(Chicago, IL) — August 16, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn likes to establish all sorts of commissions, task forces, councils, and boards to confront problems when more concrete solutions are in short supply. Quinn today delivered another such blue ribbon panel.
The governor today signed legislation that creates Illinois’ first “environmental justice” panel that will assess the state’s environmental laws and policies to determine whether segments of the population disproportionately bear the health burdens caused by pollution.
“Race, income or nationality should not determine the quality of the air one breathes or the water one drinks,” said Quinn, who signed the bill at Eden Place Nature Center, a nature center on the south side of Chicago that used to be a vacant lot and an illegal dumping ground.
The new law aims to addresses concerns about rising asthma rates and other health indicators in parts of the state, especially those in minority communities, according to Quinn.
Over the past 20 years, Illinois has had one of the highest asthma mortality rates. In 2007, 783,581 people currently were diagnosed with asthma, and asthma accounted for approximately 111,618 hospitalizations, costing $280,423,044 in direct hospital charges, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health’s “2009-2014 Illinois Asthma State Plan”.
“This commission will help us strengthen environmental laws so that every Illinois resident has clean air and clean water,” Quinn added.
The new 20-member environmental commission will likely compliment the work of the 140-member Illinois Asthma Partnership task force.
The legislation, Senate Bill 2193, sponsored by State Senator Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights) and State Rep. Will Davis (D- East Hazel Crest), creates the Commission on Environmental Justice, which will make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly to address environmental justice concerns.
“The aim of this council will be geared towards ensuring that a person’s income, age, race or nationality does not mean they must be relegated to living in an unsafe environment,” said Hutchinson.
“This new law will facilitate discussion of environmental justice issues in Illinois,” said Jennifer Walling, executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council.
Applicants can apply to serve on the Commission on Environmental Justice by visiting the Governor’s Boards and Commissions website.