Illinois lags behind other states in protecting our environment. For instance, according to a Chicago Tribune article published on Jan. 10, 2018, the state has, for the past four decades, “failed to adopt federally mandated ethics rules intended to prevent states from appointing environmental regulators with conflicts of interest involving the Clean Air Act.” The situation hasn’t improved under Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has taken virtually no steps to make sure the rules apply to his top officials at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. “It’s little wonder that various studies have ranked Illinois as one of the worst states when it comes to industrial air pollution,” Ann said. “We need a government in Illinois that is serious about protecting our environment for future generations. Because the Trump administration is eliminating regulation on the federal level, it falls upon states to step up and comply with the Paris Accords.”

The extraction of carbon-based fuels poses a major threat to the environment, and under Rauner, the situation has become more problematic. The governor has sought to reduce restrictions on the state’s coal plants while also embracing fracking.

We need to invest heavily in renewable energy. It is a win-win proposition. Not only will it protect the environment, but it also will be a boon for the state’s economy. Illinois ranks high in wind and energy-efficiency jobs. Furthermore, the solar industry is gaining momentum in Illinois. According to the Chicago Tribune, the state added 3,718 solar jobs in 2016, an increase of 6.7 percent from the previous year.

Another pressing environmental issue is contaminated drinking water. A report released in 2017 by the National Resources Defense Council placed Illinois among the states with the most lead and copper violations regarding drinking water. Phosphorous runoff from agriculture practices (plant food, manure) is also impacting the quality of our water and fostering the growth of invasive species such as Asian Carp. And brownfields, which are contaminated abandoned commercial sites, dot every part of the state and present a risk to both human health and the environment. “Environmental problems are mounting in the current political climate, and the people have to make their voices heard loud and clear,” Ann said. “The will of the people plays a major role in reversing bad policy. That’s why supporting organizations such as the Sierra Club is so important. Citizens must demonstrate that they won’t allow their governmental representatives to pillage the environment.”

“Now it’s time for our state government to get with the program,” Ann said. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening. We need new blood in Springfield. We need politicians who understand the importance of protecting the environment and the benefits of moving aggressively toward renewable energy.”