Peoria Journal Star 

October 22, 2003 

Agency heads visit capital - Lobbyists lay base for
environmental program funding 

By Dori Meinert 
Copley News Service 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The heads of three Illinois state agencies came to Washington on Tuesday to lay the groundwork for more federal funding next year for a variety of programs ranging from water treatment to livestock waste clean-up and bioterrorism response.

They also reiterated the state's opposition to the Bush administration's proposed changes to the Clean Air Act, saying it would make it difficult for the state to meet its clean-air goals.

Their visit was part of an ongoing effort by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to keep the state's needs in front of Illinois lawmakers, aides said.

"I think it's very beneficial," said Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, after his meeting with the state officials.

And, he added, long overdue.

"I've complained to no end that we've had absolutely no communication with the Blagojevich administration," said LaHood, who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and has been frustrated by dealings with the governor.

On Tuesday, Renee Cipriano, director of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency; Chuck Hartke, director of the state's agriculture department; and Joel Brunsvold, director of the Department of Natural Resources, provided a general briefing to staffers for about a dozen of Illinois' 19 House members and two senators.

Then, they split up for some face time with the senators and several of the House members.

Their requests included more federal funding to:

- Help small and medium-sized livestock operations prevent animal waste from polluting area waterways, enabling them to opt out of a new federally required permitting process and saving the operators and the state money.

* Boost wastewater treatment grants and loans for improvements to drinking water systems.

* Improve the state's response to potential bioterrorism threats.

* Clean up the state's numerous Superfund toxic waste sites.

Cipriano urged the state's lawmakers to oppose any federal EPA effort to weaken its proposed mercury standard contained in the administration's clean-air bill, which is blocked in congressional committees. Illinois residents are warned not to eat fish caught in state waters because of mercury contamination.

Brunsvold also said he planned to meet with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials to discuss dividing Illinois into more hunting zones to reduce conflict in the southern part of the state.

Earlier this week, state Budget Director John Filan also visited Capitol Hill. Transportation Secretary Tim Martin has made the trek several times.

Blagojevich visited Washington with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley last spring to deliver the state's wish list to the Illinois congressional delegation. Blagojevich also met with Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Yorkville, recently to discuss his proposal for obtaining less costly prescription drugs from Canada for state employees.