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Federal funds for Illinois threatened after state agency slow walked pollution control rules

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(The Center Square) – A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is calling out a state agency for slow walking rules in order to fast track things without input from stakeholders. The issue could lead to the potential loss of federal funds.

Last week, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules objected to the Illinois Pollution Control Board and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s rulemaking. JCAR reviews emergency and permanent rules crafted by state agencies. While they don’t approve rules, they can suspend them if they are found to not be in compliance with state statute.

“JCAR object to the pollution control board’s rulemakings titled permits and general provisions, alternative control strategies, and visible and particulate matter emissions for failure to consider the economic effects of the rulemaking upon those regulated and failure to consider less costly alternatives as required,” a JCAR resolution passed unanimously said. “U.S. EPA first indicated that Illinois startup, shutdown and malfunction provisions were inconsistent with the federal clean air act in 2015 but the current rulemaking was not released to the impacted industry representatives until November 2022.”

The rules impact power plants and refineries.

“The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency had more than enough time to address the situation and engage fully with commenters and their alternative proposals,” the resolution said. “By waiting to comply with the federal requirements until 2022 the agency created a situation that could only be remedied in time to meet the federal sanctions deadline by using the fast tracked process and prevented the consideration of less costly alternative proposals.”

If not remedied by a deadline of Aug. 7, Illinois EPA Deputy Director James Jennings said federal sanctions could apply.

“And then six months thereafter, there would be a tiered scale of highway funding issues,” Jennings said.

The agency aims to not run up against future deadlines.

“The next time that there is a rule like this, which there will be because of the nature of our federally implemented programs, that we have a structure that doesn’t lend itself to the type of concerns that brought us here last month,” Jennings said.

The agencies are to report back to JCAR next month during their meeting in Springfield.

State Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, said there’s a persistent problem that comes before JCAR time and again and from different state agencies.

“That there are rules, we have deadlines and the entities that are affected have not had sufficient ability to work or at least make their positions known,” Rezin said.

JCAR was also critical of rules for day care operations brought by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and rules for taxpayer subsidies for undocumented migrants brought by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services.

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