Editorial: Add emissions crisis to effects of state's budget failure

  • The federal EPA is questioning its state counterpart about giving drivers a pass on emissions testing.

    The federal EPA is questioning its state counterpart about giving drivers a pass on emissions testing. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted3/3/2016 5:48 PM

Secretary of State Jesse White's decision that Illinois is too broke to mail reminders telling people when their vehicle registration is expiring caused a flap, but it falls into the annoyance category. We can figure out how to remind ourselves.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency decision to save money by no longer telling people they're due for vehicle emissions tests causes more head-scratching, because the schedule of who's due is more complicated. In the end, we probably can deal with it.


But now comes the real fallout of those decisions, and it threatens to undo years of progress and make for an unpleasant summer in the Chicago area. The two agencies essentially have stopped enforcing vehicle emissions testing, leading experts to warn of worsening pollution and more days with "unhealthy" air quality ratings. That's a detriment to people with asthma and other breathing problems, particularly when the weather gets warm.

The IEPA, whose Director Lisa Bonnett has been at the helm for three years, insists emissions testing requirements still are in effect even though no one's going to make drivers comply. White's office says it can't deal with the extra work of demanding emissions tests before renewing vehicle registrations.

Essentially, testing has become voluntary. And we bet no one with a polluting vehicle will volunteer.

This is only one of the far-reaching effects of the dismantling of state government state leaders unable to reach agreement on a spending plan, and it might not even be the most hurtful. Students, low-income residents, people with disabilities, small businesses that do work for the state and others already are suffering because elected leaders were supposed to pass a budget to go into effect nine months ago to keep government running, and they never did.

But everyone knows that. And if those failures didn't move our elected leaders to act, what can you do now? Mail them your empty inhalers?

Luckily, the U.S. EPA took notice of Illinois' decision and fired off a letter to its state counterpart asking, among other things, on whose authority the IEPA is changing a federally approved program to cut emissions, how it will compensate for the added pollution and when things will get back to normal.

That last one's a very good question, and not just for the agencies dealing with this particular crisis. We think the governor and legislative leaders should answer it to all of Illinois. When will you get things back to normal?

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