Reinvestment in the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency needs to be made urgently. This call is made by a new report released on Tuesday. Mark Templeton has written the “Protecting the Illinois EPA’s Health, so That It Can Protect Ours.” Mark has headed 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 them took part in a media conference call on Tuesday. Mark cited that the report has originated from “mutual shared concern about Illinois EPA” and its role “to protect public health and the environment.” They say that the agency has been lacking the staff and resources since 2003. Mark said that there were 1,265 EPA workers in 2003 but currently, only 639 staff remains.
IEPA has been deprived of finances every year since 2003 as it was allocated $522 million in 2003 but for the 2020 fiscal year, it has been given just $382 million. Mark says that the reason for the budget cut is due to a fee system that hasn’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 had headed the IEPA throughout the 90s. She says that due to the lack of resources statewide inspections had dropped from a couple thousand a year to a few hundred. Another drawback of the lack of resources is that IEPA referrals have declined remarkably from 212 in 2014 to 78 in 2016 but increased slightly to 116 in 2017.
Mark said that “As the federal government has been stepping back on enforcement and inspections, we at the state level have also been putting more and more requirements on IEPA.” He said that climate change has been ignored by the current Trump administration.