Politics is what politicians — left, right or center — do.
So it’s no surprise that Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration is itching to spend Illinois’ $109 million windfall from Volkswagen’s settlement in its diesel emissions cheating scandal.
Spending money to curb air pollution would certainly give Rauner some pro-environment bona fides before his November showdown with Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker. There’s not a politician out there who wouldn’t take the same advantage in a heated election.
But some lawmakers and environmental groups want to slow down the spending and are criticizing the Illinois EPA’s draft plan as too friendly to large diesel engine manufacturers, as the Better Government Association reported this week.
That might seem like political gamesmanship, too, since the lawmakers are Democrats and environmental groups aren’t happy with Rauner.
But in this case, we think their reasons are valid.
The $2.9 billion Volkswagen settlement — and Illinois, by the way, is getting more of that money than any other state in the Midwest — is supposed to pay for clean air projects that states design. Minnesota, Colorado, Ohio and other states held public hearings on their projects. You’d think Illinois would do the same, and make it a point to hear from experts and everyday citizens who might want, say, more charging stations for electric cars or more electric school buses.
Instead, the state’s EPA has only accepted written comments submitted online, ignoring criticism in February that it reneged on a plan to hold public hearings. The idea that “people might not show up,” as the head of the state’s EPA told lawmakers last week, is a pretty lame excuse. People can’t show up if there’s no place for them to go.
The Illinois Senate passed a bill last week to require six hearings and a task force to make decisions on spending the $109 million. That might be overkill, but then again, what’s the rush?
Unless you’re running for reelection.
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