Environmental Justice

Pollution disproportionately impacts communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities.

Striving towards environmental justice and creating sustainable communities should be at the forefront of the environmental agenda in Illinois. All communities should be able to enjoy the benefits of clean energy, water, air, open space and healthy foods, and they should be given equal opportunity for democratic participation and self-determination.

Environmental Justice Priorities

All agencies – not just environment and conservation agencies – should prioritize environmental justice. From housing to health care to the siting of businesses, these decisions have an impact on vulnerable populations throughout Illinois.

The Environmental Justice Commission was signed into law in 2011, but appointments to the commission have not been made appropriately in the last few years. This commission should be staffed and given the ability to weigh in on important IEPA permits and rules, as well as other matters pertaining to environmental justice within any state agency.

Fully fund and staff IEPA enforcement capacity, including hiring of additional full-time inspectors in the Bureau of Air, the Bureau of Land, and the Bureau of Water.


Toxic materials impact the health of all Illinoisans, but there is little study of the cumulative impact. Illinois should fund unbiased studies of the environmental, health, and economic impact of toxic materials and account for cumulative impacts when permitting and siting new and existing industrial facilities.

  • Ban the use of coal tar and other products with high polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon content for state agency pavement sealing projects.
  • Study the impact of toxic materials allowed to be discharged and emitted under existing permits.
  • Fully fund programs that will remove lead paint from housing, daycares, and schools in environmental justice communities.
  • Strengthen statewide rules regulating pet coke and fugitive dust emissions.
  • Direct Tollway to require the use of diesel particulate filters (DPFs) on diesel-powered construction equipment used on state-funded projects in the Metro Chicago and Metro East regions. DPF’s should remove at least 85% of particulate
  • Direct IEPA to develop regulations that will phase out the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).
  • Prioritize inclusive community input in the visions for Fisk and Crawford redevelopment, as well as the Industrial Corridor Modernization process as a whole.
  • Reform zoning and planning processes for industrial areas such that public health and cumulative environmental impacts are evaluated for sites and communities have robust opportunities for public input into decisions.
  • Increase inspection and enforcement training and staffing capacity for environmental violations at industrial sites.
  • Ensure any clean energy transition focuses on frontline communities, incorporating equity measures as well as job training and placement.
  • Implement a plan to remove the cumulative threats of petcoke, manganese, diesel exhaust, and other toxins from environmental justice communities.