Bloomberg: Debra Shore, who has served for more than a decade as an elected Chicago water official, will become the next head of the EPA Midwest regional office, according to the union that represents many agency employees.

Shore will take the helm of one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s biggest regions, Region 5, which spans Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin, and 35 tribes. High on the region’s list of priorities are Great Lakes protection, environmental justice concerns, and power plant emissions.

Regional environmental leaders described Shore as knowledgeable and deeply committed to environmental protection. But an immediate issue she’ll face will be leading an office that endured resource reductions during the Trump administration, Howard Learner, the Environmental Law & Policy Center’s president and executive director, said in an interview.

“Her biggest challenge will be rebuilding the staff and capacity at Region 5, which was severely weakened, quite deliberately, by the Trump administration. It lost a lot of experienced, knowledgeable staff in all areas, especially enforcement,” Learner said.

Not Just a ‘Policy Wonk’

Cameron Davis coordinated the Obama administration’s interdepartmental Great Lakes restoration effort and now serves alongside Shore as a commissioner at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. Her environmental policy aptitude is supplemented by a desire to listen to others and to get in the field, Davis said.

“She’s been out volunteering in the forest preserves by taking out invasive species and planting native species. She has a history of getting her hands dirty and not just being a policy wonk,” said Davis.

Region 5 oversees the agency’s efforts to protect the Great Lakes, the drinking source for 42 million U.S. and Canadian residents, and those who know Shore said that expertise will be particularly valuable to the new regional administrator. Shore was first elected to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago in 2006 and won re-election to six-year terms in 2012 and 2018.

Nicole Cantello, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 704, applauded Shore’s selection.

“We are hopeful that a new day is dawning at EPA,” Cantello said. The union had been endorsing Micah Ragland, a former high-ranking agency official, for the post.

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