Choking on Blago Leftovers

His politics left us bad air, dirty water

By Steve Rhodes
|  Tuesday, Aug 25, 2009  |  Updated 9:33 AM CDT
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Still Sick Over Blago Policies

Getty Images / Joe Raedle

Blago's policies may have contributed to statewide illness.

Add this to the list of grievances against former governor Rod Blagojevich: He made you breathe dirty air and drink tainted water to satisfy his own political grudge.

A Chicago Tribune examination of the Illinois EPA has found that Blago's administration stopped sending cases to state attorney general Lisa Madigan out of spite.

"There were some issues between us and the attorney general," state EPA Director Doug Scott told the Trib.

Blago and his staff were upset Madigan had opened an investigation into allegations that the former governor had traded state board and commission seats for campaign contributions, according to the paper.

One might also surmise that Blagojevich didn't want Madigan to get credit for, um, protecting the public. So instead of sending cases to the state Attorney General for prosecution, which would be the proscribed process, the administration tried to informally negotiate settlements with known polluters on its own.

For instance, Blago's administration was able to wrangle an agreement from Midwest Generation -- which owns six coal-fired power power plants and is considered one of the top polluters in the Chicago area -- to clean up its generators or shut them down by the end of the decade.

"It's not like we haven't done anything," Scott told the Trib. "It's not like these guys are completely thumbing their noses at us."

Not completely. But mostly. The agreement came only after Madigan's staff documented thousands of violations at Midwest Generation's plants, and after federal regulators cited the company - which had close ties to one of Blagojevich's campaign aides -- as a dangerous polluter.

The spite theory also seems to explain why the feds had to step in on the Crestwood contamination case.  The Blagojevich administration had apparently tried to handle the cancer causing water situation in the suburban town quietly and by itself - without keeping Madigan's office apprised.

State comptroller (and gubernatorial candidate) Dan Hynes is calling on Gov. Pat Quinn to fire Scott, a Blagojevich appointee.

That doesn't appear imminent, though.

"Doug's been a good friend of mine," Quinn said on Sunday, when he signed a bill toughening penalties for deceiving environmental officials. "I worked with him as lieutenant governor and governor on this mission . . . to make sure that we have a healthful environment for every person in Illinois."

Wrong answer, governor.

Your brand is built first and foremost on consumer protection because of your work creating the Citizens Utility Board. Signing a rote bill isn't enough. Every citizen who drinks water and breathes air wants answers, and expects those to come from you, regardless of who is and isn't your friend.

After all, that kind of thinking is what got us here in the first place.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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