Enforcing Illinois’ Environmental Laws
The Attorney General’s Environmental Enforcement Division handles civil environmental litigation, which includes the Environmental Bureau North, located in Chicago, and the Environmental Bureau South, located in Springfield. In all, this Division has over 25 attorneys who work across Illinois to protect the environment.
The Attorney General’s primary role in environmental enforcement is handling cases referred to the Office by a number of state agencies, including the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Office of the State Fire Marshal, and the Illinois Department of Public Health. For example:
- The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency refers cases to the Attorney General for the filing of civil actions to address violations of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, which is Illinois’ primary statute for protecting the environment. The Attorney General files these cases in circuit court or with the Illinois Pollution Control Board against individuals, corporations and others who have caused air, land, or water pollution; violated requirements applicable to hazardous waste or the operation of public water supplies; failed to obtain environmental permits; or committed violations of other environmental laws and regulations. The goal of these lawsuits is to compel violators to clean up contamination they have caused, perform necessary corrective action, cease and desist from further violations, pay monetary penalties, and perform supplemental environmental projects to provide additional environmental benefits to communities impacted by violations.
- The Illinois Department of Natural Resources refers enforcement matters involving violations of statutes enacted to protect Illinois’ natural and recreational resources, including the Illinois Natural Areas Preservation Act, which prohibits actions that threaten or damage a nature preserve, and the Oil and Gas Act, which regulates the operation of oil and gas production wells, injection wells and gas storage wells.
- The Office of the State Fire Marshal refers violations of the Gasoline Storage Act, which regulates underground storage tanks in Illinois.
Attorney General Raoul also has the legal authority to protect the environment and public health and welfare by pursuing enforcement actions directly in the name of the People of the State of Illinois, to address violations of environmental laws that state agencies have not yet identified or referred. These cases rely on information brought to the office’s attention by residents or the media, or they can be discovered through our own investigation. The Environmental Enforcement Division encourages anyone experiencing pollution within their community to contact the office, including by email to the division’s dedicated email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Advocating for Effective Federal Environmental Regulations
The Illinois Attorney General has participated with other state Attorneys General and state or municipal governmental entities in opposing a variety of efforts by federal government and energy agencies to repeal or relax regulations that protect air, land, water, and public health. These challenges include litigation in federal court and public comment before regulatory agencies.
See a snapshot of legal actions compiled in the most recent Milestones Report on Preserving the Environment.