As battles rage in Springfield over the future of pensions, some environmentalists are quietly wondering if it’s time to pin a green medal on Gov. Pat Quinn’s lapel.
From an environmentalist’s point of view, this has been a great summer for Quinn (pictured at right with bags of more than 150,000 signatures from 12-year-old Abby Goldberg, who organized a petition urging him to veto an industry-backed plastic bags recycling bill).
“He’s been 100 percent,” said Max Muller, program director of Environment Illinois.
Call it the environmentalists’ summer of content.
– Quinn vetoed the proposed Leucadia Southeast Side coal gasification plant, which environmental groups opposed because of greenhouse gas emissions.
– He vetoed an industry-backed bill on plastic bag recycling that environmentalists didn’t think was strong enough.
– He signed an “agreed” bill to put a tax on agricultural fertilizers to help farmers research and implement ways to stop over-applying fertilizer, which pollutes waterways.
– He signed a law to impose tougher safety measures on the use of a solvent commonly known as “perc” by dry cleaners that can seep into groundwater and the air.
– He signed a bill that block landfills from operating or expanding within Cook County, which environmentalists sought in order to prevent the Land and Lakes Landfill on the Chicago-Dolton border from expanding.
– At a signing in Lake County, he put his John Hancock on a cluster of bills, including one that provides new plumbing standards designed to encourage green technology.
“Quinn is starting to live up to the hopes that environmentalists had as being the greenest governor in Illinois history,” said Jack Darin, director of the Sierra Club’s Illinois chapter.
Muller agrees. “It has been an extraordinary year for Gov. Quinn on the environment,” Muller says. “He’s been rock solid for us, and some of his decisions on whether to sign or veto bills have not been particularly easy ones, either, like the [plastic] bag bill and the Leucadia bill.”
His record has earned Quinn a 100 percent rating for 2012 from the Illinois Environmental Council.
But even with Quinn’s support, environmentalists haven’t gotten everything they want. Both more funding for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and legislation to regulate hydraulic fracturing failed in the Legislature.
Does pleasing environmentalists mean Quinn has antagonized business? Not necessarily. Doug Whitley, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce called Quinn’s record a “mixed bag.”
“The Leucadia bill was really the premier action in which we didn’t know where he would go, and we were really pleased [with his veto],” Whitley said.
Other pro-business measures Quinn signed included the extension of enterprise zones, the creation of a tax tribunal for the Illinois Department of Revenue – which is important to multistate taxpayers – and changes in procurement law that make it easier to do business with the state of Illinois, Whitley said.
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