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Zach Barber,
PennEnvironment

Pollution would get worse for Lake Erie with budget cuts, new report says

For Immediate Release

Erie, PA – Proposed cuts to EPA clean water programs would halt progress on addressing industrial waste, sewage runoff, and agricultural pollution in Lake Erie, according to a new report released today by the PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center.  With a deadline for Congress to approve a federal budget fast approaching, State Representative Pat Harkins, County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper joined PennEnvironment in calling for full funding of EPA to protect Lake Erie and other Pennsylvania waterways.

“With recent progress in cleaning up Lake Erie, Pennsylvanians have just enjoyed a summer of fishing and swimming,” said Zachary Barber, Western Pennsylvania Field Organizer with PennEnvironment. “Cutting EPA’s clean water programs would put that progress at risk.”

Rough Waters Ahead: The Impact of the Trump Administration’s EPA Budget Cuts on The Great Lakes, issued today by PennEnvironment Research and Policy Center, examined the impacts of the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts to EPA water programs on Lake Erie.  More specifically, the report found that the proposed budget would eliminate the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has been responsible for preventing the spread of invasive species and eliminating pollution from PCBs, a known carcinogen and reproductive toxin.

"For many years, we have worked hard to clean up the Great Lakes, especially our own Bay here in Erie,” said State Representative Harkins. “We worked hard and, with funding from the EPA, we were able to clean up the many problems that contributed to poor water quality. The eleventh-annual 'Swim Across the Bay' event this June shows just how far we've come," he continued. "The lake, the bay, and our waterfront are our shining stars, which is why we need to do all we can to protect the Great Lakes."

In addition to the cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the report reviewed what EPA programs have meant for Lake Erie in terms of research to identify emerging threats and discover practical solutions.  For example, EPA funded research showed farmers how to cut the pollution responsible for the algal blooms while increasing crop yields. Under the Trump administration’s current budget proposal, these programs that show us a path to a better tomorrow would be eliminated.

“Lake Erie and its watershed are invaluable resources here in Erie County, as they enhance the quality of life of our residents and boost our economy,” said County Executive Dahlkemper. “The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding through the EPA has allowed us to ensure that our beaches and waterways are safe, whether from E. coli contamination, harmful algal blooms or hazardous spills. Cuts to this vital EPA funding would pose a threat to the vibrancy of our shores and, most importantly, to the health of hundreds of thousands of Erie County residents and visitors.”

Today’s report comes as Congress has roughly one month to approve the federal budget to avoid a government shutdown.  While House appropriations bills have rejected some of the most extreme EPA budget cuts, the process begins anew in the Senate, which returns next week.

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PennEnvironment is a statewide, citizen based, environmental organizing and advocacy non-profit fighting for clean air, clean water, and open spaces. For more information,  visit our website at www.PennEnvironment.org