Reports & Analysis

Political Landscape Looks Greener in 2009

Obama and Quinn Bring Hope to Illinois

Though it’s still early, 2009 is shaping up to be the year in which environmental and economic realities finally intersect in meaningful way on the national and state political stage. Our new president has expressed a strong interest in solving economic problems through the creation of “green” jobs and sent an important signal in his first week in office when he directed the U.S. EPA to reconsider its refusal to let states adopt and enforce aggressive clean car standards.

Meanwhile, the political landscape in our cash-strapped state has gotten a little greener with a new governor and leadership in the General Assembly with an environmental bent.

Since becoming governor, Patrick Quinn has talked about the need for sustainability to be the fundamental principle of a major capital spending program and for smart, clean energy to be a priority.  His first actions as governor indicate that he is doing more than talking the talk but he is walking the walk, too.

On. Feb. 5, Quinn appointed Marc Miller to be director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Miller, a natural resources professional and avid outdoorsman who has dedicated his career to protecting Illinois’ natural heritage for future generations, replaced Kurt Granberg, a former state representative appointed by former governor Rod Blagojevich. Quinn also signed into law SB1132, a measure that puts back $9 million into restricted state accounts for wildlife and conservation programs. The funds were originally swept from federally funded programs last year to pay for other state expenses.

And on Feb. 26, Quinn fulfilled a pledge when he took office and reopened seven state parks that were closed last fall by former Rod Blagojevich as cost-cutting measures.

Quinn faces tough choices in these uncertain economic times, but he has some new allies in Springfield to deal with the issues. Changes in the Senate leadership put John Cullerton and Christine Radogno, both longtime environmental champions, in charge of the Senate Democratic and Republican caucuses, respectively. In the House, the 2008 elections helped bring into office a new class of leaders who have clean energy high on their list of priorities. Other potential allies include Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who helped stem the Bush Administration’s attacks on our environmental laws with regular legal challenges, and State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, who has put the state’s purse to work creatively to protect the planet.

Springfield is a brave, new world in 2009, with old divides crumbling and new alliances being formed.  IEC is working hard through the Partners for Parks and Wildlife, Illinois Climate Action Network and Mercury Free Illinois coalitions to take advantage of this historic alignment of the political planets. We’re moving forward on various policies and pieces of legislation that will help us protect Illinois’ great natural heritage for future generations.

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