Issued the following announcement on Jan. 22.
U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL-3) is leading an effort with Reps. Mike Quigley (IL-5), Gwen Moore (WI-4), Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8), Robin Kelly (IL-2), Bill Foster (IL-11), Brad Schneider (IL-10) and Debbie Dingell (MI-12) to press new Environmental Protection Agency Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede on how he will address his agency’s understaffing and lack of enforcement actions around the Great Lakes states.
The members, in a letter delivered to Thiede today, asked how he would improve upon the policies set forth by his predecessor, Cathy Stepp, whose tenure overseeing EPA’s Region 5 office included a dramatic reduction of both inspections (3,599 in 2015 compared to 840 in 2019) and staff (1,100 in 2015 down to 941 in 2019). The Region 5 office serves Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, along with 35 tribes, and is responsible for overseeing pollution prevention, clean air maintenance, hazardous waste management, and clean water programs.
“We are concerned the inadequate staffing level is jeopardizing the office’s ability to identify and stop new environmental risks,” the members wrote. “Actions like these clearly have potential to negatively impact the breathability of the air and the quality of the water for our constituents and require a more careful review moving forward.”
The members have asked Thiede, who previously served as Stepp’s chief of staff, to respond by February 14 with information about his plan to address Region 5’s understaffing and lack of enforcement actions.
"The Great Lakes are among our nation’s most vital environmental and economic resources, providing drinking water for tens of millions of Americans," said Lipinski. "We need an EPA Region 5 chief who will give this important role the dedication it demands and take decisive action to step up efforts and restore public confidence. The Environmental Protection Agency must live up to its name.”
Full text of the letter is available here.