Quigley Offers Amendment to Protect EPA Regional Offices from Irresponsible Closings
Last night, U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05), who serves as a member of the House Appropriations Committee and Vice Chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC), offered an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2018 Interior Subcommittee appropriations bill to prevent funds from being used to close EPA’s vital regional offices, including Region 5 in Chicago. During the Carter and Reagan Administrations, Rep. Quigley served as an intern in the Region 5 office.
“My amendment would put an end to rumors about looming EPA office closures we’ve been hearing about for months and ensure that EPA’s vital regional offices remain open and committed to protecting the health and well-being of our nation and its inhabitants,” said Rep. Quigley. “The Region 5 office, located in Chicago, employs more than 1,000 people and is critical in preserving clean drinking water, breathable air, and healthy productive lakes. My amendment would prevent any funds from being used to close Region 5, or any other regional office, and ensure budget-minded politicians can’t take irresponsible action that would jeopardize the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.”
Below are Rep. Quigley’s full opening remarks on the amendment, as prepared for delivery:
“My amendment today would put an end to rumors about looming EPA office closures we’ve been hearing about for months and ensure that EPA’s vital regional offices remain open and committed to protecting the health and well-being of our nation and its inhabitants.
“The Environmental Protection Agency divides the U.S. into 10 separate regions, each with unique ecologies, habitats, and environmental protection needs.
“The Region 5 office, located in Chicago, is responsible for overseeing EPA work in the upper Midwest, including the Great Lakes region. It employs more than 1,000 people and is critical for ensuring clean drinking water, breathable air, and healthy productive lakes. Region 5 has the most industrial facilities of any region so the office is always on call to handle frequent spills and contamination and to ensure whatever accidents do occur are contained before they can spread through the Lakes.
“In recent years, the Region 5 office has had to deal with some high profile environmental disasters such as the lead crisis in Flint, Michigan and the recent release of toxic chemicals from a U.S Steel facility in Portage, Indiana.
“Region 5 is also the home of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the largest investment in the Great Lakes in more than 20 years and an extremely popular and successful program with broad bipartisan support. Ninety percent of the U.S. freshwater supply is under the jurisdiction of the EPA Region 5.
“Each of EPA’s 10 regions is home to similar vital and irreplaceable resources. However, since the start of this Administration, we’ve heard time and time again that EPA regional offices are on the chopping block. Particularly Region 5, which may be moved to Kansas City, more than 500 miles from the closest Great Lake.
“To their credit, it’s not the EPA that keeps bringing up shuttering their crucial regional offices. My amendment would prevent any funds from going towards winding down any regional office of the EPA. That prevents budget-minded politicians from taking irresponsible action that would jeopardize the lives and livelihoods of millions of people.
“It should not be the role of the OMB or the OMB director to pressure independent agencies to fire thousands of people and close offices crucial to their mission in order to save a few dollars. In fact, when it comes to EPA’s Regional offices, I think it’s pretty clear that saving a few dollars on office space now will cost billions in degraded land, polluted water, and healthcare costs later.
“Recent crises have demonstrated that regional offices need to be empowered, not defunded. The regional offices act as a last line of defense, protecting citizens when local catastrophes strike or local resources need to be defended.
“A closure of Region 5 would be counterintuitive. Attempting to replicate the office’s functions and expertise in a smaller and more distant location would be unfeasible. Regional staffs possess the expertise to safeguard crucial resources. It would be completely illogical to shut down these facilities.
“My amendment would prevent any funds from being used to close Region 5, or any other regional office. This measure is necessary to protect America’s ecosystems, and the health of millions of our citizens.”