Representative Robyn Gabel has represented the 18th District since 2010, and during that time she has earned a reputation as a champion for environmental issues. Representative Gabel chairs the Human Services committee and is the Vice-Chair of Human Services – Appropriations, among others, and serves as the chair of the Green Caucus.
IEC is very grateful to Representative Gabel for taking the time to answer our questions and share her thoughts for this edition of our Legislator Series!
What is the most memorable environmental bill you’ve worked on?
The Future Energy Jobs Act, which started as three separate bill efforts and took roughly five years to finally get into law has been my most memorable environmental bill to date. It is the most significant climate and clean energy bill in Illinois history, investing $15 billion into a growth industry that is necessary for Illinois to succeed in the future and delivering $4 billion in consumer savings. With the Future Energy Jobs Act, the state of Illinois invested in over 120,000 clean energy jobs in 423 companies while also providing for more environmental protections in energy production. I like to think that it was part of the movement that stopped pretending that wind and solar energy were “alternatives” and could be considered primary sources of not just economic growth but environmentally sound energy production, leading to today where we can power over a million homes on just wind and solar alone in Illinois.
What environmental initiatives would you like to see Illinois take the lead on?
Illinois can take the lead on: 21st century solutions for cleaner water and air in both urban and rural environments, banning plastic straws and other consumer disposable products that are difficult to recycle and end up in landfills, protecting our pollinators and their habitats as they’re the key to promoting a healthy agricultural economy and make our lives more beautiful, promoting conservation efforts from farmers that help clean up the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Environmental science itself also needs protecting. Because of a lack of investment in environmental sciences in other states or at the federal level, it may make sense to have Illinois become a hub for environmental science of all kinds due to our diverse state and our wealth of resources.
How has your community responded to environmental issues since the 2016 election?
Our district has always been extremely environmentally aware and active, and that crosses the partisan divide. We are very fortunate in the 18th district to have a number of influential people on either side of the aisle who can continue to communicate environmental priorities at every level. People from all backgrounds in our district are aware of how important conservation and environmental protection are to not only their children but to the future of Illinois and the United States. No matter what changes at the varying and different levels of government, the people who live in our district will continue to be strong advocates for a clean and healthy environment.
How effective are current environmental advocacy efforts and what could be improved?
I’m very proud of current environmental advocacy efforts, from groups that work at the state level to federal coordinators to hyper-local efforts to fix flooding or preserve natural habitats and native flora and fauna. By continuing to work together, I believe that legislators, neighbors, and advocacy groups can continue to see gains across Illinois that conserve and protect our natural resources in a way that benefits not just our health and welfare but our economy as well.
Click here to read our previous entry in the Legislator Series with Representative Carol Ammons.