Despite the fact that states nationwide are slashing funds for environmental programs, Illinois is “not flush by any stretch,” yet it’s not feeling the same crunch as others when it comes to the environment.
Although Illinois has a budget deficit of about $13 billion, it is not in as bad shape as some other states, but it has definitely felt the sting of hard economic times. Thankfully, the Illinois EPA’s budget will be the same in 2010 and 2011 as it was for 2009, $300 million. At least that’s what the agency’s director, Doug Scott, told me.
Yet the agency will definitely still feel the pinch this year, as it won’t be receiving any general funds, which are monies from sales and income tax. It now has to rely solely on federal funds and money from fees, air and water permits and fines. The number of EPA employees is also down, Scott said.
Which is unfortunate to me, because the Illinois EPA performs so many functions in the state. It is up to the agency not only to make new rules/regulations important to the environment and public health, but it is also a much-needed watchdog. Heck, if it wasn’t for the EPA’s discovery, the folks in Crestwood, Illinois, might still be drinking chemically-tainted water, as it was during a routine inspection that the EPA that discovered the town was diluting its water with well-water, leading to lawsuits, and some very pissed-off residents.
North Dakota and Montana are the only two states starting off the year with a surplus supposedly, and I’d like to know what they’re doing right when other states are shutting down roadside rest areas, cutting education funding, and requiring employee furloughs.
Because I’m told that environmental issues are considered luxury political issues, that they're not really seen as bread and butter, life and death political issues. Funny, but environmental issues, such as tainted drinking water, can be life or death as far as I’m concerned.
Just ask the people in Crestwood , who have lost loved ones due to unusually high levels of carcinogens, or cancer causing chemicals, in the water they drank for years.