Debra Shore to lead six-state EPA region from Chicago

The Evanston politician will head one of the biggest federal environmental enforcement offices in the country.

SHARE Debra Shore to lead six-state EPA region from Chicago
The EPA officially announced Evanston politician Debra Shore as the head of the six-state Midwest regional office in Chicago.

The EPA officially announced Evanston politician Debra Shore as the head of the six-state Midwest regional office in Chicago.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Evanston politician Debra Shore will lead one of the biggest Environmental Protection Agency offices in the U.S. as top administrator of the six-state regional headquarters in Chicago, the agency said Tuesday.

The White House appointment follows the Chicago Sun-Times report last week that Shore, 69, will oversee the federal government’s protection of water, air and land against polluters in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. An elected commissioner with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation Water District since 2006, Shore will have to resign that position.

Shore will lead an agency involved in high-profile environmental justice controversies, including the plan to locate a car-shredding operation on the already polluted Southeast Side. In recent weeks, discharges of iron and oil from the U.S. Steel plant in Northwest Indiana highlighted industrial risks to water quality and the threat to Lake Michigan, a source of drinking water for tens of millions in Chicago, its suburbs and Indiana.

Fighting climate change also is atop President Joe Biden’s priorities for the environmental agency. Shore had backing from Sen. Dick Durbin and the appointment was announced by Biden’s EPA Administrator Michael Regan, who earlier this year jumped into Chicago environmental justice causes.

“I am deeply honored to be asked to join you in seeking to address climate change, to stand with you in restoring the agency’s foundational commitment to environmental justice and to work with you to implement President Biden’s and Administrator Regan’s bold plans,” Shore said in a statement emailed to regional EPA employees Tuesday.

Shore was in a two-person race for the Chicago job against Micah Ragland, a former official with President Barack Obama’s EPA. Ragland was favored by the union representing scientists, engineers, lawyers and other agency staff in the region as well as some Michigan Democratic members of Congress.

Shore had the support of Durbin and most of the Democratic members of Congress in Illinois. In addition to serving at MWRD, Shore sits on the board of the multistate advocacy organization Great Lakes Protection Fund.

Ragland was an Obama official on the ground working on community outreach in Flint, Michigan, during that city’s drinking water crisis and he emphasized his environmental justice credentials. In an interview last December with the Sun-Times, Shore said she was also committed to environmental justice and promised to build morale among employees who felt inhibited from doing their jobs under former President Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, an EPA spokeswoman said Shore was unavailable for an interview and declined to provide her start date.

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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