

Some consider that a recipe for wasteful spending.

Pete Gerken will go to Washington next week to push the case for no cuts.

Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson is working on a letter to be sent to the president.

And Thursday night, at the Great Lakes Museum, there's a town hall discussing the cuts.

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