Illinois Governor Pat Quinn recently signed the Environmental Justice Act (SB2193, Public Act 097-0391) which created a new “Commission on Environmental Justice”.
As described by U.S. EPA (which has had an environmental justice program for some time now), environmental justice “is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. . . . It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.”
Similarly, in the Illinois Environmental Justice Act, the General Assembly “finds that: (1) the principle of environmental justice 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; (2) certain communities in the State may suffer disproportionately from environmental hazards related to facilities with permits approved by the State; and (3) these environmental hazards can cause long-term health effects.”
The Commission on Environmental Justice will be composed of members of the General Assembly, officials from several state agencies, and other individuals representing various interests, including affected communities concerned with environmental justice, environmental health and justice experts, and business community members.
The Commission is charged with accomplishing the following activities: (1) advising State entities on environmental justice and related community issues, (2) reviewing and analyzing the impact of current State laws and policies on the issue of environmental justice and sustainable communities, (3) assessing the adequacy of State and local laws to address the issue of environmental justice and sustainable communities, (4) developing criteria to assess whether communities in the State may be experiencing environmental justice issues, and (5) recommending options to the Governor for addressing issues, concerns, or problems related to environmental justice that surface after reviewing State laws and policies, including prioritizing areas of the State that need immediate attention. The Commission must report its findings to the Governor and General Assembly by October 1, 2011 and each October 1 thereafter.
According to Illinois EPA, 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.”
Stay tuned to the Illinois Environmental Law Blog for more news and developments. To set up a free initial consultation to discuss your legal matter, please contact Chicago environmental attorney Dave Scriven-Young at (312) 239-9722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.