The distinct scent of a tasty roast shrouded the Capitol this morning as EPA Administrator Steve Johnson was grilled by the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee over the environmentally unfriendly 2009 budget. The Great Lakes, in particular, did not fare well in this proposed budget –but they were not forgotten by Great Lakes Senators attending the hearing.
Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) registered his disappointment with the administration’s decision to cut funding for the Great Lakes Legacy Act from $49.6 million (proposed two years ago) to $35 million. “This program shows results – hundreds of thousands of cubic yards of contaminated sediments have been removed from the Great Lakes – and I strongly encourage you to work to increase funding for this program.”
As the Ohio Senator launched into an impassioned defense of his state’s towns and villages trying to pay for wastewater treatment in an ailing economy, he pounded the dais, raised his voice and accused the EPA of living in a bubble and not knowing what is going on in the real world. “As a member of this Committee, I have sought to bring attention to the nation’s wastewater infrastructure needs. But as with previous years, the EPA’s budget is woefully inadequate.”
To this, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn)said she supported all that Senator Voinovich so eloquently stated and added that the budget is a reflection of the administration’s priorities and values and, “protecting the Great Lakes doesn’t seem to be on the list (of presidential priorities).”
Hard to believe this is the same President that put all these efforts in motion five years ago. Wait, that was an election year wasn’t it? Well, the Minnesota Senator is correct when she says that money is the best indication of where the President’s true priorities lie. Let us not be fooled again. And in the meantime, let’s support Great Lakes lawmakers who are trying to secure the funding we need to restore and protect the Great Lakes.