Gov. Pat Quinn on Tuesday signed legislation creating an environmental justice commission that will serve to protect communities from undue environmental harm.
Senate Bill 2193 calls for an assessment of Illinois' existing state environmental laws and policies to ensure that no segment of the population will disproportionately bear the adverse environmental and health effects cause by pollution.
"Race, income or nationality should not determine the quality of the air one breathes or the water one drinks," Quinn said in press release from his office. "We want to make sure that all Illinois families live in healthy communities. This commission will help us strengthen environmental laws so that every Illinois resident has clean air and clean water."
The new piece of legislation, sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) and Rep. Will Davis (D-East Hazel Crest), creates the Environmental Justice Act and the Commission on Environmental Justice. The commission will be in charge of making recommendation to the governor and the General Assembly to address any environmental justice concerns that arise.
The new legislation addresses concerns about rising asthma rates and other health indicators in parts of the state, especially in minority communities. Medical researchers have observed a connection between the types of industry present in a community and the childhood asthma rates found in that community, according to Quinn's office.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) will be tasked with providing the commission administrative and other types of support.
Members of the commission will be comprised from members of the General Assembly, community members, environmental and business organizations, health experts, local government and members of the public with expertise in environmental justice.
The commission will also include members from the Departments of Aging, Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Natural Resources and Public Health and Transportation.