By Michael Hawthorne
Years before President Donald Trump’s industry-backed appointees began rolling back enforcement of environmental laws, Illinois had begun shedding inspectors and slowing the policing of air and water pollution.
A pair of new reports document how funding for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency steadily declined during the past decade, dropping by more than 25% in inflation-adjusted dollars as the agency’s responsibilities expanded and became more complex.
Illinois also cut its environmental agency’s workforce by 38% during the same period — more than any other state.
Illinois ranks among the top 10 states for the amount of industrial air and water pollution released into the environment each year, according to federal records. Federal data also show that Illinoisans face some of the highest risks in the nation for cancer, lung disease and other health problems linked to toxic chemicals from industry smokestacks.
Yet inspections by state air pollution inspectors dropped 81% during the last decade, according to a report compiled by Gade, former Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott and the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago. “If you aren’t looking for violations you aren’t going to find any,” Gade said.
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