Originally published: The Hill
The Trump administration is considering closing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) office in Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
The office, designated as Region 5, has responsibility for local and state matters in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Were the office closed, its responsibilities would be combined with Kansas City, Mo.-based Region 7 under the plan, the Sun-Times reported, citing a city government source familiar with the idea.
The EPA denied that any office closing is imminent.
“At this time, we are not announcing any potential closures and are instead focused on getting results and improving conditions for communities affected by Superfund sites like in East Chicago,” a spokesman told Politico.
The plan would be part of the EPA’s effort to comply with a 31 percent budget cut that President Trump has proposed. That reduction is still subject to approval from Congress, however, and leading lawmakers have voiced skepticism about cuts of that size.
The Chicago office has come under fire in recent years for a number of scandals.
It was that office that was responsible for the EPA’s dealings with the Flint, Mich., drinking water crisis. EPA officials eventually ordered the city to take immediate actions to reduce lead content, but the decision came at least six months after the dangerous contaminant was discovered.
Susan Hedman, the region’s administrator, resigned during the controversy.
The House Oversight Committee has also investigated multiple claims of sexual harassment and whistleblower retaliation at the Chicago office.
Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who represents Flint, said the report that the office could close is “very concerning.”
“Their work continues to be vital in helping Flint recover from the water crisis, including providing ongoing water testing for residents and technical assistance to the city's water plant,” he said in a statement.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the report “should be concerning to us all.”
“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,” he said.
The Chicago EPA office’s responsibilities include the Great Lake Restoration Initiative, which Trump wants to cut entirely.