A Guide to the Illinois Environmental Protection Act Requirements, Process, and Compliance

The Illinois Environmental Protection Act (IEPA) is a critical piece of legislation that shapes the environmental regulatory landscape in the state, and understanding its key provisions, compliance obligations, and enforcement mechanisms is essential for successfully navigating the complex world of environmental permitting and project development. This comprehensive guide dives deep into the IEPA, exploring its applicability to a wide range of regulated activities and entities, from industrial facilities and waste management operations to agriculture and construction projects. It breaks down the Act's structure, highlighting the most important sections and provisions, and provides a clear overview of the standards, limitations, and monitoring and reporting requirements that regulated entities must adhere to. The guide also examines recent developments and anticipated regulatory changes, offering valuable insights into the evolving nature of environmental regulation in Illinois. Armed with this knowledge, readers will be well-equipped to proactively manage compliance risks, effectively engage with regulatory agencies, and confidently steer their projects towards successful completion in an increasingly complex and dynamic regulatory environment.


Key Details of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act

  • Issuing Agency: Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA)
  • Year Established: 1970
  • Last Amended: 2022
  • Statutory Authority: Illinois Environmental Protection Act (415 ILCS 5/)1
  • Primary Legal Reference: Title 35 of the Illinois Administrative Code2

Overview of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act

The Illinois Environmental Protection Act (IEPA) is the primary environmental regulation in the state of Illinois. It operates within the broader framework of federal environmental regulations, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, while addressing specific environmental issues and goals at the state level. The IEPA is administered and enforced by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the Illinois Pollution Control Board (IPCB).

Enacted in 1970, the IEPA has undergone several major amendments to keep pace with evolving environmental concerns and federal regulations. The Act's primary goal is to protect the environment and public health by setting standards, regulations, and permitting requirements for various activities that may impact air, water, and land resources in Illinois.

The IEPA achieves its goals through a combination of permitting, monitoring, and enforcement mechanisms. It establishes jurisdiction over a wide range of regulated entities, including industrial facilities, waste management operations, and construction projects, with some exemptions for certain agricultural activities and small-scale operations.

What does the Illinois Environmental Protection Act protect?

The Illinois Environmental Protection Act protects a broad range of environmental resources within the state, including air, water, and land. Specifically, the Act safeguards:

  1. Air quality: The IEPA sets standards and permitting requirements for air emissions from industrial facilities, power plants, and other sources to protect public health and the environment from harmful pollutants.3

  2. Water resources: The Act establishes water quality standards, permitting requirements for wastewater discharges, and regulations for the management of stormwater and groundwater to prevent pollution and maintain the integrity of Illinois' water resources.4

  3. Land and soil: The IEPA regulates the management, storage, and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes to prevent contamination of land and soil resources. It also sets requirements for the investigation and remediation of contaminated sites.[^5]

The Illinois Environmental Protection Act achieves this protection through a combination of permitting, monitoring, and enforcement activities carried out by the IEPA and IPCB. These activities ensure that regulated entities comply with the Act's standards and requirements, minimizing the impact of human activities on the environment and public health.


Regulated Activities & Entities

The Illinois Environmental Protection Act (IEPA) is a comprehensive state law that regulates a wide range of activities and entities to protect the environment and public health in Illinois. The Act aims to control, prevent, and abate pollution in the state by setting standards and requirements for various industries, processes, and pollutants5.

The IEPA regulates activities and entities such as:

  1. Industrial facilities, including manufacturing plants, refineries, and power plants
  2. Waste management facilities, such as landfills, incinerators, and recycling centers
  3. Wastewater treatment plants and sewage systems
  4. Agricultural operations, including livestock farms and pesticide application
  5. Transportation activities, such as vehicle emissions and fuel storage
  6. Construction projects that may impact air, water, or land quality

The IEPA prohibits the following activities and substances:

  1. Discharging pollutants into water bodies without a permit

    • This prohibition protects surface and groundwater from contamination by industrial, agricultural, or municipal waste.
  2. Emitting air pollutants above permitted levels

    • Air pollutants, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, can harm human health and the environment. The IEPA sets emission limits to maintain air quality standards.
  3. Disposing of hazardous waste without proper treatment and disposal methods

    • Hazardous waste, such as chemicals, heavy metals, and radioactive materials, can pose significant risks to human health and the environment if not managed properly.
  4. Using or manufacturing certain toxic substances, such as PCBs and lead-based paint

    • These substances have been linked to serious health problems and environmental damage, leading to their prohibition or strict regulation.
  5. Operating waste management facilities without proper permits and safeguards

    • Landfills, incinerators, and other waste management facilities must adhere to strict standards to prevent pollution and protect public health.

Structure and Key Provisions

The Illinois Environmental Protection Act is divided into several titles, each addressing a specific aspect of environmental protection6. The key titles include:

Title I: General Provisions

  • Defines terms used throughout the Act
  • Establishes the Illinois Pollution Control Board and its authority

Title II: Air Pollution

  • Sets air quality standards and emission limits
  • Requires permits for sources of air pollution
  • Establishes monitoring and reporting requirements

Title III: Water Pollution

  • Sets water quality standards and effluent limits
  • Requires permits for discharges into water bodies
  • Establishes monitoring and reporting requirements

Title V: Land Pollution and Refuse Disposal

  • Regulates solid waste management, including landfills and incinerators
  • Sets standards for the treatment and disposal of hazardous waste
  • Requires permits for waste management facilities

Title VI: Noise

  • Establishes noise emission standards
  • Requires permits for certain noise-generating activities

Title VIII: Enforcement

  • Establishes penalties for violations of the Act
  • Authorizes the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to conduct inspections and enforce regulations

When determining the applicability of the IEPA to a specific project, it is essential to consult the full text of the regulation and engage with the relevant agencies, such as the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Pollution Control Board, for project-specific guidance7.


Regulatory Standards & Limitations

The Illinois Environmental Protection Act establishes various standards and limitations to protect the environment and public health. These include emissions limits for air pollutants, water quality standards, and performance standards for certain industries or activities.8 The Act also sets forth permitting requirements for facilities that may impact the environment, such as those that discharge pollutants into the air or water.9

These standards and limitations are implemented and enforced through a combination of permits, inspections, and enforcement actions by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and other relevant state agencies.10 Developers and consultants must work closely with these agencies to ensure that their projects comply with all applicable standards and limitations under the Act.

Monitoring, Reporting & Recordkeeping Obligations

Under the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, regulated entities are subject to various monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements. These obligations may include:11

  • Monitoring emissions or discharges from facilities
  • Conducting periodic inspections or testing
  • Maintaining records of monitoring data, inspections, and other relevant information
  • Submitting regular reports to the IEPA or other relevant agencies

The specific monitoring, reporting, and recordkeeping requirements may vary depending on the type of facility, the pollutants involved, and the applicable permits or regulations.12 Developers and consultants should work closely with the relevant agencies to understand and fulfill these obligations for their specific projects, as failure to comply with these requirements can result in enforcement actions and penalties.

Enforcement Actions & Penalties

The Illinois Environmental Protection Act provides for various enforcement actions and penalties for violations of the Act or related regulations. These may include:13

  • Notices of violation
  • Administrative orders requiring corrective action
  • Civil penalties of up to $50,000 per violation per day
  • Criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment, for knowing or willful violations

The IEPA and other relevant agencies have the authority to initiate enforcement actions and assess penalties for violations of the Act.14 The specific enforcement provisions and penalty structures may vary depending on the nature and severity of the violation, as well as the applicable permits or regulations.

To avoid enforcement actions and penalties, developers and consultants should prioritize proactive compliance and early engagement with the relevant agencies. This may involve conducting thorough environmental assessments, obtaining all necessary permits, and implementing robust compliance programs.15 In the event of a potential violation, prompt communication and cooperation with the agencies can help mitigate the risk of enforcement actions and penalties.


Recent Developments & Regulatory Outlook

In recent years, the Illinois Environmental Protection Act has undergone several significant developments that have shaped the current regulatory landscape. One notable amendment is the passage of Public Act 101-0027 in 2019, which introduced stricter requirements for the management of coal ash, a byproduct of coal combustion that can pose environmental risks if not properly handled. This amendment has had a substantial impact on the power generation industry, requiring affected facilities to update their coal ash management practices and comply with more stringent disposal and remediation standards 16.

Another important development is the increased focus on environmental justice considerations in the implementation of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. In 2020, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed Senate Bill 662, which requires the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) to prioritize environmental justice communities when conducting permitting, enforcement, and remediation activities 17. This policy shift has significant implications for developers and environmental consultants, who must now pay closer attention to the potential disproportionate impacts of their projects on disadvantaged communities.

Looking ahead, stakeholders should be aware of potential regulatory changes and policy developments that may affect the implementation of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. For example, there are ongoing discussions about the need to update the state's air quality standards to better align with federal regulations and address emerging pollutants of concern 18. Additionally, the IEPA is currently in the process of revising its site remediation program to streamline the cleanup process and encourage the redevelopment of contaminated properties.

To stay informed about these and other regulatory developments, stakeholders can monitor the IEPA's website, which provides regular updates on proposed rule changes, public hearings, and other opportunities for public participation 19.

Additional Resources

Full text of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act (415 ILCS 5/)


  1. Illinois Administrative Code Title 35: Environmental Protection. https://www.ilga.gov/commission/jcar/admincode/035/035parts.html

  2. IEPA Bureau of Air. https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/air-quality/Pages/default.aspx

  3. IEPA Bureau of Water. https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/water-quality/Pages/default.aspx

  4. IEPA Bureau of Land. https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/waste-management/Pages/default.aspx

  5. Illinois Environmental Protection Act, 415 ILCS 5/1 et seq. (1970). http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=1585&ChapterID=36.

  6. Illinois Environmental Protection Act, 415 ILCS 5/1 et seq. (1970). http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=1585&ChapterID=36.

  7. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). Permits & Forms. https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/forms/Pages/default.aspx.

  8. 415 ILCS 5/9, 5/11, 5/12, 5/13 (Illinois Compiled Statutes)

  9. 415 ILCS 5/39 (Illinois Compiled Statutes)

  10. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. "Bureau of Air." https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/air-quality/Pages/default.aspx

  11. 415 ILCS 5/4, 5/39 (Illinois Compiled Statutes)

  12. 35 Ill. Adm. Code 201.144, 201.146 (Illinois Administrative Code)

  13. 415 ILCS 5/42, 5/43, 5/44 (Illinois Compiled Statutes)

  14. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. "Enforcement." https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/compliance-enforcement/Pages/default.aspx

  15. Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. "Permits." https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/forms/Pages/default.aspx

  16. Illinois Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act (2019), https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=4028&ChapterID=36

  17. Senate Bill 662 (2020), https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/BillStatus.asp?DocNum=662&GAID=15&DocTypeID=SB&LegID=116586&SessionID=108

  18. IEPA, "Air Quality Standards,", https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/air-quality/Pages/air-quality-standards.aspx

  19. IEPA, "Public Notices,", https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/public-notices/Pages/default.aspx

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A Note to Our Readers: We hope this guide is a valuable resource in helping you better understand the IEPA. However, it's not a substitute for professional advice and doesn't cover every scenario. Always consult with regulatory bodies and professionals for the most current advice and project-specific guidance.