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Illinois Legislators to Trump: We Will Not Roll Back Historic Environmental Laws

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Illinois Sierra Club / Twitter

Illinois state legislators announced Friday a series of legislative proposals that would block any weakened environmental and worker protection standards from taking effect in Illinois, and also respond to President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris agreement.


House Bill 1438 and Senate Bill 2212, introduced by chief sponsors Rep. Juliana Stratton and Sen. Daniel Biss, would maintain existing environmental and worker safeguards in Illinois, even if they are weakened at the federal level.

President Trump, his administration and leaders in Congress have signaled their intent to roll back federal environmental and labor protections, which in many cases would authorize Illinois to weaken its own standards.

"Donald Trump is beginning a race to the bottom by dismantling the EPA and rolling back protections for our air, water and natural resources," said Jack Darin, director of Sierra Club Illinois Chapter. "Illinois does not have to follow Trump backward when it comes to the health and safety of our environment and our workers."

HB 1438/SB 2212 would bar Illinois agencies from following the federal government in lowering standards required by these federal laws: Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, Endangered Species Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Mine Safety and Health Act and Federal Labor Standards Act.

"With the Trump administration's unfortunate announcement of the United States' withdrawal from the Paris accord, it is now up to states and localities to keep fighting for environmental justice," said Rep. Juliana Stratton (D-Chicago). "I am proud to be the chief sponsor of House Bill 1438 because we all have a part in acting on climate change to protect future generations."

Sen. Daniel Biss (D-Evanston) agrees. "It's time for Illinois to set a goal of 100 percent clean energy for our state," he said. "Just because the Trump administration has declared it will lodge its head firmly in the sand and ignore the need for realistic environmental policy doesn't mean we can't act. These efforts put us on track to comply with the Paris climate agreement here in Illinois. I hope it serves as an example to other states as Illinois begins to chart a path to a 100 percent clean energy future."

Green Caucus Chair Rep. Robyn Gabel plans to introduce a joint resolution calling on Gov. Rauner to support the Paris agreement by joining governors across the country in the U.S. Climate Alliance, and to deliver a state power plan to put Illinois on a path towards 100 percent clean energy.

"Trump's plan to pull out of the Paris climate agreement is irresponsible and reprehensible," said Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston), chair of the Illinois Legislative Green Caucus. "The Paris agreement was a major milestone in the fight to combat climate change—but we also knew even at the time that it was merely a first step—and that there would be much more work to do for the U.S. and governments around the world. We call on Gov. Rauner to condemn this decision and step forward to do everything possible to protect our water, land and the air we breathe."

Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) announced plans to introduce legislation establishing a goal of 100 percent clean energy for Illinois to assert state leadership on climate change.

"President Trump made an egregious error when he decided to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement," said Steans. "To combat this decision and ensure that Illinois continues to reduce greenhouse gases, I am working on legislation to move Illinois toward 100 percent clean energy and a bill to increase the use of electric vehicles. I will continue to push Illinois to be an environmental leader."

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"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.

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Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.

That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.

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If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.

"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."

To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.


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