City authorities will use data – measured over time – to determine where and how it can ensure an appropriate balance of industrial economic growth, environmental quality, and good jobs.
Chicago City Council has announced an air quality reform agenda in a bid to improve Chicago’s air quality while promoting equitable economic growth.
The new agenda will ground the City’s environmental policy in data provided in the Air Quality and Health Report and will introduce an ordinance at City Council that will reform zoning related to industrial and polluting uses.
In addition, an Environmental Equity Working Group will be set up as well as further reform of regulations related to air pollution.
“Time and time again, we’ve seen the failure of trickle-down economics, which has led us further and further away from creating a healthy, equitable, economic environment,” said Lori Lightfoot, mayor of Chicago.
“This new initiative will work hand in glove with our ongoing commitment to ensure public safety by addressing the unequal burden of pollution that communities of colour on our city’s South and West sides face while also creating good, sustainable jobs in neighbourhoods that need them the most.”
The new agenda is rooted in data from the Air Quality and Health Report which was created by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). In the report, the department looked at both pollution levels and under-lying social and health equity issues faced by communities.
“This new initiative will work hand in glove with our ongoing commitment to ensure public safety by addressing the unequal burden of pollution that communities of colour on our city’s South and West sides face”
The department found that air quality issues like ozone and particulate matter remain a challenge citywide. However, communities facing inequities like poverty and unemployment are more likely to experience poor health outcomes – making efforts to mitigate air pollution, which can increase risk for or exacerbate chronic conditions, especially important.
Data from this report helped to inform improvements in the City’s environmental inspection and enforcement by prioritising impacted communities and strengthening requirements for permitting and operation of polluting industries.
City authorities will also use this data – measured over time – to determine where and how it can ensure an appropriate balance of industrial economic growth, environmental quality, and good jobs.
“These air quality reforms are a needed step to promote the greater health of Chicago’s residents,” added Dr Allison Arwady, commissioner, CDPH.
“Chicago’s residents face inequitable burdens from air pollution based on neighbourhood characteristics. By focusing on the communities at greatest risk, the changes described in the report will help prevent chronic disease and, ultimately, move us toward closing those inequities.”
The air quality agenda also includes an ordinance that changes the City’s Zoning Code to amend where manufacturing and other polluting sites may be located throughout the city. These changes will ensure that the economic activity provided by industrial and manufacturing uses will remain sufficiently separated from residences and small businesses.
“These air quality reforms are a needed step to promote the greater health of Chicago’s residents”
The ordinance will be introduced at the September City Council meeting and will be voted upon in October.
The administration said its air quality agenda will also overhaul existing rules relating to industrial operations that produce air pollution, analyse the cumulative burden of polluting uses through a new regulatory process, and strengthen how air pollution enforcement and inspection operates.
Finally, in order to harness the world-class expertise and community voices that can inform this agenda, the City will also be creating the Environmental Equity Working Group, which will serve as a platform of community representatives, environmental leaders, and other local stakeholders who will advise the chief sustainability officer and the administration in pursuit of its environmental reform agenda.
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