September 18, 2008

Obama Proposes $5 Billion Fund for Great Lakes

By The Associated Press

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) - Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is calling for a $5 billion trust fund for Great Lakes cleanup and restoration as he focuses on states critical to winning the White House.The fund, to be phased in over 10 years, would be the centerpiece of a plan that also calls for a coordinator to oversee Greats Lakes programs and would step up the fight against invasive species.Obama's campaign announced the plan in a telephone conference call featuring Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow, of Michigan, and Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, and Gov. Jim Doyl,e of Wisconsin, chairman of the Council of Great Lakes Governors.They said the Democratic nominee had sponsored legislation supporting Great Lakes cleanup and was more familiar with the issues than his Republican opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain."What we have seen from Sen. McCain is what we have seen from President Bush - a few nice comments during the presidential election ... and nothing to back it up," Doyle said.McCain spokeswoman Sarah Lenti said: "The Obama solution like always, throws taxpayers' money at the problem - sometimes money that has not even been requested - but he has no record or experience at solving problems by going across party lines."Obama's trust fund would be paid for by rolling back tax breaks for oil companies, his campaign said. It would support projects such as sewage system repairs, cleanup of sediments contaminated by toxic chemicals, and restoration of wetlands and wildlife habitat.The Great Lakes coordinator, based in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, would help develop a priority list from a host of federal, state and local initiatives.Obama also pledged to reduce toxic pollution in the lakes, which make up nearly one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water. Another priority would be strengthening federal standards against mercury, a leading Great Lakes contaminant.

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