US funding for Great Lakes cleanup could be slashed by 97%, leaked document shows

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The U.S. government is considering slashing funding for Great Lakes restoration by 97 per cent next year — from US$300 million to $10 million annually, a leaked document shows.

The proposed budget plan for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), obtained by the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, reveals how the EPA’s total budget would be cut by a quarter.

READ MORE: Donald Trump’s administration orders EPA to pull climate change page off website

The budget measures would cut funding for algae bloom reduction and other water pollution problems in the lakes, The Oregonian reports.

“The scale at which these cuts are being discussed would be devastating,” Jordan Lubetkin, spokesperson for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition told the Detroit Free Press.

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The EPA’s final budget is expected to be officially released later this month.

The Great Lakes contain roughly 20 per cent of the Earth’s fresh surface water. The lakes provide drinking water for 10 million Canadians, according to Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“The Great Lakes are a vast shared resource containing a significant portion of the world’s fresh water,” the agency notes.

READ MORE: Asian carp: Why this invasive species is so dangerous to the Great Lakes

However, the Great Lakes ecosystem is “threatened.” Ongoing biological, physical and chemical stresses along with invasive species and the impacts of climate change leave the vital water source at great risk.

U.S. President Donald Trump tapped former Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. Pruitt has been described as a fossil fuel industry booster and outspoken critic of what he derides as the EPA’s “activist agenda.”

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“It is the most damning thing that I see with respect to our ability to grow as a country,” Priutt said last year regarding regulations surrounding fossil fuels.

Pruitt has long doubted climate change, calling the debate “far from settled.”

Partnerships are in place to protect the massive lakes straddling the Canada-U.S. border. The 2012 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and the U.S. established the countries’ commitment to working together to improve the health of the lakes.

“This Agreement will remain in force until terminated by a Party through written notification delivered to the other Party through diplomatic channels,” the agreement states.

— With a file from the Associated Press

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