Illinois EPA and Attorney General's Office Clash Over EE Cash

Oct 13, 2007 Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. Illinois' environmental protection agency and the state's attorney general have worked together on hundreds of cases to crack down on polluters.

But that cooperation may be coming to a screeching halt.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency accuses Attorney General Lisa Madigan of unfairly changing how about $4 million in settlements and fines are allocated.

Madigan wants all of that money to help her office cover legal costs of pursuing polluters, IEPA spokeswoman Jill Watson told The Associated Press on Saturday. That would appear to be a change from earlier practices that made much of the money available for environmental education and grant programs.

The IEPA accuses Madigan of trying to offset $2.5 million in budget cuts ordered by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. And agency officials say the new split is "more in the self-interest of the attorney general than in the interest of the Illinois EPA."

"Until this issue is appropriately resolved, the Illinois EPA will cease referring matters to your office for enforcement," IEPA chief legal council, Robert Messina, wrote in a Sept. 27 letter to Madigan's office, according to a report in weekend editions of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Ann Spillane, Madigan's chief of staff, takes issue with the IEPA account, saying the attorney general's office has proposed a 50-50 split of funds.

"The response to our proposal is completely unsupported legally and is a ridiculous overreaction," she said in a telephone interview on Saturday.

Spillane added that no final decision has been made and that Madigan's office continues to talk to IEPA officials to resolve the matter.

But she blasted the agency for saying they will no longer send cases Madigan's way.

"That's a dereliction of their duty to the people of Illinois," she said.