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Mayoral Candidate Toni Preckwinkle Releases Environmental Justice Policy Centered on Replacing Lead Service Lines

Press Release
Jan 24 2019

Sierra Club, a leading environmental advocacy group, endorses her committed vision of a cleaner, safer Chicago

Today, mayoral candidate Toni Preckwinkle released her Environmental Justice Plan, which centers around addressing harmful lead contamination in Chicago’s drinking water and fighting for clean communities for all Chicagoans. Her plan also calls for 100% clean renewable energy, green jobs for all our communities and reinstating Chicago’s Department of Environment.

The rollout of the platform coincides with the announcement by the Sierra Club of their support for Toni as Mayor. “We’re proud to announce our endorsement of Toni Preckwinkle for Chicago Mayor,” said Jeff Shelden, Chair of Sierra Club Chicago Group. “Toni has a proven track record of protecting our environment and standing up for justice in her role as Cook County Board President. Her agenda for Chicago includes bold steps to make our city cleaner, healthier, and more equitable, ensuring that Chicagoans drink clean water and benefit from a 100% clean energy future.

Under her visionary plan, Toni will promptly implement a transparent program to begin fully replacing Chicago’s 385,000 outdated lead water service lines, which are contaimining our drinking water and causing what the candidate calls both a social justice and public health crisis.

“Clean water is a human right. If elected mayor, my administration will not rest until Chicago’s lead water crisis is properly addressed in a transparent and efficient manner,” Toni said. “Even after the Flint water crisis, Chicago officials failed to aggressively test drinking water in homes for lead. The Emanuel Administration did little to notify or educate homeowners about the problem and potential solutions. And the public has not received adequate information on where lead service lines are located. That is unacceptable. Tackling lead in Chicago’s drinking water will be my immediate environmental priority as mayor.”

Toni’s approach involves inventorying lead service lines and making their locations public on the City’s website as well as immediately notifying property owners. An overall replacement plan and timetable will be created. Her replacement plan will first prioritize areas with more children, especially more children that have tested for high levels of lead in their blood, as well as areas with rentals, and lower income communities, who are less likely to be able to pay for their own replacements. Toni would stop harmful “partial” replacement of service lines, that only replaces the portion closest to the street, because this practice just dislodges more lead and can just worsen the problem. She also calls for bundling replacements in an area so a street – and the water service lines – are only disturbed once, which helps to minimize more lead in the water.

To fund this program, Toni will go after federal and state funding such as the new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, the state Capital Bill, as well as leverage public private partnerships. And Toni will make it a priority that African American and Latinx firms participate equitably to solve this public health crisis.

“Fifty-one cities have stepped up to set a goal of fully eliminating all lead service lines. Many others have taken first steps,” said Toni. “Under my Administration, Chicago will be a leader instead of a lagger. Chicago actually required that many water service lines contain lead, up until the federal government outlawed the practice in 1986, and the City should take responsibility for the situation we are in now.”

In addition to clean water, Toni recognizes that clean energy is a critical component to any environmental plan for Chicago.

As Mayor, Toni will make Chicago a leader in carbon reduction by implementing the current clean energy commitment to run City facilities and fleet on 100% clean energy and helping buildings across Chicago reduce their carbon footprint.

To achieve this, Toni will:
⦁ Commit the City to moving to a fully electric fleet for the City and CTA buses by 2035, and creating a network of electric vehicle charging stations across the City in partnership with local business.

⦁ Implement deep energy retrofits in city owned buildings and make new city buildings net-zero ready where possible.

⦁ Convene a Task Force of building owners, tenants, contractors, labor, environmental groups, utilities, community groups and others to recommend best practices for updating business codes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from both existing and new buildings.

“The fight against climate change begins at the local level. Chicago has a responsibility to lead in efforts to combat the devastating effects climate change will have in our region,” President Preckwinkle said. “We must take action as responsible stewards of public resources, and must pay particular attention to our most vulnerable neighbors who will feel impacts of this environmental crisis most acutely through flooding of homes, worsening air quality impacting those with asthma and other ills, and danger from heat waves.”

Toni’s Environmental Justice Plan also calls for growing green jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities in energy efficiency, clean energy and green space, and for making sure those opportunities are available to minority and economically disadvantaged communities. She will also strengthen public transit, and opportunities for safe biking and walking, work to make our rivers as well as lakefront clean and accessible, and also fight for clean air, water and land for all Chicagoans, including addressing the legacy of toxic sites that has plagued some of Chicago’s communities.

To help accomplish her Environmental Justice agenda, Toni will reinstate the Chicago Department of Environment that was dismantled under the Emanuel Administration, so there will be clear accountability to get her agenda done. In addition Toni commits to adopting social justice, equity and opportunity framework for the work of all City departments, and to making sure that communities’ concerns about health and environment are heard by the City.