Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel used an unsubstantiated rumor that the EPA is scuttling an office to trash climate skeptics in the Trump administration Saturday.
“[W]e cannot turn our back on the Great Lakes and allow the Trump administration to muffle the EPA,” the Chicago Democrat said in a press statement addressing rumors the EPA plans to shut down a nearby office. Emanuel served as former President Barack Obama’s chief of staff. “Whether you believe in modern science and thus believe in climate change or not, the fact is the EPA exists to protect human health and the environment,” he added, suggesting that the move to nix the office is due in part to Trump’s supposedly anti-science position on global warming.
The statement is based on unconfirmed reports that President Trump is planning on closing the Chicago-based EPA Region 5 office and consolidating it with Region 7 in Kansas. Chicago Sun Times’ cited unnamed city sources as the basis of their report.
Region 5 – which encompasses parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio and employ nearly 1,500 federal workers – has batted back allegations that senior officials in 2015 largely ignored complaints by 16 women, mostly employees, accusing one agency official of sexual harassment. The employee got promoted despite the complaints. And its former regional administrator, Susan Hedman, was forced resign over her handling of last year’s Flint water crisis.
EPA is more concerned about addressing Chicago’s environmental waste problems than announcing any region closures, an agency spokesman told reporters Monday.
“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,” the spokesman said.
Emanuel’s office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Rumors of Region 5’s closing come after Flint citizens filed a lawsuit in January claiming the EPA failed to take the proper steps to ensure that state and local authorities were addressing the crisis. The defendants were seeking a civil action lawsuit for $722 million in damages. Michigan officials switched the small Eastern Michigan city’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River in a bid to save money. But the state applied the wrong regulations and standards for drinking water, which ultimately resulted in corroded pipes.
Reports last year indicate that much of the crisis could’ve been avoided if the applicable agency acted more quickly to enforce regulations governing Michigan’s water supply.
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