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Congresswoman Debbie Dingell

Representing the 12th District of Michigan

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Dingell Challenges Planned Closure of EPA Research Station on Grosse Ile

July 27, 2018
Press Release

GROSSE ILE, MI – Today, Congresswomen Debbie Dingell (MI-12) stood up for Michigan by calling on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide answers on its decision to close and relocate the Large Lakes Research Station on Grosse Ile.

In a letter to the agency, Dingell highlighted the important emergency response operations, investigation services, and regional coordination that the Station provides to safeguards public health and the environment in the Great Lakes region.

“The location on Grosse Ile has had a long history and evolving mission in service to the country,” said Dingell. “Closing it will weaken EPA’s ability to protect public health and the environment in the surrounding region. State and local governments, stakeholders, and communities are growing more concerned each day and fear the loss of this station will affect their livelihoods, jobs, and quality of life communities.”

The Large Lakes Research Station is the base of operations for EPA first responders in the region. Workers at the Station lead cleanup efforts at hazardous waste sites and are on call to respond to major environmental events, for instance the Marathon refinery fire, Enbridge Line 6 rupture, McLouth Superfund sites, investigating former Detroit lead smelters, and the Flint drinking water crisis. In addition, the Station houses the Criminal Investigation Division that investigates such crimes as illegal storage and disposal of hazardous waste, improper removal of asbestos, illegal export of electronic waste, public corruption, and EPA program fraud. It also houses the Great Lakes National Program Office, which, together with federal, state, tribal, local, and industry partners, works to restore and maintain the Great Lakes Ecosystem.

You can read a copy of the letter here or below.

 

Dear Acting Administrator Wheeler:

 

This letter is in regard to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) planned closure of the Large Lakes Research Station in Grosse Ile, Michigan.  Its closure could be detrimental to the region, workforce, and the EPA’s ability to carry out its core mission to protect human health and the environment.  As we approach fiscal year (FY) 2019, more clarity on the EPA’s decision is needed and a full status report of the timing of this closure is requested.

 

The location on Grosse Ile has had a long history and evolving mission in service to the country.  Starting in the 1920s, it served as Naval Air Station Grosse Ile and then transitioned in the 1960s to a laboratory for the Public Health Service before EPA took it over in the 1970s as a center for addressing pollutants and polluting activities on freshwater ecological systems.

 

Today, the Large Lakes Research Station is the base of operations for EPA first responders in the region.  These hardworking men and women lead cleanup efforts at hazardous waste sites and are on call to respond to major environmental events, for instance the Marathon refinery fire, Enbridge Line 6 rupture, McLouth Superfund sites, investigating former Detroit lead smelters, and the Flint drinking water crisis.  In addition, the Station houses the Criminal Investigation Division that investigates such crimes as illegal storage and disposal of hazardous waste, improper removal of asbestos, illegal export of electronic waste, public corruption, and EPA program fraud.  It also houses the Great Lakes National Program Office, which, together with federal, state, tribal, local, and industry partners, works to restore and maintain the Great Lakes Ecosystem.

 

It is my understanding the station was expected to close originally in August 2018 and consolidated with the EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory in Ann Arbor.  This move has been delayed many times and now has been postponed until March 2019.  Constituents, stakeholders, and local governments in my district are growing more concern each day and fear the loss of this station will not only affect their livelihoods, communities, and jobs, but it will weaken the EPA’s ability to protect public health and the environment in the surrounding region.  Attached to this letter are two resolutions supporting the EPA’s On-Scene Coordinators Office on Grosse Ile, for your reference and consideration.

 

In addition, and on behalf of my constituents, please answer the following questions regarding the EPA’s decision to close and relocate the Large Lakes Research Station:

 

  1. What evaluation was used to determine the closure for Large Lakes Research Station?

 

  1. What assistance is being provided to affected employees?

 

  1. Many are concerned that the closure and move to Ann Arbor will result in a significant delay for emergency responders.  Has EPA studied how this move and consolidation will impact emergency response times for environmental emergencies across the region?

 

  1. In the past, EPA policy had allowed emergency responders at the Large Lakes Research Station to take their emergency vehicles home when on call to improve response times.  Has EPA studied, or would EPA consider reinstating this policy moving forward?

 

  1. As you know, in the FY18 Omnibus bill’s explanatory statement, it made clear the “Committees do not expect the Agency [EPA] to consolidate or close any regional offices in fiscal year 2018,” and “does not include any of the requested funds for workforce reshaping.”[1]  Additionally, in testimony before the House Appropriations Committee on April 26, 2018, former EPA Administrator Pruitt stated that he was revisiting all planned office closures and would reconsider whether closure was indeed necessary or beneficial.[2]  As the new acting administrator, are you committed to carrying out this same commitment to review all plans to close EPA regional offices?  And should you deem that any EPA offices need to be closed in FY2019 or beyond, will you submit a programing request to Congress first as Administrator Pruitt committed to doing early this year?

 

  1. Three years ago, the EPA issued its “Conclusion of the EPA Lab Study: EPA Synthesis of Findings and Recommended Actions.”  The presentation showed the EPA took in outside expert advice; balanced the EPA’s research, science, and technical support needs; and addressed Executive guidance and GAO recommendations to improve cost-effectiveness and reduce its footprint.  The EPA determined the optimal scenario included keeping the Grosse Ile office as a field station.  This assessment was a 30-year life‐cycle review of Agency assets, what changed?  Has there been another similar comprehensive review?

 

 

Thank you in advance for considering this important request that matters to many of my constituents.  Any additional information you can provide me on the status of this office moving forward would be appreciated.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

DEBBIE DINGELL

Member of Congress

 

 

 

 

[1] H.R.1625 Vehicle for Consolidated Appropriations Act 2018, DIVISION G, Explanatory Statement, p. 50; https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20180319/DIV%20G%20INTERIOR%20SOM%20FY18%20OMNI.OCR.pdf

[2] Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, FY 2019 Budget Hearing - Environmental Protection Agency, April 26, 2018; https://appropriations.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=395262