EPA's closure of Grosse Ile office dismays Democratic lawmakers

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

The Environmental Protection Agency's decision to close its Grosse Ile location to save $500,000 is being lambasted by Democratic legislators as a foolish move that undermines environmental vigilance in Michigan.

The federal agency's Michigan-based emergency response staff will be moving from Grosse Ile to new, state-of-the-art office space in Ann Arbor, EPA officials said. The move began officially Thursday "and the 20 EPA employees are expected to start working from their new location on Monday," an EPA statement confirmed.

Long-running research projects credited with pivotal discoveries about the harm that pesticides, air pollution and other hazards pose to children are in jeopardy or shutting down because the Environmental Protection Agency will not commit to their continued funding, researchers say.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said shutting down the EPA's Grosse Ile office is "a problem."

"Anything that's taking away EPA focus for us in Michigan and the partnerships that we need with the EPA" is not good for the state," Stabenow said. "The EPA is very involved with all the projects in Michigan that we're talking about that we've made progress on. We don't need somebody in Chicago or Washington, D.C. We need somebody on the ground right here."

But EPA officials said keeping the office isn't feasible.

"Although the Grosse Ile facility once housed EPA’s Large Lakes Research Station and staff from NOAA and FWS, the building is now largely vacant and in need of costly renovations," EPA officials said. "Moving to Ann Arbor — to space shared with EPA’s National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory — will save the agency more than $500,000 per year.”

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters said he's "extremely disappointed" by the EPA's move.

"You look around here with this magnificent body of fresh water that is unparalleled anywhere in the world and to think that you would close an office that's charged with keeping it clean makes no sense to me," Peters said. "But it is kind of consistent with what we've seen from the Trump administration. They basically have tried to handcuff the EPA from doing the work that they need to do."

The move will help the EPA, officials said, complete a thorough indoor air quality assessment of the new space. The duties that were performed in the Grosse Ile office will continue.

"EPA is committed to supporting all the communities covered by this field office and does not anticipate any impact on the on-scene coordinators’ mobilization capability or response times," officials said.

The move follows a November 2015 decision by EPA’s Office of Research and Development during the Obama administration to vacate the property, officials said.

Since the 1970s, EPA had operated out of what was the Grosse Ile Naval Air Station.

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, is pushing for the Democratic-led House to approve language in an Interior Department appropriations bill that would prevent the EPA from closing Grosse Ile station. But it would face an uphill climb in the Republican-controlled Senate.  


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