In the past several months, the Trump Administration has targeted U.S. EPA for major regulatory reform, massive budget cuts and a roll-back of Obama era regulations. No Administration since the enactment of the landmark environmental statutes has gone as as far as the Trump Administration in attempting to change the landscape of environmental regulation.
After signing multiple executive orders and proposing a huge EPA budget cut, rumors are swirling as to what may be next. This creates a massive amount of regulatory uncertainty which is something businesses always say they hate. This uncertainty extends to what the size and structure of what U.S. EPA will look like under the Trump Administration, including which Regional Offices will remain if the budget cuts and staff layoffs are implemented.
Recently, one rumor causing significant uncertainty is whether EPA’s Region V Office, located in Chicago, will be eliminated. Region V covers Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana and Minnesota.
Both Ohio Senators along with ten others in the Great Lakes congressional delegation wrote to EPA Administrator Pruitt strongly opposing closing of the Region V Office. This from the Plain Dealer Article discussing the letter:
Recent reports that the U.S. EPA’s Region 5 office, which is based in Chicago and includes Ohio among other Great Lake states, will be shut down has alarmed members of Ohio’s Congressional delegation and other representatives of the five states of the Great Lakes region.
On Tuesday, Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, joined Senator Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and a coalition of Democratic senators and house members in delivering a letter to EPA Director Scott Pruitt expressing their concern over the proposal, and demanding he not relocate Region 5’s 1,500 employees to the Region 7 office in Lenexa, Kansas.
"Closing EPA’s Region 5 office would have a devastating effect on those who call Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota and Ohio home," the letter reads. "Therefore, we urge you to protect the environmental health and well-being of our states by keeping Region 5 intact and fully supporting its critical mission."
The focus of the letter is largely on consequences to public health and the environment, including the Great Lakes. However, it is also worth noting the negative economic impacts elimination of the Regional Office would have on a region President Trump has stated he wants to help.
While delegated State EPAs handle most of the permitting for new factories or plant expansions, EPA plays a critical role in reviewing draft permits. Until such permits are issued construction is limited and the new operations cannot commence. Region V staff also address a myriad of issues that directly impact economic growth. Without adequate staff permitting and decision making will slow.
The Midwest still has significant manufacturing. President Trumps says he wants to keep or bring back U.S. manufacturing jobs. Having adequate personnel to process permits and address other regulatory issues that impact economic development are critical to that effort.
Let’s hope this is just another rumor. However, these types of rumors are not helpful due to the uncertainty they create. For example, if a business is currently thinking of expanding or locating in the Midwest, the inability to secure timely permits or address other regulatory decisions that impact economic growth could cause businesses to rethink locating in the region.