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EPA administrator announces Trump turnaround on Great Lakes funding

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Jeff Kowalsky
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Detroit Economic Club

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler spoke at a Detroit Economic Club event in Detroit on Tuesday to promote President Donald Trump's environmental agenda.

Wheeler announced what he called an aggressive action plan for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

He said President Trump does not intend to cut the initiative's $300 million budget. The announcement is a reversal of the Trump administration's efforts over the last three years to eliminate funding for the initative.

Wheeler said the new action plan lays out priorites for the next five years.

"These include cleaning up toxic pollutants, keeping the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, and controlling other existing invasive species," said Wheeler.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition says it supports the restoration priorities in the new plan.

"However, any plan is only as good as the resources behind it," said Laura Rubin, director of the Coalition, in a written statement. "For the past three years, the Trump Administration has worked to cut Great Lakes funding and eviscerate clean water protections. If the Trump Administartion is serious about accelerating the restoration and protection of the Great Lakes, then it can start by reversing its decision to gut clean water protections for streams and wetlands."

Wheeler also used his talk to advocate for a single, national fuel economy standard.

He said the first step is to revoke California's waiver that allows it to set tougher fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks.

"It makes sense that Congress carved out waiver authority for California to address its unique, local problems," said Wheeler. "It does not make sense to use that authority to try to address global issues like greenhouse gas emissions."

Officials in California disagree, and they are fighting the withdrawal of the waiver. Environmentalists say tougher fuel standards reduce pollutants that are harmful to health.

Wheeler said he expects a new national fuel economy standard to be in place by the end of this year.

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