Green for greening | Bleader

Green for greening

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While the political scrape over who’s refusing to disclose stimulus requests is getting more heated by the day, state officials are just starting to find out how much of a federal infusion Illinois is going to get. But it's already evident that a major chunk of the state's money will go to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, which estimates it may end up with more than $280 million to hand out.

The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, as it’s formally known, allocates more than $7 billion nationally for environmental conservation and cleanup programs: about $4 billion to upgrade wastewater treatment systems, $2 billion to improve drinking water infrastructure, and $1 billion more to clean up hazardous waste, cut diesel emissions from bus fleets and equipment, redevelop brownfields, and remove polluting underground storage tanks. Billions more will be spent on energy conservation and development.

Illinois and other struggling Rust Belt states are expected to receive some of the biggest shares of environmental funding, which the state governments are supposed to divvy up among local governments and agencies. Final figures are still being sorted out, but according to spokeswoman Maggie Carson the Illinois EPA is anticipating that it will receive roughly:

·        $179 million for wastewater treatment projects;

·        $80 million for drinking water projects, much of it for bringing local systems in compliance with new regulations on arsenic;

·        $6-12 million for diesel emissions programs such as retrofitting school buses;

·        $8 million for underground storage tank removal;

·        $5 million for brownfields assessment and cleanup.

Carson said the IEPA has received the first round of paperwork for about 180 wastewater funding requests and another 200 for drinking water. It already had an ongoing list of brownfields and tank removal projects that need funding—the budget for the state’s remediation programs have been cut in the last few years—but will also be accepting additional applications. The diesel money will be funneled to school districts, colleges and universities, nonprofits, and small businesses aiming to cut the emissions of their fleets and industrial equipment.

Top officials with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, which is responsible for wastewater treatment in most of Cook County, met with federal officials this week in Washington to talk about their list of funding requests, which totals nearly $400 million.

Spokeswoman Jill Horist said the district expects to receive 20 to 25 percent of the wastewater treatment money coming into Illinois—in other words, $35 million to $45 million—but is planning to go ahead with its projects whether it gets stimulus funds or not. “These are already in the budget, but whatever we’d do with the stimulus would provide relief for additional projects up the pipe,” she said.

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