Illinois’ transition to electric vehicles crucial to stopping pollution-related deaths: report

Pollution from diesel trucks will kill more than 400 people statewide and sicken thousands of residents next year, making it crucial that Governor JB Pritzker accelerate Illinois’ transition to electric vehicles , according to a new report.

The Chicago Respiratory Health Association is urging Pritzker to take steps to phase out diesel engines, including setting goals as early as 2030. Demands can be a tough sell in an election year, and the governor’s office indicates that Pritzker is concerned about the impact of such a transition on the industry.

Fine particle pollution from trucks in the Chicago area and other parts of the state will cause 416 premature deaths, nearly 200 heart attacks and thousands of respiratory problems, including emergency room visits, according to the report from the respiratory group.

In the absence of a national policy from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, it’s important for states to act to reduce pollution from trucks, advocates say.

“The EPA doesn’t do it nationally, so it’s up to states and governors to make it happen,” said Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs for the health group.

The just-released report, The Dirty Dozen: The Impacts of Diesel Engine Pollution in Illinois, ranks Cook, DuPage, Will, Lake, and Kane counties as the dirtiest in the state for diesel particulate pollution. . McHenry County is also in the top twelve. Other counties include Grundy, Kankakee, Kendall, DeKalb, Madison, and Iroquois. The national organization Clean Air Task Force provided data for the analysis.

Around Chicago’s industrial corridors and other areas of the state with heavy truck traffic, the summer months can be particularly bad, adding to the urgency for Pritzker to act, Urbaszewski said.

“We are entering the summer season, which is historically the most polluted season,” he said.

Illinois General Assembly resolutions last year urged Pritzker to sign a pact with 17 other states that would commit to zero-emission electric vehicle sales targets. The pact, a memorandum of understanding, sets the goal of achieving 30% of sales of new zero-emission trucks and buses by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

Pritzker enacted a major clean energy measure last year known as the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, but which largely focused on eliminating fossil fuel sources and shifting the state to renewable energies. renewables, including solar and wind power.

In a statement to the Sun-Times, Pritzker’s office said the governor’s staff is studying the multistate memorandum of understanding.

“The administration is currently studying the impacts of this memorandum of understanding on businesses and industries in the state and looks forward to continuing its work to ensure Illinois can enjoy life in a cleaner environment for years to come. come,” said Pritzker spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh. in a report.

The legislative resolutions did not appear to meet with opposition from business groups and, in fact, had the support of two electric vehicle manufacturers – Rivian Automotive Inc. and Lion Electric Co. – who have pledged to create thousands of manufacturing jobs in the state.

Pritzker joining the other states “would pave the way for thousands more clean energy and manufacturing jobs in the state,” Lion Electric chief executive Marc Bedard said in a statement last year.

No other Midwestern states are part of the pact, which includes California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Governor JB Pritzker has signed into law a major initiative to move the state toward clean energy sources. Proponents would like the governor to commit to similar goals for transportation.

The need for cleaner trucks is especially great in Chicago where more than two dozen industrial corridors attract thousands of trucks every day.

A recent analysis of Air Monitor data by the Sun-Times, WBEZ and the nonprofit MuckRock Newsroom found a correlation between air pollution hotspots and proximity to hallways. Little Village, in particular, showed several areas that suffered from high levels of air pollution.

A coalition of environmental, health and social justice organizations are calling for a municipal law to address the buildup of pollution in Chicago communities.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration has recognized Chicago’s cumulative pollution burden and recently announced that a citywide study has been launched.

Separately, the city’s planning and transportation departments are studying truck traffic around seven industrial corridors on Chicago’s southwest side, a potentially significant development for residents who live in the area and encounter the huge volume of trucks.

“We’re hearing from community stakeholders about priorities that may need to be addressed differently than they have been in the past,” said a fall 2021 city slide presentation on the study.

The transportation, distribution and logistics industry” and related industrial activity is an essential part of the economy, but like many economic activities, it can place particular burdens on communities that need to be mitigated and addressed. “, according to the presentation.

Brett Chase’s reporting on the environment and public health is made possible by a grant from the Chicago Community Trust.

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