Protesters filled City Hall on Monday to support an ordinance that would drastically cut pollution from two coal-fired plants on the Southwest side of Chicago.
Ald. Joe Moore (49th Ward) introduced the ordinance 10 months ago, declaring a 90 percent cut in the release of particulate matter and carbon dioxide from the Fisk and Crawford coal plants, which are located in the Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods.
Moore and the other organizers joined a city hall rally in which about 100 green-shirted protesters from clean energy groups held signs and called for the closure of the plants. Some protesters wore gas masks while others carried paper grave markers bearing the names of Chicagoans who have died from heart disease, lung cancer, emphysema and other diseases that could have been related to air pollution generated by the two plants.
A spokesperson for Midwest Generation, which owns the two plants, said the company had no comment about Monday’s rally or the proposed ordinance.
The Clean Power Ordinance is co-sponsored by 17 aldermen and has gained support from the Chicago Clean Power Coalition. The ordinance was initially introduced in April 2010 and had been referred to the City Council’s Committee on Health, Committee on Energy, Environmental Protection, and Public Utilities. After months of postponement, a Health Committee hearing was set for Feb 14th, though Moore was advised that the hearing would most likely be delayed.
“The one problem unfortunately is that there has been a lot of delay. For 10 long months we have waited for a hearing and for 10 long months we have not had a hearing,” Moore said.
The National Research Council and the Environmental Law & Policy Center did research in 2010 and found that the coal plants were responsible for $127 million in public health costs every year.
A 2010 report released by the Clean Air Task Force stated that the Fisk plant in Pilsen and the Crawford plant in Little Village were responsible for more then 40 deaths and 720 asthma attacks every year.
Henry Henderson, Director of Midwest Program and a member of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “We have two plants in the city of Chicago that are in violation of the federal law. The city of Chicago has the worst air in the entire country. It is a burden to public heath and safety, these plants are the major source of the problem and they need to clean up or close down.”
Many schools are located near the plants and some students have concerns about their health.
Kim Wasserman, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, said, “We have a stack of letters from every school you can possibly think of. We have students that have been voicing their support day after day, year after year. All they want is the right to breathe.”
As a city we need to replace these out dated energy sources. These new standards will help protect the health of folks all over Chicago said Wasserman. “We need clean energy and we need clean air. Every day people are dying because they cannot get a breath of clean air.”
Chicago Mayoral Candidates Chico, Moseley Braun, and Del Valle have declared their support for the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance. Emanuel stated that he will work to diminish pollution from the plants.