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Illinois Businesses Get a "Clean Break"

Mary Gade, head of the Illinois EPA, realized that small businesses in
Illinois—which generally had little understanding of complicated
environmental laws—were scared to death of being heavily punished
for accidentally violating some environmental regulation. These
businesses were so scared, in fact, that they often didn’t want to ask
for the Illinois EPA’s help in fixing their environmental problems. In
1995, to help these companies overcome their historic mistrust of
environmental regulators and, at the same time, address
environmental problems, Gade set up Clean Break, a program that
offers small businesses compliance assistance and relief from
penalties, provided they fix their problems within a reasonable time.

Other successful amnesty programs inspired Clean Break, section
507 of the federal Clean Air Act, and library book-return programs.
Under Clean Break, Illinois EPA inspectors audit participating
businesses and find environmental violations. The Illinois EPA
commits to not referring the violations for enforcement, provided that
the business participates productively in the program—meaning that it
agrees to come into compliance within a reasonable time and follows
through on its commitment. Reasonable exceptions to this program
also ensure that it is not taken advantage of. Violations must not be
criminal, harmful, intentional, or independently discovered by an
enforcement agent to qualify.

The Illinois focus on progress over punishment employs a
cooperative mentality and is built upon the assumption that most
small business regulatory violations are due to ignorance, not
deliberate disregard for the law. Most businesses want to help clean
the environment and only seek assistance in making it happen, which
Clean Break helped achieve.

Source: Race to the Top: The Innovative Face of State Environmental Management



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