* As I’ve said before, the high point in Illinois government was around Fiscal Year 2001. After that, it’s been all downhill due to two recessions (post 9/11 and the international financial collapse) and vastly increased pension payments. Here’s Ted Cox at One Illinois..
“Protecting the Illinois EPA’s Health, so That It Can Protect Ours” was written by Mark Templeton, heading a team from the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, as well as former IEPA and U.S. EPA staffers Mary Gade, Doug Scott, and Bharat Mathur — all of whom took part in a media conference call Tuesday.
Templeton said the report stemmed from “mutual shared concern about Illinois EPA” and its role “to protect public health and the environment.” They cited dwindling staff and resources at the agency dating back to 2003. According to Templeton, staffing last year was down to 639, almost half of the 1,265 EPA workers on staff in 2003. IEPA staffing and budget were cut every year going back to 2003, and stood at $382 million in the current budget for the 2020 fiscal year. down from $522 million in 2003. He pointed out that all came from a fee system that hadn’t been readjusted since 2003. Gade added that Illinois is the only state in the Great Lakes Region 5 area of the U.S. EPA that doesn’t fund its state EPA through general appropriations.
Gade, who headed IEPA throughout the ‘90s, added that statewide inspections had dropped from a couple thousand a year to a few hundred. Citing the “cumulative impact of years of declining IEPA budgets,” she said the “slow, gradual decline … needs to be reversed and reversed quickly.” She said failure to adequately test emissions of ethylene oxide at Sterigenics in Willowbrook as well as firms in Lake County were one thing that had attracted much attention, but perhaps the greater danger was the smaller, unobserved “accumulating” problems in air and water statewide “that isn’t as clean as it needs to be.”
The report also cited that IEPA referrals to the Office of the Attorney General had declined from 212 under Gov. Pat Quinn in 2014 to just 78 under Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2016 before rebounding a little to 116 in 2017.
According to Mathur, there are now just four engineers in IEPA’s Chicago office, where previously there were more than a dozen, and the staffing situation was even more dire in central and southern Illinois.
The report is here.