By Kristen Thometz
In 2003, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency had 1,265 employees working as engineers, chemists, biologists, attorneys and support staff. By 2018, that number had fallen to 639, according to a new report.
“The Illinois EPA has an incredibly important job to protect the public health and environment in the state, and that job has gotten a lot more difficult in past decades,” said Mark Templeton, a co-author of the report and director of University of Chicago Law School’s Abrams Environmental Law Clinic. “The problem is the resources IEPA has to fulfill that critical mission have fallen or not kept pace with the increase of the challenges facing the agency.”
Authored by Abrams Environmental Law Clinic staff, along with former IEPA directors, the report, “Protecting Illinois EPA’s Health, so that It Can Protect Ours,” documents 15 years of reductions in staff and budget cuts at the state agency. The report also details a decline in air pollution inspections, water quality monitoring and enforcement against environmental violators.
“I see this report as both a wake-up call and call to action. It’s an urgent request of Gov. Pritzker and the Illinois General Assembly to take notice and to take action now,” said report co-author Mary Gade, who served as director of the IEPA from 1991 to 1999. “The slow gradual decline over the last 15 years of resources and staffing at the agency needs to be reversed and reversed quickly.”
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