It’s not often that business and environmental groups are supporting the same legislation. Those strange bedfellows came together on newly signed legislation which will create a state-run process for air permits, rather than having companies go through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. State Sen. Sue Rezin (R-Morris) says there can be a long wait for federal approval for something like a chemical facility or a refinery. “Sometimes up to…six or seven years,” Rezin said. “By implementing a state program, we put a process in place that a company will have an answer within 17 months.”
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This doesn’t mean the state’s air pollution standards will change. The original bill did contain a provision which would have prevented the state from adopting regulations above federal restrictions, but that language was eliminated by later amendments. “If the federal government increased emissions standards, we would increasing them at the state level, too, or if the Illinois legislature decided we had a special problem we needed to address and we need to increase our standards for any type of pollutant, we could do that as well,” said Jennifer Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council. The rules for the permitting process will be established by the Illinois Pollution Control Board.