CHICAGO, IL – After over a decade without one, Chicago’s City Council today made the historic move to re-establish the city’s Department of Environment (DOE). With the passage of the 2024 Chicago Budget, the City Council voted to allocate $1.8 mil to re-establish the Department. The Illinois Environmental Council’s (IEC) City Programs Director Iyana Simba Issued the following statement in response:
“Whether it’s through the city’s abysmal recycling rate or the dire decline of environmental enforcement, we’ve seen the need for a permanent, resourced Department of Environment in order to effectively carry out the environmental work of the city. Today’s vote represents a critical improvement in our city’s ability to equitably and effectively address the climate crisis, environmental pollution and issues of sustainability.
IEC is truly thankful for Mayor Johnson, Chief Sustainability Officer Angela Tovar and the environmental staff in the Mayor’s Office who worked to include the new DOE in the budget. We are even more thankful for our partners who actively pushed for the Department alongside us. IEC will continue to work in tandem with the City and our partners to create a Department that advances equitable, comprehensive solutions to address environmental injustices and climate change.
This vote additionally gives backing to the city’s current environmental initiatives. Last year, Chicago released the Climate Action Plan and committed to electrifying all municipal buildings by 2025. Recently, advocates have launched a campaign to electrify all residential buildings in the City of Chicago. And finally, the City released the Cumulative Impacts Assessment, with the intention of pursuing a cumulative impacts ordinance for the city.
There is still work to be done; specifically, this new iteration of the Department of Environment lacks the enforcement power of the previous DOE. As shown through a report by Neighbors for Environmental Justice, since environmental enforcement transferred from the Department of Environment to the Department of Public Health, enforcement rates have plummeted. IEC will continue to advocate for a sufficiently resourced Department of Environment with the authority needed to equitably tackle the city’s sustainability and environmental justice issues.”