VIDEO: Brandon Johnson is "Ready"!!

Environmental Justice

The plan for

Environmental Justice

For decades, our city's leadership has failed to take into consideration the health of our people and environment. Thousands of lead service lines are making it dangerous to drink our water. Industrial corridors have been down-zonedin wealthy communities while in black and brown communities homes have been built nearby without consideration of the health impacts to nearby residents. Many of our public schools have fallen under unsafe conditions that are harming the learning experience for many kids. Communitiescannot access public transportation options to business hubs in the city. The sad reality is that many of these communities are composed of people of color, creating literal sacrifice zones.

We need Chicago to lead the way in protecting the communities most affected by pollution, and take a strong stand to mitigate climate disaster. As mayor, Brandon Johnson will make Chicago a leader in sustainability, and usher in a Chicago Green New Deal that transforms our city and makes a better future possible. On day one, he will order a comprehensive study of this city’s environmental needs, with a focus on identifying the hazards on the South and West sides. This study can be finished in the first 100 days with the assistance of community groups and advocates. Then, new environmental regulations will be developed to reduce and mitigate the pollutants that are fouling our water and air – and it won’t take centuries for a Johnson administration to put those regulations into action.

This is how Chicago will become a leader in environmental justice. We will:

Resurrect and Improve the Department of Environment

As mayor, Brandon Johnson will robustly invest in a Department of Environment with the expertise to forward policy solutions that reduce pollution, increase equity and strengthen collaboration with community and other city departments.

Support a Just Transition

Brandon Johnson will engage labor and community advocates to transition frontline workers to high quality, green jobs.

Implement a Green New Deal for Air

Chicago needs to pass a Cumulative Impact Assessment Ordinance to ensure that already overburdened communities are protected against additional polluting industries.

Implement a Green New Deal for Water

Chicagoans have the right to safe drinking water, no matter their zip code. Under my Administration, we will fight for every federal dollar to rapidly replace the lead service lines in the city, as efficiently as possible. We will also prioritize the improvement of stormwater infrastructure,an issue that will only be more pressing with the climate crisis.

Implement a Green New Deal for Housing

Our buildings in Chicago are a key source of greenhouse gas emissions, and my administration will create better standards for new construction, and a just transition to clean energy for existing buildings.

Implement a Green New Deal for Education

Chicago’s students must both have educational settings that are environmentally sustainable, as well as have curriculum grounded in the truth of the climate crisis. Students should have access to STEM education that sets them up well to get green jobs.

Implement a Green New Deal for Transportation

As mayor, I will make sure that our public transportation focuses on reliability, accessibility, and electrification.

Win Utility Justice

Chicago residents must be protected against utility shut-offs, and should be engaged in any franchise negotiations with ComEd.Under my administration, we will focus on decarbonization, and explore municipalization of electric power in Chicago.

Resurrect and Improve the Department of Environment

  • Appoint a strong commissioner
  • Staff the department with a broad range of policy experts
  • Make sure the department's community-accessible and grounded
  • Ensure interagency collaboration
  • Implement community impact assessments
  • Staff up inspectors to ensure enforcement

Support a Just Transition

  • Protect frontline workers and community members
  • Create a Just Transition Fund

 Implement a Green New Deal for Air

  • Pass a Cumulative Impact Assessment Ordinance

 Implement a Green New Deal for Water

  • Implement a fast, equitable, and just replacement of lead service lines
  • Improve stormwater management systems to prevent flooded streets

 Implement a Green New Deal for Housing

  • Support a just transition for buildings to a clean energy future
  • Work with diverse stakeholders to pass a Clean and Healthy Buildings Ordinance

Implement a Green New Deal for Education

  • Retrofit school buildings to be green schools, rooted inequity
  • Make sure CPS curriculum addresses climate justice
  • Focus on students developing core skills from STEM to technical training that will power us through the clean energy transition

Implement a Green New Deal for Public Transportation

  • Create a comprehensive approach to electrification of theCTA
  • Prioritize interagency collaboration so city planning centers transit accessibility and increases ridership

Utility Justice

  • Center community input in the ComEd franchise agreement,ensuring Chicagoans get the best deal possible
  • Protect low-income households from ComEd’s shutoffs
  • Explore municipalization of ComEd
  • Ensure our electrical supply is decarbonized by 2040

 Resurrect and Improve the Department of Environment:

Chicago’s Sustainability Office recently went through the process of updating the city's Climate Action Plan, but we need to put the resources in to make any meaningful progress towards this plan. To Achieve (1) economic inclusion and savings, (2) reduced pollution burden, (3) equitable access to critical infrastructure, and (4) community health and resiliency, we need collaboration and accountability of many of the departments in City Hall, and collaboration with the state and federal governments.

 As mayor, Brandon Johnson will commit to a Department of the Environment that has:

  •  A strong influential commissioner with decision making and enforcement power, hired by committee of environmental stakeholders 
  • Policy issue area experts leading programs and policymaking – resiliency, waste/circular economies, economic planning, permitting and enforcement, water, community engagement, conservation, land reclamation/brownfield development
  • A high-level position dedicated to ensuring environmental-related policies, legislation and planning processes are accessible and resulting decisions are community driven 
  • Better interagency collaboration – key positions that work closely with CDPH, CDOT, DWM, Buildings, DPD and AIS. Holdinter-departmental hearings to more efficiently assess and implement sustainability strategies. 
  • A strong emphasis on community engagement in planning and permitting processes, including implementing a cumulative impact assessment. 
  • Adequate inspectors to make full use of municipal code to issue meaningful citations of corporate polluters who prioritize profit over the health and safety of residents.

 Just Transition

A transition away from fossil fuels is inevitable, but justice is not. That's why a Johnson administration will work with labor and environmental justice leaders to include Just Transition provisions to protect frontline workers and community members who are impacted by the transition away from environmentally hazardous infrastructure. We will make sure that we have the structures in place to enact the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA) that will create green jobs and improve the lives and environment for people in Chicago.

Frontline workers and community members would receive direct access, input, and jobs from planning to implementation. Programs such as community benefits agreements, access to apprenticeship programs, and local hire provisions for building and maintaining the buildings and surrounding infrastructure. Work with the Department of Workforce Development to create a Just Transition Fund, to provide for a wage differential, apprenticeships, and equitable jobplacements.

 A Green New Deal for Air

Many of the communities of the Southeast, South andSouthwest sides of the city have had to lead on fights to prevent or shut down air polluters from coming into their communities over the past several years. This work has highlighted a concern that shows communities overburdened by air pollution continue to face the brunt of it due to inadequate regulations.


A Brandon Johnson administration will consider what pollution is already present before approving any permits. The administration will require a robust environmental impact assessment of any planned developments by passing a strong Cumulative Impact Ordinance giving environmental justice communities a crucial level of protection against the interests of business, and pumping the brakes on the permitting of additional industrial facilities to be allowed to operate in communities already overburdened by pollution.

Green New Deal for Water for All

Clean water is a basic human right and necessity of life that all Chicago residents deserve. Brandon will work with the Department of Water Management to implement a fast, equitable, and just replacement of the city's lead service lines to ensure that the supply of water furnished by the city of Chicago to any household shall be safe and made available at an affordable cost.

Lead Service Line Replacement (LSLR): 

Chicago has almost 400,000 lead service lines - more than any other city in the US.But so far, our city has only replaced a few hundred of those pipes,even though exposure to lead can inflict permanent damage on children's brains. At this rate, it will take four centuries to replace them all. 

The recently passed Lead Service Line Replacement andNotification Act of 2021 mandates the city of Chicago to replace its lead service lines in a 50-year timeline, but Chicago should be moving much quicker than that. In fact, advocates nationally are advocating for updated revisions to the federal Lead and Copper Rule to include a mandate of a 10-year timeline for nationwide LSLR. However, this will only be possible through a robust investment from the federal government. With more federal dollars and intentional capital infrastructure planning, Chicago can reduce costs and accelerate its timeline of LSLR by replacing lines along with water-main replacements, streetscapes, repairing roads, green stormwater infrastructure developments etc., and exploring strategies other cities have utilized to expedite LSLR like Newark, NJ and Flint, MI.

To date, Chicago has received $15 million in federal grants to replace lead pipes, only a fraction of the estimated $10 billion to replace all of Chicago’s 390,000 lead service lines. President Biden's Infrastructure program has made billions of dollars available for cities likeChicago to begin lead-pipe replacement. What we need to do is to look for how we can get the job done more efficiently and effectively, to stretch the dollars we do access as far as possible. Chicago is projecting costs five times the national average for replacing its lead pipes. Why aren’t we instead looking at what other cities,such as Denver and Detroit, have done to lower the per-unit costs of replacement? This includes such common-sense steps as replacing lead lines at the same time that we’re digging up and replacing the connected water mains.

LSLR decisions should be informed by equity, public health, and environmental justice analyses. LSLR should be prioritized for communities facing cumulative lead exposure through various sources (e.g.,drinking water, flood water, paint, nearby industrial pollution in air or soil,etc.); homes with exposure to other environmental contaminants; existing public health disparities (e.g., high asthma rates, diabetes prevalence, etc); homes that have had their water shut off in the past; neighborhoods that have experienced high levels of disinvestment in water infrastructure, and low-income households who are the least able to shoulder the costs of LSLR. A Johnson administration will ensure equity, efficiency, and protection of public health.

Stormwater Infrastructure: 

To avoid the flooded streets and yards that are becoming increasingly common after storms, Brandon Johnson will impose stricter requirements on new construction to include stormwater management systems, handwork with commercial building owners to develop retrofitting plans to reduce runoff from buildings and parking lots. He also will invest in new stormwater management systems to capture runoff and increase green-bedding programs.

Green New Deal for Housing

Currently, existing buildings produce 69% of our city's emissions. We must put Chicago on the path to a just transition to a clean energy future. The rollout should prioritize frontline environmental justice communities already dealing with poor outdoor and indoor air quality as well as neighborhoods where folks are struggling to pay utility bills/have a higher energy burden. The implementation will include workforce training and local hiring provisions.

When we consider the impact of climate change on local communities, especially low and moderate income households and communities of color, we must achieve our decarbonization goals by improving building resilience and indoor air quality, saving energy, lowering energy burdens, and creating new jobs.

The Johnson administration will work with labor and environmental justice leaders to pass a Clean and Healthy Buildings Ordinance That will focus on standards for new developments and a just transition for existing buildings. We will ensure that contractors and laborers seeking to do work towards the retrofits of the buildings have strong labor standards equal or exceeding those set by CEJA.

Green New Deal for Education

All CPS students learn not only the truth about the climate crisis, but core skills from STEM to technical training that will power us through the clean energy transition.

  • Environment: Remove toxic materials, increase water efficiency, enhance ventilation systems, ensure structural integrity, and upgrade to 100% renewable energy 
  • Education: Fully staff schools with teachers,counselors, and support staff while closing the opportunity gap in Black and Brown Neighborhoods.
  • Economy: Ensure that contractors and laborers seeking to do work towards the retrofits of the buildings are working toward strong labor standards equal or exceeding those set by CEJA. 
  • Equity: Prioritize the lower ⅓ of schools in the CDC’sSocial Vulnerability index to get fully funded retrofits and improvements, and use a tier system to allow schools in the higher end of the scale to get additional funding support for their retrofits 
  • Youth Green Corps Program: Funding for school gardens, STEM training, on green jobs, solar installation 
  • Climate Curriculum: Students are taught a comprehensive climate justice curriculum that helps them understand the facts, prepares them to fight the crisis, and create a better (stronger) future. Ensure there is funding to implement education surrounding the history of Environmental Disparities to help set precedent to create the change we need

Green New Deal for Public Transportation

My plan for Safe and Reliable Transit outlines my bold approach to restore and improve the CTA. Additionally, we must reduce the city's carbon footprint with a multi-layered approach to public transportation and planning.

  • Electrification: Leverage existing funds to continue developing CTA’s electrification plan by 2040 which should be inclusive of charging infrastructure, grid infrastructure, and clean energy supply 
  • Accessibility: In order to increase ridership and accessibility, there must be collaboration between the Department of Planning,Housing, and CDOT to ensure that equitable development of new homes & business ventures are coming to historically divested communities, which would increase the ridership in communities located in the South & Southwest sides.

Utility Justice

In order to secure a green, prosperous future for all Chicagoans, our energy system must serve the public and work in line with our environmental and economic development priorities. To do this, we must:

  • Center community input in the ComEd franchise agreement
  • End ComEd’s shut-offs for low-income households behind on utility payments, establish robust and non-onerous assistance programs to reduce utility-burdened households to zero, and work with the Illinois Commerce Commission to establish a progressive residential rate structure in Chicago.
  • Explore municipalization of ComEd in order to decarbonize our city, end corporate corruption, ensure affordable energy for all Chicagoans, and preserve a pipeline of unionized jobs working on the frontlines of our grid infrastructure.
  • Ensure our electrical supply is decarbonized by 2040 or sooner and speed up other City and sister agency initiatives, like CTA bus electrification and building decarbonization.

It’s great that Chicago City Hall has a green roof, but that commitment to environmental sustainability needs to filter down through the entire building. A better environment will mean a more livable city for all– which will mean a better economy and a place where generations of Chicagoans can thrive.