Daily Egyptian (Southern Illinois University): On Monday evening, Jan. 10th, several Illinois Latin government officials and legislators hosted a Latin Environmental racism townhall to give an overview of initiatives and future to fight the environmental issues in Latin communities. The Q&A panel included State Representative Delia Ramirez, Chicago Alderman of the 35th ward Carlos Rosa, State Senator Omar Aquino, Chicago Energy Coordinator Dany Robles, and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Eira Corral-Sepúlveda.
Each panelist has been working towards changes in Chicago and Illinois as a whole to provide things such as clean water and help people grow their own food. Senator Aquino said he’s proud of the work being done and in progress like the Clean Energy Jobs Act passed in 2021 by Governor J.B Pritzker to expand green jobs and energy infrastructure.
“The state of Illinois has passed the Clean Energy Jobs Act that was really at the forefront of energy policy in the last year,” Senator Aquino said. “Something that is transformative for years to come to really put the state of Illinois, I think, as a trendsetter as one of the greenest states.”
Something Senator Aquino finds a lot of promise in is the future of electric vehicles and their part in helping with pollution from gas cars, he said.
“I think the consumer base has spoken up, people really don’t want to be driving gas powered vehicles for a number of reasons,” Senator Aquino said. “One is the cost of gasoline and also the impact on our environment.”
District Commissioner Eira Corral-Sepúlveda spoke on the efforts made by MWRD to keep the Chicago metropolitan area clean by pushing the cleaning of waterways.
“Our first mission is to protect our waterways by cleaning Cook County’s wastewater,” Sepúlveda said. “This includes everything… your tap so after you take a shower after you wash dishes. It also includes industrial wastes. So we meet rigorous standards set by the Illinois [Environmental Protection Agency] EPA.”
Sepúlveda said cleaning the waterways has also led to a better aquatic environment. “In 2021, we achieved a really impressive milestone through our water weight protection test,” Sepúlveda said. “A number of aquatic species in the Chicago area waterway system which is also known as cause increased by nearly 800%.”
With the success of certain initiatives there’s still work to be done to make sure all initiatives are being implemented looking into future progress.
Senator Aquino mentioned the importance of a clean environment especially while living during the COVID-19 pandemic. “What we’ve been going through in the last few years with COVID-19 [is] how a clean environment is really important for our health,” Aquino said. “For our physical health, for emotional health [and] for mental health.”
Making sure Latinos in these communities are getting their benefits from this Act is something being taken very seriously, Aquino said. “While you need to make sure people have healthy environments, and keeping them healthy, they also need employment,” Aquino said. “As we move to greener jobs and all so forth, we need to make sure, though, those opportunities aren’t leaving our communities behind.”
Representative Delia Ramirez spoke on the long-term results of the Clean Energy Act legislation and what it promises for years to come. “It established a goal of 100% clean energy by 2050. It also shuts down the state’s largest polluter and the seventh largest polluter in the entire country,” Ramirez said. “I think we’re gonna see the immediate impact of what that’s gonna look like.”
Ramirez pointed out the importance of having a balanced strategy and monitorization to make sure implementation is working. “There’s no other state that has passed legislation like this,” Ramirez said. “What we’re going to be doing, house monitoring… that is this reporting is happening, that we’re really monitoring closely.”
During the Q&A/closing segment Sepúlveda spoke on the benefits of keeping water and the Chicagoland area clean and the benefits coming with it. “The responsibility that we have in protecting Lake Michigan as a clean source of fresh water is incredibly important, and more so as we start thinking about development,” Sepúlveda said. “What does development mean in the future for our Chicagoland area, and how can we keep it sustainable?”