Veteran water commissioner will have oversight of Great Lakes restoration, inherits a drinking water crisis in Benton Harbor
U.S. EPA Administrator Michael Regan named Chicago’s Debra Shore to lead the six-state Great Lakes region office in Chicago this week.
Shore, 69, is a current commissioner with the Chicago’s Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and has served in that elected position since 2006. She was selected over the other known candidate, Micah Ragland, a former Obama EPA executive who is in the private sector.
Shore had the backing of Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the number two ranking senate Democrat and other Illinois Democratic leaders. Ragland was endorsed by the union representing EPA employees according to a Chicago Sun Times report.
Shore is best known for her work to transform the sprawling water district from an agency that was bound by bureaucracy and intransigence on the environment, to one that embraced and promoted progressive conservation values.
At Region 5, as the Great Lakes office is known, Shore inherits a short-staffed office whose morale sank to the depths during the Trump administration.
The Great Lakes National Program Office that oversees the multi-billion dollar Great Lakes restoration program will report to her. While the restoration program has had success, it has been slow to clean up the legacy toxic sites that dot the region and were put on an Area Concern list in 1987. The program has also invested over $100 million since 2010 to combat toxic algae blooms in Lake Erie with few results.
Shore also inherits a drinking water crisis in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Citizens and activists have formally petitioned the U.S. EPA to use its emergency authority to intervene as the state of Michigan has not properly addressed the lead in drinking water issues.
Region 5 is the same office that had oversight of Michigan during the Flint water crisis. The administrator at the time resigned under pressure and the agency was later criticized for management failings on Flint by its inspector general.
Shore’s appointment does not require Senate confirmation.
Chicago-based environmental journalist