The Chicago regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency responsible for federal protection of the Great Lakes may be shut down and moved to land-locked Kansas, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, citing an unnamed government source.
The EPA’s Region 5 sub-office is one of its busiest, with 1,500 employees. Among its responsibilities is overseeing the Canada-U.S. Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.
The unconfirmed report prompted immediate protest from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a one-time chief of staff to President Barack Obama, whose city Trump has repeatedly vilified for its rate of violent crime.
“The report that the federal government is planning to close the Region 5 office of the EPA should be concerning to us all,” Emanuel said. “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. The administration’s plan would be harmful to the environment and public health in Chicago, in Illinois, and in the entire Great Lakes region, and that should outrage all of us living in our nation’s heartland.”
Emanuel pointed to a recent leak of hexavalent chromium (the chemical at the heart of the movie Erin Brokovich) from a U.S. Steel facility on the shoreline of Lake Michigan at Portage, Indiana, 48 kilometres east of Chicago, to spotlight the need for an active EPA presence on the Great Lakes.
The agency is also at the centre of controversy over the risk posed to more than 1,000 kilometres of Great Lakes coastline by a six-decade-old pipeline owned by Calgary’s Enbridge Inc. The line runs beneath the scouring currents of the Mackinac Strait, which joins Lakes Michigan and Huron, separating the lower state of Michigan from its Upper Peninsula.