Environmental Justice Legislation Signed Into Law

Legislation expanding the Illinois Environmental Justice Commission  was passed by both chambers and signed into law by Governor Rauner on July 8th.  The legislation adds members to the Commission on Environmental Justice, including new affected community members and labor representatives.  The bill was sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson in the Senate and Rep. Silvana Tabares in the House.  The effort was led by Illinois environmental justice advocates, and Sierra Club supported their efforts through our volunteer lobbying program and our staff in the State Capitol.

The Illinois Commission on Environmental Justice, created in 2011, requires that no segment of the population, regardless of race, national origin, age, or income, should bear disproportionately high or adverse effects of environmental pollution. The Commission has administrative and other support from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Its duties are to review and analyze the impact and adequacy of current State laws and policies on the issue of environmental justice and sustainable communities; and, to recommend options to the Governor for addressing issues, concerns, or problems related to environmental justice, including prioritizing areas of the State that need immediate attention.

SB2920 added 4 new members to the board—2 from business and labor and 2 additional, for a total of 4, from affected communities. It also removed the Dept. of Aging and added the housing office of the Dept. of Human Services.

From the Illinois EPA website:

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Illinois EPA or Agency) is committed to protecting the health of the citizens of Illinois and its environment, and to promoting environmental equity in the administration of its programs to the extent it may do so legally and practicably. The Illinois EPA supports the objectives of achieving environmental equity for all of the citizens of Illinois.

“Environmental Justice” is based on the principle that all people should be protected from environmental pollution and have the right to a clean and healthy environment. Environmental justice is the protection of the health of the people of Illinois and its environment, equity in the administration of the State’s environmental programs, and the provision of adequate opportunities for meaningful involvement of all people with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

The assumption of this policy is that it is evolutionary. Environmental Justice policies and activities will continue to develop, as appropriate, through the normal course of the Agency’s regulatory and programmatic duties. In addition to the normal evolution of the policy, the Agency is planning outreach activities to gather comments and public input for this spring. The Illinois EPA recognizes that this policy alone will not achieve environmental equity in all instances. Moreover, public and private commitment to the implementation of this policy is needed to achieve the goals of this policy and to promote environmental equity in this State.

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