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State EPA suffering from lack of staff

ILLINOIS (WCIA) -- Environmentalists say shrinking staff at the state's EPA is a red flag. A new report shows, over the last decade, the agency's staff and inspections have been slashed to a fraction.

It's a problem the EPA is defending. A spokesperson blames the hundreds of empty jobs on retirements or people leaving. They say no one's been laid off.

There are 107 job postings, but a report from the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting shows it has a bigger hole to fill. Since 2002, it's lost more than 600 full-time positions; nearly 200 just since Governor Bruce Rauner took office.

The result is the agency is only handling a third of the pollution offenses it did three years ago. Environmentalists say that's unacceptable.

The EPA is funded by the federal government, but testifies before state lawmakers each year explaining things like staffing levels.

Members from the state's Environmental Council say it's a critical issue and a circular one. Smaller staff mean fewer citations which isn't a health hazard, but a financial one.

If the trend continues, they fear people will pay the price. One issue coming to a head at the EPA emissions standards, right now gas and coal company, Dynegy, which was recently bought by larger company, Vistra, out of Texas, is battling environmentalists over emission changes.

The agency and Vistra say their proposal will strengthen environmental projections with stricter standards. But, others say the changes will allow for more pollution and puts public health at risk.

The board held its third public hearing Monday. A decision will likely be made by June.  

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