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Government LawyersThe newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Government Lawyers

September 2008, vol. 10, no. 1

How green is your government?

It arguably began in 2000, with the establishment by then-Governor Ryan of the Green Illinois Government Coordinating Council. Since that time, with increasingly bold steps, Illinois has moved steadily and progressively toward using not only the pulpit of government to advance environmental awareness and environmentally friendly policies, but to put the State government’s considerably hefty apparatus of agencies, edifices and employees squarely into and at the head of the green column. In both of his terms of office, Governor Blagojevich has used the power of the Executive Order, of administrative policy and cooperation with the leadership of the legislature to get bills moved and enacted that change the purchasing and operating habits of State agencies. This change not only has an impact on the utilization and conservation of resources across the State, but also serves as a model for units of local government and for private industry in how to move large and small organizations into a different outlook on what is possible and eminently achievable in even the short run on the environmental side.

Several initiatives provide the foundation and framework for Illinois’ State agencies and operations in this area. In 2004, Governor Blagojevich issued the first of his Executive Orders dealing with environmental issues. Order (2004-7) instituted the “Use of E-85 and Biodiesel Blend Fuels in Flexible Fuel Vehicles and Diesel Powered Vehicles in the State of Illinois Fleet.” This Order took a several-pronged approach to the addition of biofueled vehicles to the fleet as a means of potentially reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It first mandated the Department of Central Management Services (CMS) to begin a program to allow for the acquisition of infrastructure to increase the availability of B2 and E-85 for the State’s flexible fuel fleet. Second, it directed the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to pursue ways to make E-85 and biodiesel facilities more available at retail outlets throughout the State. Third, it allowed the establishment of purchasing agency priorities for the procurement of purchased and rental flexible fuel vehicles. These policies began to have an immediate impact and continue, with the strength of legislation (see below) to change the contours of the State’s considerable vehicle fleets.

In 2005, Governor Blagojevich issued Order (2005-2) which recited the aspiration that “the State should be a model for the responsible stewardship of our environment” and expanded the mandate of the Green Illinois Government Coordinating Council, placing it under the leadership of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. This office, occupied at present by the very green Patrick Quinn, already held the chairs of the Special Task Force on the Condition and Future of the Illinois Energy Infrastructure, the Illinois River Coordinating Council and the Illinois Delegation of the Bi-National Great Lakes Commission.

In 2006, the Governor took further steps to move State government (and the State itself) in more environmentally friendly directions. He first issued an Order on Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction (2006-11), creating the Illinois Climate Change Advisory Group, and mandating recommendations be developed on the “full range of policies and strategies regarding climate change * * * to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions.” The Order enunciated the intention of planning for joining the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) with the shared objective of reducing emissions from all governmental activities by 6% by 2010. That intention was subsequently realized and Illinois and New Mexico are the current state government members of the CCX. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) was charged, inter alia, with documenting State government greenhouse gas production and tracking progress toward meeting the CCX reduction objectives.

Not long after his Greenhouse Gas Reduction order, the Governor issued another Executive Order (2006-12) which required “Proper End-of-Life Management of Computers and Other Electronic Equipment.” This Order charged CMS with developing and implementing procedures to ensure that virtually all electronic and information technology equipment be “redistributed, reutilized, recycled or disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.” Illinois thus became the first state in the Midwest to mandate responsible end-of-life disposition of governmental “E-Scrap.”

Within the last year and a half, the General Assembly has enacted three significant pieces of legislation that push the envelope of change further. In January 2007, following the contours of Executive Order (2004-7), the General Assembly amended the Illinois Procurement Code (see Public Act 94-1079, effective June 1, 2007, to be codified at 30 ILCS 500/25-75) and for the first time mandated the purchase of flexible fuel and/or hybrid vehicles by all State agencies.

Also in 2007, the Illinois General Assembly enacted the Green Governments Illinois Act (see Public Act 95-0657, effective October 10, 2007) which establishes the Green Governments Coordinating Council (the Council), both to address operating and planning issues of State agencies, and to take the additional step of resourcing units of local government and educational institutions. Like the Council established by Executive Order, this entity’s chair is delegated to the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. The Green Governments Illinois Act (Green Act) makes what are no doubt expected “good government” pronouncements with respect to policy issues, articulating the State’s “commitment” in this regard. But it goes beyond the level of soft law and requires very specific actions by State government. These include mandating establishment of sustainability goals with 3, 5 and 10 year objectives for energy efficiency and environmental performance of State buildings. Minimum requirements are included, ranging from fuel use to paper consumption. The Council is required to communicate sustainability goals, establish an electronic system to track and report progress, monitor improvement activities and propose new goals. It also establishes an awards program to operate at both State and local levels and must create both specific guidance for State agencies and training programs. The Council will integrate environmental policy through input into the State budget process. In addition to the work of the Council itself, the Green Act mandates that every State agency develop, adopt and submit an environmental sustainability plan, and establish and maintain an internal environmental sustainability committee. Progress reports are mandated on an on-going basis.

Effective for less than a full year, the Green Act has already produced results across State government. Among the Green Act’s mandates are maintenance of a Website, that the reader can easily navigate to the Green Solutions site, found at:

<http://www.standingupforillinois.org/green/gs_govdb.php>.

This site contains not only news about the responses that agencies and local governments and educational institutions are devising and implementing, but includes representative sustainability plans from agencies which are diverse in size and function, as well as purchasing and conservation advice.

The third significant legislative initiative in the last year to address green concerns is the Agency Energy Efficiency Act (AEEA) signed into law by the Governor and effective June 1, 2008 (see Public Act 95-0559). The AEEA requires that all State agencies act to reduce their use of electricity, natural gas, water, and other energy resources in State facilities by 10% over the next 10 years. Baseline energy usage must be documented and quarterly reports filed with CMS (and in turn by CMS with the Governor) tracking and documenting progress. Every State agency must establish an information tracking system for energy and water usage, establish an internal committee to implement and enforce efficiency measures and appoint an internal chair to report strategic and statistical activity to CMS.

There is no longer any question that State government in Illinois is going strongly toward green. The summary above calls attention to the movement that has come from the top -- this administration and this General Assembly pay attention to and are bound to address environmental issues as they impact and are impacted by State government. But another force to reckon with is the one that comes from the other end of the spectrum, which is the commitment of State employees to work from the grassroots. What has effectively happened in the last several years of this administration is a convergence of policy and “popular” initiative in which green ideas have a framework to move ahead not only on a government wide plan but in virtually every office, workplace and workgroup that make up the whole. Empowered by Statewide leadership, each agency’s “green team” provides agency level planning, information exchange, staff encouragement and the means for an almost painless transition to sustainability mode. The “green teams” themselves, however, get impetus from colleagues much more generally.

In our own agency, for example, the agency sustainability plan was generated largely from the input of each operating division’s discussions. In turn, each step taken in implementation of the plan continues to yield another two or three good ideas from staff to reduce consumption and waste. Further, staff are pushing initiatives on their own, disseminating ideas as they occur not only to the green team members but through communication lines to other front line staff across divisions in local offices, and through divisional lines across geographic regions. These ideas are beginning to include those which go beyond what happens in the workplace to the now authorized sharing of eco-tips for the household, the family and the local community. Assuming similar patterns at other agencies, the greening of government is becoming itself an organic process. This, I think, is what was ultimately intended. The State’s apparatus carries and reduces its own environmental weight. It then stimulates similar activity in the private and the local sectors. This happens formally through policies, resources and stimuli it makes available. And it also happens informally, through the efforts and penetration at all levels by a very large force of publicly minded individual employees. In the end, green government turns out to be good government, and vice versa. And just how green and how good depends on us.

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Dr. Mary L. Milano is Executive Director of the Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission and a member of the Standing Committee on Government Lawyers of the ISBA.


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