Enlightening conversation today at the Gubernatorial Environmental Candidate Forum hosted by the Sierra Club Illinois PAC. Sierra Club Illinois Director Jack Darin started off by saying “Illinois must step up to lead.” All candidates present agreed to set 100% renewable energy goals here in IL, keep the Great Lakes safe, expand mass transit (to help people access jobs), elevate environmental justice, provide worker retraining/economic development/infrastructure development/ higher education to help communities justly transition away from the fossil fuel economy; and push clean water infrastructure.

No wonder why Republican Gov. Rauner was a NO SHOW. Candidates pointed out he’s not standing up for the Clean Power Plan; he hasn’t signed onto U.S. Climate Alliance to honor the Paris agreement among 10 other states; he’s working in secret with Dynegy to weaken pollution rules; he has allowed the environmental justice commission to languish without resources or authority; he has decreased Dept. of Natural Resource’s staffing and funding; and his Koch brothers and right wing supporters and kowtowing to big business is selling out the state.

Here’s a quick summary of some comments shared:

Daniel Biss: This is a unique moment with Trump as president and unprecedented attacks on vulnerable people, women and planet. It’s a time for movement building (the movement is not diverse enough) and State government holding the line against attacks. With a 100% rating from the Illinois Environmental Council, his progressive ambitious enviro agenda calls for a holistic climate plan – clean energy transformation along with green transportation and sustainable agriculture. Environmental injustice is vicious, wrong, unfair – white privilege exists in every corner. Every year environmental priorities take a hit, we can’t throw environmental programs under bus when have to make a tough choice. Water infrastructure is a little expensive, but worth it. We shouldn’t be fighting about whether or not we have to poison or children. The places that need infrastructure improvement the most are also the places that need the jobs the most. We need someone who knows something about state government. This is an unbelievable opportunity – not because our billionaire is better than their billionaire – but to work together in building a just and sustainable world.

Chris Kennedy: When he ran the Merchandise Mart, it was the largest LEED certified building in the world – an investment that has reaped returns. People protect what they love. He wants everyone to protect the environment for our children and grandchildren. He’s a Ted Kennedy – Teddy Roosevelt candidate. He wants to make Illinois a leader of clean energy – an enormous advantage to our state. Advancing clean energy will not hurt downstate IL – 80% of coal burned in IL comes from Wyoming. We need to stop shipping energy profits to Wyoming. He follows the Catholic social justice rule – giving preference to the option for the poor and fighting for kids and people in communities that don’t have a voice. Businesses need to return communities to the condition they found them – can’t let them off the hook. We could put everyone to work if we attacked the clean water issue. Showing people how clean their water is (not) on their bills would galvanize action.

Tio Hardiman: (left early due to schedule conflict) A progressive that cares about the environment. He helped shut down a local incinerator and camped out in Flint and saw water that looked like syrup. Kids must be able to drink decent water. He speaks truth to power. He will push a progressive tax on wealthy people, as well as a financial transaction tax. Billionaires are drowning out regular people’s voices. He’s running for real – not as a hobby. He’s supporting House Bill 3293 and calling to videotape all meetings with special interest groups for greater transparency.

J.B. Pritzker: (left early due to schedule conflict, State Senator Heather Steans filled in after intro speech) We have to stand up to Trump & co, profits over people, and environmental injustice. He supports joining the U.S. Climate Alliance; setting 100% renewables goal; investing in clean energy technology an important job creator, and protecting abundant fresh water. We must let science and reason determine our environmental policies. He wants to be the first governor to put a statewide water use plan in place and replace 100% of lead service lines in IL. Also, he wants to sign on to CA’s fuel efficiency standards and become the IL Silicon Valley of battery technology with Argonne Nat’l Labs. Investment in conservation can bring in tourists and be an economic development issue.

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