Governor Pritzker has completed the first half of his first term as Governor of the State of Illinois.
Last year, we shared critiques about the lack of progress that the executive branch has made on important environmental priorities. Since sharing that analysis, our world has changed dramatically. The pandemic, widespread protests over racial inequality, and the malicious incompetence of the previous presidential administration drastically altered the governor’s plans and role as a leader in 2020.
While pandemic restrictions have been very difficult for people, businesses, and institutions, Governor Pritzker and IDPH Director Ezike should be applauded for their science-based approach to addressing the pandemic. The pandemic has clearly illustrated the devastating cost to human life and our economy that can occur when the federal government fails to lead.
Much like the pandemic, if we don’t listen to science and take action immediately on the climate crisis, the problems we are already seeing now will compound, leading to more deaths – particularly in low income communities and communities of color- and a high economic cost to society. Once again, we are calling on the governor to act quickly to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA).
Illinois’ new House Speaker, Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch, has been an outspoken advocate for action on climate change, with a particular focus on jobs and economic development-and a cosponsor of CEJA. Senate President Harmon has been a champion for the renewable energy industry. Now that we have the right leaders in place, it’s time to pass CEJA in order to transition from dirty energy, develop jobs in Black and Brown frontline communities, and hold utilities accountable.
Our community is grateful to Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) Director Jerry Costello and his staff who worked to ensure that small food businesses could access the PPE and markets that they needed to weather the crisis. In particular, IDOA promoted farmers markets at a time when municipal health departments were trying to cancel or delay them despite safety protocols and the need for consumers to access fresh produce. We also are proud of the Fall Covers for Spring Savings program, which was started by previous director John Sullivan and championed by the current director. This small budget program has produced huge results for Illinois’ conservation cropping practices and funding must continue..
After the General Iron permit was issued by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), the Governor’s Office made commitments to environmental justice and procedural changes to Illinois’ environmental laws. While we argued that the agency already has the authority that it claimed to need in order to deny the permit, we agree that statutes must be amended this year to start to better address environmental racism. While the governor cannot pass laws – that’s the legislature’s job – the governor can direct the agency to work with and support environmental justice legislation. We hope to see support for statutory changes by the IEPA that will make the difference in getting this done.
It has been a very big year for our state parks and natural areas with Illinoisans flocking to our outdoor sites during limited out-of-state travel. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) has done a tremendous job welcoming these important tourists, and we hope the trend will continue in a way that guarantees all people are welcome. We need to make sure that IDNR’s budget is protected and that we are bringing in as many federal conservation dollars as possible to support their work. IDNR – the largest agricultural landowner in the state – has also done a tremendous job in significantly increasing their promotion of sustainable agricultural practices at its properties. We are also excited to see the Brandon Road PED signed by the Governor. This important project is needed to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan and preserve this world class freshwater resource.
We are halfway through Gov. Pritzker’s term, one that has been unlike any other due to a string of historic events. His commitment to seeing our state through these challenging times brings hope to many. 2021 presents an opportunity for Gov. Pritzker to deliver on crowning environmental milestones, like a comprehensive, equitable clean energy bill that will create jobs at a time when they couldn’t be more needed. We are eager to continue working with the governor and his dedicated staff to secure legacy defining protections for all Illinoisans and our environment.