2017 Environmental Leadership Dinner in Review

AG Madigan, President Preckwinkle among award winners at the 2017 Environmental Leadership Dinner

This past Wednesday, September 27th, IEC hosted our 2017 Environmental Leadership Dinner. We were thrilled to be joined by nearly 400 advocates, affiliates, and elected officials who support policies and programs that protect the environment and grow our clean energy economy. You can view some great pictures from the event here.

Recipients of our 2017 Environmental Leadership awards represent officials from several levels of government from areas throughout Illinois. Leading up to the dinner, we asked our award winners to answer a few questions about how they work to protect the environment in their respective roles:

Attorney General Lisa Madigan

AG Madigan was honored for the vital role she and her office played in creating and passing the Preventing Lead in Drinking Water Act. Since becoming law earlier this year, this legilsation is already protecting Illinois school children from lead exposure.

Attorney General MadiganWhy are environmental issues important to you?
We have a legal and moral obligation to leave our children a healthy and safe planet. As the Illinois Constitution provides, “the duty of each person is to provide and maintain a healthful environment for the benefit of this and future generations.” Good environmental and energy policy also makes sense economically and saves money for consumers.

How will you continue to advocate for the environment?
I will continue to enforce state and federal environmental laws and fight against attempts to roll them back, including efforts related to climate change. My office will continue our partnership with IEC to enact groundwater monitoring at Clean Construction Demolition Debris sites and monitor the implementation of the lead testing in schools.

What environmental initiatives would you like to see Illinois take the lead on?
I would like to see Illinois take the lead on ensuring that low-income communities benefit from solar power and energy efficiency programs.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle

President Preckwinkle and Cook County Chief Sustainability Officer Deborah Stone each received Environmental Leadership Awards for their efforts in advancing sustainability in Cook County.

President PreckwinkleWhy environmental issues are important to you?
Local environmental action is effective. Cook County has reduced greenhouse gas emissions from our buildings by 22 percent in only five years by instituting energy efficiency measures. We are also well on our way to achieving goals set forth in the Next Century Conservation Plan, to make Cook County Forest Preserves a national leader in urban conservation.

And local action is equitable. We are making all of our communities more sustainable and healthy. We are blazing the trail on community solar, which could provide up to 10,000 construction-related jobs over the next three years. We are helping communities bring jobs back to former brownfields. And we are promoting environmentally friendly transit- and cargo-oriented development throughout Cook County to bring people and jobs closer together.

How will you continue to advocate for the environment?
Cook County is firmly committed to the fight against climate change and we support the goals of the Paris Accord. In 2014, I committed to reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions in Cook County by 80 percent by the year 2050, and I remain committed to that goal today.

Community solar can create job growth and utility bill savings for the ¾ of residents of Cook County who cannot put solar arrays on their own roof. We have worked with fifteen sites to show how community solar can work on typical sites all across the County.

What environmental initiatives would you like to see Illinois take the lead on?
The state can help all Illinois communities become more sustainable, by working to make the mix of energy in our grid cleaner, and by supporting local energy efficiency and clean energy efforts. Illinois can also increase its support of parks and open space, such as land acquisition and development grants and trail grants.

And I am calling for the use of Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) to be broadened so that the County has greater flexibility to address all the transportation needs of its residents and businesses, not just our road needs.

Representative Lou Lang

Rep. Lang was rewarded for his years (and years) of work to pass PACE financing.

Rep. Lou LangWhy environmental issues are important to you?
The natural resources we enjoy, the air we breathe and the water we drink are our legacy to our children and grandchildren. It is imperative that we protect them.to ensure their future availability to new generations.

How will you continue to advocate for the environment?
I have always paid special attention to the views of the Illinois Environmental Council , the Sierra Club and all other advocacy groups who put the environment at the forefront of their agenda.

What environmental initiatives would you like to see Illinois take the lead on?
There is much more to do on clean, Green, alternative energy. We should lead on this issues as well as making sure people in need can afford the energy they consume.

Senator Jason Barickman

We were pleased to award Sen. Barickman and Rep. Bennett for their leadership to protect conservation lands through increased stewardship.

Sen. BarickmanWhy environmental issues are important to you?
“I grew up on a farm near Streator and spent much of my youth enjoying the outdoors. As an adult, my ideal vacations generally involve an outdoor setting such as a state or national park. We have to protect these areas, as well as the waterways and resources that feed him. I am also a believer in leaving things better than you found them, including our planet. This means we all have a responsibility to protect our environment.

How will you continue to advocate for the environment?
The Natural Areas Stewardship is a great example of legislation that was able to unite people who represent different groups with vastly different agendas. I will continue to work with stakeholders to advance common-sense plans to protect our environment and natural areas.”

What environmental initiatives would you like to see Illinois take the lead on?
“As an example, our state has a massive network of rivers and streams that serve as a habitat for wildlife, form the basis of a transportation network with a lower carbon footprint than most competing types of shipping, as well as provide recreational and economic growth opportunities. We can work to contain and reduce the growth of invasive species such as Asian carp to help restore the environmental balance, save fishing opportunities for avid anglers such as myself, and protect the great lakes. But we have to make sure we have plans.”

Representative Tom Bennett

Rep. BennettWhy are environmental issues important to you?
As a father and a grandfather it is important to me that we preserve Illinois’ natural wonders for future generations to enjoy. I remember the excitement of a hike in the woods or an afternoon on the lake and I want to make sure that my grandkids get to have the same experiences.

How will you continue to advocate for the environment?
I will continue to look for opportunities to help promote programs and policies that encourage Illinoisans to get outdoors and enjoy their natural surroundings, whether it is a state park or trail, or just their local rivers and streams.

What environmental initiatives would you like to see Illinois take the lead on?
I would like to see Illinois continue to take steps to preserve and maintain its natural areas. That was the idea behind the stewardship bill which we passed this spring: allow interested parties to participate in maintaining our natural sites to ensure that they remain accessible for those who enjoy the outdoors.

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