Apparently unconcerned that Illinois is one of the top 10 states for industrial air and water pollution in the country, Governor Rauner’s administration is failing to police and penalize industrial polluters. Put more bluntly, Rauner and his EPA are giving polluters a pass.
The Illinois EPA, unlike the US EPA, cannot penalize polluters on its own. It can investigate and negotiate informally with companies, but if a deal cannot be reached, it has to refer the matter to the Illinois attorney general, who can file a civil or criminal complaint. This is the Illinois EPA’s most powerful enforcement tool.
Unfortunately, this is where Rauner’s administration is failing the state. The Illinois EPA has cut back sharply on referring cases to the state’s attorney general. According to a Chicago Tribune analysis of enforcement data, Rauner’s EPA has averaged only 80 referrals a year to the attorney general, compared to 189 for Blagojevich and 144 for Quinn during similar time periods. The result is that, since Rauner became governor in 2015, Illinois has sought only $6.1 million in penalties from polluters-about one-third the amount demanded during the first three years under his two predecessors. (And the amounts sought were paltry, even under previous governors.)