PRESS RELEASE

1,000 Illinoisans Urge Lawmakers to Back Environmental Justice Bills at Virtual Lobby Day

Hundreds Rally for Passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, Toxic Lead Service Line Removal and New Air Permitting Reforms

SPRINGFIELD, IL Today, 1,000 environmental justice leaders, renewable energy advocates, youth activists, faith leaders, business representatives and consumer groups from every part of Illinois met virtually with over 80 members of the Illinois General Assembly to urge lawmakers to prioritize the passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA, HB804/SB646), the Lead Service Line Notification and Replacement Act (HB3739/SB1168) and brand new environmental justice permitting reform legislation (HB3090 Amendment 1). 

Today’s event was the second Environmental Lobby Day in a row to host 1,000 participants. This year’s theme, environmental justice, drew hundreds of spectators for a rally at noon.

Advocates made the case for CEJA noting that, in addition to the climate crisis, Illinois faces historic economic and public health challenges, a racial and economic justice reckoning and widespread utility corruption, making the passage of comprehensive, equitable clean energy legislation more urgent than ever.

CEJA would address these crises by: 

  • Holding utilities accountable by ending automatic rate hikes and implementing new transparency and accountability standards
  • Getting people back to work in communities hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in Black and Brown communities
  • Achieving 100% renewable energy in Illinois by 2050 and a carbon-free grid by 2030 
  • Lowering energy bills for businesses and consumers, and more.

“The environmental justice and equity provisions in CEJA are a pathway to economic justice for communities that have been historically and systematically shut out,” said Hilary Scott-Ogunrinde of Macedonia Development in East Saint Louis. “We are here because CEJA’s blueprint for reducing carbon emissions, creating clean air, lowering bills and building energy efficient affordable housing is directly tied to our need for living wages, wealth building and reinvestment back into Black, Brown and Indigenous communities where it is needed.” 

Constituent lobbyists during today’s event asked their representatives to support the Lead Service Line Notification and Replacement Act, which would require all communities to inventory and replace all toxic lead service lines. One-eighth of all lead service lines in the nation are found in Illinois. With no safe level of lead, over 300,000 children are at risk of lead poisoning.

“Everyone deserves access to clean water,” said Rep. Lamont Robinson (D-Chicago), sponsor of the House bill. “Please call your senators and let them know how important it is that we find, remove and replace lead service lines in the state of Illinois so that we can protect public health while supporting jobs and local business opportunities.”

This bill would prioritize those living in high risk communities and protect low income customers. 65 percent of Black and Latinx Illinoisans are living in communities with 94 percent of the known lead service lines. 

“No parents and no caregivers should have to worry about something as basic and essential as the water they drink,” said Teresa Ramos, vice president of public policy and advocacy at Illinois Action for Children. “I urge legislators to support the Lead Service Line Replacement Act and Notification Act. We must replace lead service pipelines now.”

Black, Brown and Indigenous communities across Illinois have experienced generations of concentrated, toxic industrial pollution at the hands of industry, resulting in devastating rates of pollution and costly, chronic health impacts. New legislation led by the Chicago Environmental Justice Network aims to reform the state’s air permitting processes and give environmental justice communities a greater say in the development projects sited within their communities (HB3090 Amendment 1). Rep. Sonya Harper is the chief sponsor of the bill.

“The only way to equitably reform zoning policies that have fueled environmental racism is to give residents more say in the process for rewriting and implementing policies,” said Gina Ramirez of the Southeast Side Coalition to Ban Petcoke and NRDC. “The community deserves a seat at the table when making decisions that could significantly impact our health. 

That is why I am here today in support of the environmental justice permitting bill.”

The bill would improve the public hearing process and give local residents more ability to understand and challenge pollution permits, require the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to create environmental justice assessments to assess cumulative pollution impact, and reform environmental permitting laws.

You can watch today’s rally here.

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