President Trump is expected to sign another executive order that could impact environmental quality in the Great Lakes region.
U.S. EPA administrator Scott Pruitt told ABC News on Sunday that Trump would sign an executive order to begin the process of dismantling the Clean Power Plan. The plan is former President Barack Obama’s signature initiative to combat climate change.
This comes on the heels of similar action taken by Trump to block Obama’s Waters of the United States rule that defined which bodies of water could be regulated under the Clean Water Act.
Trump has also proposed eliminating all funding for Great Lakes restoration from his budget.
The Clean Power Plan is designed to reduce carbon emissions including those by coal-fired power plants which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
Pruitt told ABC that the Obama administration had a “very anti-fossil fuel strategy that hurt coal.”
The Clean Power Plan would have likely “hastened the shutdown of older polluting coal-fired plants and that would have benefitted the Great Lakes,” Nick Schroeck tells Great Lakes Now.
Schroeck is a professor of environmental law at Wayne State University in Detroit.
The benefits of the Clean Power Plan for the lakes include “improved water quality and increased quantity as well as lessening the threat of mercury emissions,” says Schroeck.
Schroeck pointed to a recent Detroit Free Press story that said after years of decline, mercury levels in some areas of the region are increasing.
Coal-fired power plants are a leading contributor to mercury emissions.
Mercury is a powerful neuro-toxin that especially threatens women of child-bearing age and children. Most Great Lakes states have fish consumption advisories for mercury according to the EPA.
Some experts believe that in the long run, rollback of regulations will have a greater negative impact on the Great Lakes than Trump’s proposed elimination of $300 million annually for Great Lakes restoration.
Referring to budget cuts, Noah Hall told Great Lakes Now that “government spending is neither a perfect proxy nor a simple substitute for long-term policies based on our shared values of Great Lakes stewardship.”
“We need strong laws and dedicated enforcement of those laws to ensure the health of the Great Lakes,” Hall said.
Hall specializes in environmental and water law at Wayne State and worked on crafting the Great Lakes Compact.
Attorneys general in 24 states have sued alleging the EPA does not have the authority to administer the Clean Power Plan. The states suing include the Great Lakes states of Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.
In a statement released to Great Lakes Now, Andrea Bitely in Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office said “until the attorney general has read the president’s order it would be inappropriate to comment.”