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Environmental Progress - Spring 1996

Mike Hayes, Veteran Illinois EPA Manager, Retires After 25 Years

Pollution prevention expert watched environmental regulations balloon in size and complexity

[Photo of Michael J. Hayes]After serving the Illinois EPA for 25 years, Michael J. Hayes, manager of the Office of Pollution Prevention, has retired. However, Hayes continues to exercise his pollution prevention expertise three days a week through the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.

Hayes managed several programs during his tenure with the Agency, including the grants administration section of the Division of Water Pollution Control, the Division of Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance, the permits section of the Division of Air Pollution Control and the entire Division of Air Pollution Control.

Hayes was named manager of the Office of Pollution Prevention in 1989 - a position he held until his retirement at the end of 1995.

When Hayes joined the Illinois EPA in 1970, the Agency employed fewer than 100 people; today it employs more than 1,200.

"In the early days," Hayes recalled, "you knew everyone by name, what schools they attended and details about their families. That's no longer possible today."

Hayes noted that while the Agency's work force has grown, the complexity of environmental regulations has grown even more, resulting in a greater emphasis being placed upon compliance assistance.

"There has been an explosion of environmental laws and regulations," Hayes said, "and one of today's problems is helping businesses understand the rules and how they are affected by them. We frequently found it difficult to keep up with all these changes. And at times it was almost impossible to translate the meaning of these regulations to the state's business community.

"During the 1970s and 1980s, the Agency relied strongly on litigation to force companies into compliance. Today, while enforcement is always an option, the emphasis is on helping companies understand the regulations and also the economic and social benefits of coming into compliance voluntarily," Hayes said.

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