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Great Lakes Restoration funds slashed in House bill

Great Lakes from space
Great Lakes from space

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — A subcommittee in the U.S. House is proposing the steepest cut in spending on a far-reaching Great Lakes environmental cleanup program since it was established in 2009. The panel approved a bill yesterday that would spend just $60 million on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, nearly 80 percent less than the $285 million in this year's budget.

The vote came from the interior and environment subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. The panel establishes federal spending limits and it voted on 2014 appropriations for departments including the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper reports the current $285 million spending level is already below the amount envisioned by White House and congressional leaders for the multi-year restoration program.

The bill cuts more than 80 percent of a revolving state loan fund used to help communities upgrade old sewer systems, going from $1.03 billion today to $250 million for fiscal year 2014.

Also the bill would give the Environmental Protection Agency a 34 percent cut over the currently enacted level.

The National Endowments for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would be cut by nearly 49 percent.

The bill also contains special provisions for certain industries. One provision would alter rules for mining companies that would ensure the availability of clean up funds.