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CHICAGO � A dispute between lawyers at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the state Attorney General’s Office has boiled over into a slowdown in resolving enforcement cases against violators of the state’s environmental laws. The fight was sparked last month by a disagreement between Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office and the IEPA over how penalty money collected from violators should be divided and spent. That dispute spilled over into a disagreement over whether the agency, which typically refers cases to the AG’s office for prosecution, is a “client” of the AG’s office and therefore a party to the cases. The battle is hampering completion of settlements in some cases and a delay of trials in others, said defense attorneys and lawyers from the government offices. Overall, the dispute can mean increased costs, angst and confusion for violators to resolve the cases and return to compliance, said Hodge Dwyer Zeman attorney Christine Zeman, whose Springfield, Ill.-based firm concentrates on such cases and has at least six that have been affected by the standoff. “Sometimes for my clients that’s terrific � we’re pleased as punch, but other times it affects financing to complete a project,” Zeman said. “There can be a lot of reasons that clients need certainty.” Lack of cooperation The IEPA is refusing to send new cases to the AG, and the AG’s office is decrying a lack of cooperation on pending cases, including some on the verge of trial. The agency typically refers 250 cases to the AG’s office annually, which would amount to about 21 held over the past month, and hundreds more are pending. The AG’s office and the agency say they’re trying to come to terms, but are moving ahead separately on compliance matters in the meantime. “If you’re in enforcement mode, you rely on these two agencies working together,” said David Rieser, a McGuireWoods partner in Chicago who handles environmental enforcement cases and has one pending that hasn’t been affected so far. In one of Zeman’s firm’s cases, a client flew into Springfield for settlement talks that the firm thought was nearing resolution only to find that just one of the two government entities was willing to attend a meeting, she said. Clients are often eager to resolve cases because not doing so can affect securing permits for facilities and the clients want the agreements to be with both offices for the sake of future relations, Zeman said. “We definitely want to know the IEPA is on board even if the AG’s office feels they don’t need the IEPA’s signature on the settlement,” said Zeman, who formerly worked in the AG’s office. The office’s chief of staff, Ann Spillane, said the battle is making it more difficult and costly to prepare for trials because the IEPA is refusing to provide the usual access to documents and witnesses from the agency. The AG’s office was on the eve of trial in one case when the agency refused to provide documents without getting a Freedom of Information Act request first, she said. “That is, quite frankly, a dereliction of their duty to the people of Illinois and to the environment of Illinois,” Spillane said. Grab for funds? Alec Messina, chief legal counsel for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, wants agreement on the allocation of penalty funds and a letter from the AG’s office clarifying “client” relationship to end the impasse, he said. The IEPA told the AG’s office in a Sept. 27 letter that it would stop referring cases until the issues are resolved, and noted that it had contacted the U.S. Department of Justice about an affected case. Messina argues that the AG office’s made a grab for more of the penalty funds because of frustration over state budget cuts by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. But Spillane says it was the IEPA’s refusal to split $1 million and its use for purposes other than environmental enforcement that rankled her office. Defense lawyers chalk up much of the dispute to politics. It may or may not be a footnote that Madigan is the daughter of Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who has been at odds with Blagojevich for months over the state budget and was even sued by the governor over the calling of special sessions of the Legislature.

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