Midwestern Republicans who have campaigned to cut budgets and cheered Trump’s campaign promises to shrink the federal bureaucracy have done a complete about-face when it comes to a project crucial to their lives, state economies, and the environment – funding to continue the clean-up of the Great Lakes.
Among the parade of Republican hypocrites is Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who has opposed expansion of renewable energy sources, supports groups that say climate change caused by human actions is a hoax and sued the EPA over President Obama’s rules to restrict carbon emissions, but now says Trump should restore about $300 million in annual funding to clean up the Great Lakes.
Walker told the Associated Press that he plans to lobby the Trump administration and Congress to save the program that was begun under President George W. Bush and continued by President Obama.
“I think it makes sense for us to continue to make prudent investments in protecting and improving the Great Lakes,” Walker told the Associated Press.
Wisconsin’s governor, who also signed a pledge with the Koch brothers not to fund the expansion of other environmental regulations, is not alone. Other Republicans have joined in the plea to save the Great Lakes cleanup.
Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan, who was criticized for his slow reaction to the lead poison in Flynt’s water, said Great Lakes funding is “very important to Michiganders,” his spokesperson Anna Heaton told the AP, “therefore we know there is strong support among Michigan’s congressional delegation and we will work with them to preserve the funding.”
U.S. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who voted against the creation of an endowment to protect oceans, coasts and the Great Lakes, and would not support an amendment that said humans cause climate change, is also in the chorus of Republicans seeking to save the federal funding for the Great Lakes clean up programs. “It protects both our environment and our economy,” says Portman.
Once again the Republicans who regularly vote against environmental projects and natural disaster cleanup funding when the problem is in other states or overseas, clamor to save a program that they know means jobs for their region.
The Great Lakes had become a mess that impacted eight adjacent states by the time environmental cleanup efforts began a decade ago. Since then there have been more than 3,000 projects put in place to try to restore the lakes to their previous cleanliness, including programs to deal with nutrient runoff that causes the growth of harmful algae, the rebuilding of wetlands where fish spawn and efforts to stop predatory Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes.
All of the programs require cost sharing with the federal funds by state, local, nonprofit or trial groups. However, without the federal funding, the entire program would collapse, predicts Todd Ambs, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.
That flys in the face of the Trump budget planners who want to drop the federal contribution to zero, having declared that they are returning “the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities.”
That attitude to zero out federal participation goes beyond the Great Lakes to include environmental work being on to clean up San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound, the Gulf of Mexico and elsewhere. However, many of those are areas that did not provide the kind of support Trump got during the election from Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan and other states surrounding the Great Lakes.
Now that the same politicians who have balked at supporting environmental programs are fighting for the one that hits home for them, it is unclear if Trump will respond or care about their pleas. Whether he does or not, the blatantly hypocritical calls for help in their neighborhood is another lesson in how quickly even the most conservative politicians can change their views when it is about their own pocketbook.