By Bern Colleran
What is it that impels State Rep. Jim Sacia to unrelentingly give disproportionate support to a citizen of California who seeks to degrade the quality of life of several thousand citizens of Illinois in order to make a profit? Way back at the start of 2008, Sacia told those Illinois citizens at several open meetings that he “had an open mind” on whether the proposed “Traditions” Dairy would be good for Jo Daviess County. He was still claiming to be open-minded all through a period of shameless boosterism for the California guy and his 10,000 manure-making machines. (Sorry, but you can’t call them livestock when they’re part of an assembly line.)
Everyone please think back to those columns where Sacia proudly wrote about paddling around in a rowboat on a manure pond of the California guy’s mega-dairy in the name of research. Seems kinda funny in retrospect, doesn’t it?
Now, Sacia uses last week’s rain disaster and his “captive audience” freebie newspaper column in the Journal-Standard to put in yet another plug for his California pal, implying in his usual wacky way that God may let nature leak on us, and Chicago may release sewage into Lake Michigan, but those confined animal factories never do.
But far more ominously, 30 months into the fray, another Sacia action confirms what we suspected way back in the beginning, that something evidently has really got its hooks into Sacia. We learn that on April 12 of this year, Sacia signed and sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Enforcement Section, Regulatory Branch on behalf of the California guy. Sacia asked the Army Corps to waive its requirement that the California guy obtain a 401 Water Quality Certification before the Army Corps will make permanent its permit to build a manure pond right on top of one of our streams, a tributary of the beautiful Apple River.
Now, this little intervention might seem a nice thing for an Illinois state representative to do for someone who wants to do business here, even though he’s from California, and the people who oppose “Traditions” are from Illinois. Might seem—until you look closer—like he’s asking some troublesome federal bureaucrats to get out of the way and let the state handle its own environment. The problem with that theory is that the department that is holding up the 401 Certificate is an Illinois agency, the Illinois EPA. It seems there is something about the design and/or execution of “Traditions” that has failed to satisfy the Illinois EPA for the two years since the mega-dairy first applied for the Certificate.
We suspect there must be some serious environmental implications in all this because the Illinois EPA is usually very easy to please, and if the water quality plans of “Traditions” don’t pass muster with the Illinois EPA, well, God knows.
Now, it looks like the Illinois EPA is going to hold a hearing to determine whether the 401 Certification is deserved. That’s going to take time, and time is the California guy’s money. But that’s what Illinois regulations evidently require, and Jim Sacia is a standup Illinois public official who has always proclaimed in those public hearings that he respects those sacrosanct regulations.
But now there’s this letter to the Army Corps, a terse little thing of two paragraphs that looks almost like it was intended to be snuck in somewhere so nobody would notice. (And no one did notice until it emerged in a FOIA this week.)
“I would like to support Tradition (sic) Dairy in Jo Daviess County with their correspondence to you for consideration of waiver to the 401 Water Quality Certification permit. Thank you for your diligence to this matter along with an appreciation for your consideration. Very Truly Yours, Jim Sacia. Cc: Nic Anderson.”
And we’re left with the image of an Illinois state representative who is privileged to write legislation that creates Illinois regulations, a man who regularly stands up at public hearings and urges us to “let the regulatory process work,” now attempting to use his office and official credentials to influence other public officials to ignore the requirements of his own state’s regulations to benefit someone who seeks to avoid that regulation. The essence of Sacia’s letter is that an official of the State of Illinois is urging federal officials to ignore regulations of the State of Illinois in a regulatory matter where he has already demonstrated a decided bias. Is that malfeasance or what?
Shame. And more shame.
Bern Colleran is a retired journalist and a resident of Warren, Ill.
From the Aug. 11-17, 2010 issue