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Administrator Wheeler Kicks Off Southwest Michigan Swing with Congressman Upton Discussing Great Lakes, Superfund, Clean Air

06/02/2020
Contact Information: 
Press@epa.gov

St. Joseph, Mich.   Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Andrew Wheeler began his Southwest Michigan swing highlighting clean air progress under President Trump in Grand Rapids, touring work at the Kalamazoo Superfund Site, and visiting the North Pier in St. Joseph with U.S. Congressman Fred Upton (MI-06).

“Michigan has proved to be an important partner to President Trump as we work together on achieving improved environment outcomes. Southwest Michigan is benefiting from cleaner air, a cleaner Lake Michigan, and major settlement to clean-up the Kalamazoo Superfund site,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “With environmental gains comes higher property values, improved water quality, and new economic opportunities for tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing. It’s exciting to see so much progress being made on the environment across the region.”

“I was honored to join Administrator Wheeler to highlight efforts across the board to clean up our environment and support our Great Lakes for generations to come. In our discussions today, Administrator Wheeler and I expressed a shared commitment to further protect the health and safety of our air, water, and all of our environment,” said U.S. Congressman Upton.

“Region 5 and its partners are delivering results in Southwest Michigan,” said Regional Administrator Kurt Thiede. “Residents, workers, businesses, students and visitors in these communities now find cleaner land, air and water, which are also crucial to the region’s economy.”

Administrator Wheeler highlighted that the Trump Administration has redesignated 21 nonattainment areas since 2017 in EPA Region 5, which is comprised of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Attainment redesignations mean cleaner air, improved health outcomes, and greater economic opportunities for cities and communities.

EPA is working closely with our state partners to help areas reach air quality attainment, reduce regulatory burdens, and breathe new life into their local economies. Berrien County, Michigan, a county located in the southwestern corner of the state and includes St. Joseph, is one of seven ozone redesignations currently underway in Region 5.

Administrator Wheeler noted that under President Trump, from 2017 to 2019, the combined emission of criteria pollutants and their precursors dropped 7 percent. Between 1970 and 2019, the combined emissions of criteria and precursor pollutants dropped by 77 percent, while the U.S. economy grew 285 percent.

In addition to Congressman Upton, Rick Baker, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce President & CEO, and John Walsh, Michigan Manufacturers Association President & CEO, delivered remarks.

“It was not by accident that Grand Rapids has been named ‘America’s Greenest City’ by Fast Company and America’s most sustainable mid-sized city by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” said Rick Baker, President & CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. “Our business community's early leadership and commitment to sustainable business practices has been a beacon for others. It is a key part of our business community's culture. We know responsible environmental practices make for good business. It is exciting to see the work of our members, and by leaders in industry across the country, making a difference now and for future generations.”

“We want to thank Administrator Wheeler for recognizing the success of manufacturers in reducing emissions and improving Michigan's air quality,” said John Walsh, President & CEO of the Michigan Manufacturers Association. “The perception significantly lags behind the reality of manufacturing's achievements in environmental stewardship. Our members are committed to a clean environment as well as a thriving economy and believe that these are intrinsically connected, not mutually exclusive goals.”

Following the air trends announcement, Administrator Wheeler and Congressman Upton toured the Allied Paper/Portage Creek/Kalamazoo River Superfund site. Initially listed on the National Priorities List in 1990, last year EPA, U.S. Department of Justice, the Kalamazoo River Natural Resource Trustee Council, and Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy announced a $245 million proposed consent decree that would require NCR Corp. to clean up and fund future response actions at a significant portion of the site.

This site was also successfully removed from the Administrator’s Emphasis List of Superfund Sites Targeted for Immediate, Intense Action in April 2020. After decades of working to cleanup this mega-site, EPA used the Administrator’s Emphasis List to bring needed attention to the site, specifically to negotiation activities. The focused attention concluded 1.5 years of negotiations that culminated in an agreement that addresses many cleanup elements of the site, and for the first time, requires the NCR Corporation to perform and finance cleanup work at the site.

During the tour they visited several sites along the Kalamazoo River near Otsego and viewed recently completed work, including new public access areas.

“This very significant settlement is a critical milestone in the cleanup of the Kalamazoo River. It is a great example of the acceleration and achievement this Administration’s leadership and commitment has brought to the Superfund program,” said Assistant Administrator for Land and Emergency Management Peter Wright.

Assistant Administrator Wright also discussed last months Brownfields announcement. In May, EPA announced the selection of 155 grants for communities and tribes totaling over $65 million in EPA brownfields funding through the agency’s Assessment, Revolving Loan Fund, and Cleanup Grant Programs. Assistant Administrator Wright specifically highlighted four of those grants for communities in western Michigan totaling $1.7 million
 

Administrator Wheeler and Congressman Upton finished the day in St. Joseph, Michigan on a boat tour of Lake Michigan with the U.S. Coast Guard highlighting progress to clean up and restore the Great Lakes.

The Trump Administration remains committed improving the health of the Great Lakes. EPA and the other federal agencies are using Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funds to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem. Actions over the last year include the release of the Great Lakes Action Plan 3 and the establishment of the first ever Trash Free Waters grants program for the Great Lakes. Last month, EPA announced over $9 million for projects to reduce excess nutrients in the Great Lakes, $6.4 million to enhance Great Lakes fisheries and an additional $20 million for work to address persistent challenges in the Great Lakes.

About the Administrator’s Emphasis List

The list is comprised of sites identified by Administrator Wheeler and EPA regional offices that will benefit from the Administrator’s immediate attention or action to move site cleanups forward.

The list serves as a mechanism to address site-specific issues that may cause delays in a site’s cleanup progress. EPA considers removing a site from the list once the milestone is achieved and the cleanup activities are back on track. Sites move on and off the list as needed, and removal from the Administrator’s Emphasis List does not change the site’s status on the National Priorities List. 

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