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Illinois Sierra Club Director Sees Signs of IEPA Turnaround - But More Work Still Needed

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The director of Illinois' Sierra Club Chapter says the state's fiscal woes have disproportionately affected the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.

Jack Darin was reacting to a report released last week which says the agency sustained the nation's largest staffing cuts among environmental regulators nationwide over the past decade.

"We've seen as the state has suffered overall economically, the agency's budget has really gone down dramatically," he said.

The IEPA's budget has also shrunk by 25 percent. Darin says the state is no longer putting taxpayer dollars into the agency and is instead letting it sustain itself with pollution permit fees.

As the agency gets smaller, it has referred fewer cases to the attorney general for enforcement and is scaling back its air and water quality testing.

Darin thinks the Pritzker administration is committed to restaffing the depleted ranks of the state Environmental Protection Agency. He says Pritzker has already refilled several key roles at the IEPA. But he says it'll take more than just the governor to bring the agency back up to a more functional level.

"I think that they are trying to reinvigorate the agency and commit it to it's mission," he said. "These last few years were certainly difficult for the agency. But it's going to take a partnership with the General Assembly to do that turnaround," he said. 

Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said it's something the administration is working on. 

"The Governor believes the ILEPA plays an important role in this work and appreciates the bipartisan agreement of leaders from years past that we need to invest in critical government services to better serve the people of Illinois. The Pritzker administration is working with ILEPA to increase headcount and ensure they have the resources needed to carry out their important work," she said. 

IEPA has posted 161 jobs this year. 

Copyright 2021 WCBU. To see more, visit WCBU.

Tim Shelley is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.