May 10, 2023

Mayor Lightfoot Announces Executive Order to Advance Environmental Justice for All Chicagoans

 New Order ensures continued accountability around environmental decision-making that considers and addresses community impacts

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

CHICAGO—Today, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot signed an Executive Order advancing the City’s commitment to environmental justice for all Chicagoans, making consideration of health and other community impacts a priority across departments and in City policies. The Executive Order formalizes and expands upon the City’s and community partners’ efforts to advance environmental justice under Mayor Lightfoot’s leadership.   

“Chicago is listening to the long-standing concerns voiced by environmental justice organizations and community members who have described how intensive industrial operations and commercial transportation affect their neighborhoods, health, and quality of life,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “While there are still years of work ahead, together we have laid the groundwork to remedy the harms caused by pollution and other burdens for generations of residents in environmental justice communities. Now we pass the baton to the incoming administration and City Council, and look forward to continued progress on these critical issues."  

Over the past four years – through plans like We Will Chicago, the 2022 Climate Action Plan, and Healthy Chicago 2025, and with $188 million in environment-related investments through the Chicago Recovery Plan – the City has acknowledged its role in past harms, brought community into solutions, and advanced meaningful projects and policy changes. Such actions taken by the Lightfoot Administration have been seen as a model for other cities that seek to ensure equitable public health and environmental protections for all. Now, for the first time in Chicago’s history, the Executive Order will:  

  • Ensure completion of the ongoing, citywide Cumulative Impact Assessment (CIA) that will provide data on how environmental burdens and other stressors vary across Chicago; 
  • Formally establish the structure and role of a community advisory body and interagency working group, both charged with carrying forward environmental justice actions; 
  • Require the City to develop and implement robust community engagement standards, as well as to create a new coordinator role within the Office of Climate & Environmental Equity; 
Advance City reforms to zoning, transportation planning, permitting and enforcement policies to address cumulative impacts.  

“Today, we celebrate a significant milestone for environmental justice in Chicago,” said Angela Tovar, Chief Sustainability Officer. “The Executive Order takes a comprehensive approach by requiring that City departments consider the environmental impacts of their operations, put forth policy and operational solutions, and work collaboratively with our community partners and stakeholders to mitigate them.”   

The CIA, which is being developed in partnership with community and environmental leaders, will help the City identify neighborhoods that experience the greatest cumulative impacts and inform decision-making around both policy and potential targeted investments the City should make. This includes the drafting of an ordinance to fully consider the collective environmental burden of existing and proposed industrial operations in zoning, permitting and enforcement decisions and actions.     

“People for Community Recovery and other community-led environmental justice organizations have been fighting for decades for policy change to prevent further harm to overburdened communities like mine on the far Southside,” said Cheryl Johnson, Executive Director. “We’re encouraged to see the Office of Climate and Environmental Equity and Department of Public Health value the lived experiences of people on the frontlines of the environmental justice struggle. The executive order solidifies a strong foundation for future policy change, and we look forward to continuing this important work and partnership."  

The new Executive Order directs the completion of a baseline CIA by September 1, 2023, followed by presentation to the new Mayor and the Chair of the City Council Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy by September 30, 2023. This will include a community input summary; working group charters; a set of proposed environmental, health and social data indicators; maps that use these indicators to identify impacted communities; an Environmental Justice Action Plan outlining the City’s commitments to promoting environmental justice under existing authorities; and draft language for broader policy reforms.    

"Completing the Cumulative Impact Assessment is one way we are advancing the vision of Healthy Chicago 2025, the citywide plan to close Chicago’s racial life expectancy gap by addressing the root causes of health” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “But it’s only the beginning. With this CIA, Chicago is reckoning with the impacts environmental justice communities face every day – and offering our City’s leadership a roadmap to improve health, opportunity and quality of life.”   

For more information about the Executive Order, click here. Keep up to date on the Cumulative Impact Assessment here.