Governor Pat Quinn today signed legislation calling for an assessment of Illinois' environmental laws and policies to ensure that no segment of the population will disproportionately bear the adverse environmental and health effects caused by pollution.
"Race, income or nationality should not determine the quality of the air one breathes or the water one drinks," Governor Quinn said. "We want to make sure that all Illinois families live in healthy communities. This commission will help us strengthen environmental laws so that every Illinois resident has clean air and clean water."
Senate Bill 2193, sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) and Rep. Will Davis (D- East Hazel Crest), creates the Environmental Justice Act and the Commission on Environmental Justice. The commission is tasked with reviewing and analyzing current state laws and policies. Based upon review, the commission will make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly to address environmental justice concerns.
"As a mother of three, I'm personally committed to making sure that all children grow up in communities where clean air and water are protected so that they can develop into health adults," said Sen. Hutchinson. "The aim of this council will be geared towards ensuring that a person's income, age, race or nationality does not mean they must be relegated to living in an unsafe environment. I thank Governor Quinn for recognizing this fact by signing this bill into law."
The new law addresses concerns about rising asthma rates and other health indicators in parts of the state, especially in minority communities. Medical researchers have observed a connection between types of industry present in a community and childhood asthma rates.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) is tasked with providing the commission with administrative and other support. The membership will comprise designated members of the General Assembly, community members, environmental and business organizations, health experts, local government and members of the public with expertise in environmental justice. In addition to IEPA, the council includes members from the Departments on Aging, Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Natural Resources, Public Health and Transportation.
The new law goes into effect immediately.