CBA Record November-December 2021

Air, Land andWater: A Talk with Illinois EPA Director John Kim By Amy Cook, CBA Record Editorial Board

residents know what’s going to happen and give them the opportunity to make their thoughts known. We notify people who subscribe to our email list, issue public notices, and hold meetings where people can submit comments and ask questions. We take all comments into consideration, and it is very common to make changes based on what we receive. Illinois recently passed the Lead Service Line Replacement and Notification Act. What will be the Illinois EPA’s role? That’s an important piece of legislation that addresses a big problem in Illinois. Chicago has some of the more extensive and dated service lines in the country. The legislation will establish procedures on how the service line replacement fund will be set up, and as lines get replaced, we’ll oversee the work. We’ll work with communities to do an inventory of the lines to provide an accurate view of what’s needed. The work involves a number of jurisdictions, such as the Illinois Department of Public Health. The big thing under the bill is funding. We expect that federal money will make its way to the state under the infrastructure bill. The Chicago, Fox, and Mississippi rivers all have had significant flood- ing in recent years that affects nearby residents. What is your agency doing about that? Flooding nationwide is evidence of climate change, and there’s a broad umbrella of efforts. We continue to work with watersheds to provide support, including financial assistance, to help local commu- nities and municipalities improve green infrastructure and identify and control sources of pollution. Youwerewith the Illinois Department of Agriculture for a period of time. What are some of your initiatives for decreasingpesticideandherbicideuse and their runoff? In Illinois, we have a nutrient loss reduc- tion strategy, which involves a number of stakeholders, such as the Department of Transportation, Illinois Farm Bureau, the Department of Agriculture—any

grams to embrace it. All people should be protected from environmental pollution. What environmental justice recognizes is that some people have been impacted more than others. We want to make sure there is no disparate treatment, and that certain areas have additional attention. It’s a simple concept but difficult to balance. In your view, how do environmental issues negatively affect communities of color, andhoware you responding to that? Across Illinois, you see greater levels of industrial development and underdevel- opment in infrastructure. For example, large portions of Chicago’s southside have industry and manufacturing, which can be great, but are adjacent to neighborhoods that often are people of color or those with limited income. Or there are rural commu- nities that are lower income and don’t have adequate storm or sewer systems. There is no one set definition of an envi- ronmental justice area. In Illinois, we have a definition based on minority resident percentage and household income. If an area is defined as an environmental justice area, we want to provide greater awareness and participation to people in those com- munities. For instance, if we have a permit application, you want to make sure the

John J. Kim

What drew you to environmental work? When I graduated from law school, although environmental law was estab- lished, it was not as developed as it is today. When I interviewed with the Attorney General office, I was thinking of going into litigation. But because of my engineering background, they told me environmental law might be a great fit. They were right. It’s a good mix of technical background and policy, with real-world applications. The concept of environmental justice is extremely important. How do you define environmental justice? Environmental justice is a big area of interest for us, and we’re developing pro-

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