- A Roar of Anger Against the Coal Industry That Cannot Be Ignored or Silenced
By Kevin Gosztola
The campaign has placed a focus on aldermen as the key to success. Sitko described how the grassroots are convincing aldermen to support the ordinance:
“About a month and a half ago, we launched an organizing effort in Alderwoman Leslie A. Hairston’s ward specifically around asking her to sign on to the Clean Power Ordinance. There was an organizer in Hyde Park that had been working with constituents there–getting sign up letters, getting phone calls into Alderwomen Hairston’s office–letting her know she needed to support the ordinance. Before a press conference on Thursday, [on Wednesday night] we called a community meeting in Hyde Park. A few hours before we found out that Hairston had signed on.”
Much of the effort owes a lot of its success to Alderman Joe Moore, who represents the 49th Ward, which includes Rogers Park, West Ridge, and Edgewater, making it one of the most diverse and vibrant communities in Chicago.
Midwest Generation, the owner of the plants, asserted, according to Chicago News Cooperative journalist Kari Lydersen, “the city lack[s] the authority to regulate the coal plants” and “only the state and federal government could do so.” The corporation further asserts, “If the Moore proposal passes, the company will challenge Chicago’s regulatory authority in court.”
Breuer said of Midwest Generation’s disregard for its pollution of Chicago’s climate, “The reality is thanks to relaxed campaign finance and lobbying laws the company has a lot of power. We found that over the last ten years, when we looked at state of Illinois records, it donated 100,000 dollars just to local aldermen in the city of Chicago and that’s a huge amount.”
Breuer contended Midwest Generation has “an interest” in not spending “a lot of money to clean up their plants” and that is “absolutely impacting public space.” But, he concluded Midwest Generation always says they are “following the law and the public in theory has created the law” so they can’t be faulted for doing any wrong.
“Most of what they do is fully within the law. And that’s why this campaign is targeting the law,” said Breuer. “That law operates in favor of coal plants and against the local residents and all the residents anywhere near coal plants.”
Now that Alderman Muñoz has signed on, the coalition hopes to earn the support of Danny Solis, who is the alderman for the ward where the Fisk coal plant is located They hope Muñoz’s leadership and example will compel him to take similar action and sign on in support of the ordinance.
The ordinance has 13 co-sponsors: Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, Alderman Leslie Hairston, Alderman Freddrenna Lyle, Alderman Sandi Jackson, Alderman Toni Foulkes, Alderman Joanne Thompson, Alderman Ricardo Munoz, Alderman Sharon Dixon, Alderman Ed Smith, Alderman Scott Waguespack, Alderman Rey Colon, Alderman Eugene Schulter, Alderman Mary Ann Smith.
The story of this Clean Power Ordinance Coalition is just one example of how Americans can take personal responsibility for the health of their community and the environmental future of America. Thousands are tuned in to the impact of the coal industry and no matter what the coal industry does these Americans are not going to back down in the face of their corporate power and influence over public policy and the wider American population.
Today I’ll focus on yet another community suffering from coal’s pollution — but this community is a little bit larger, and it’s on the front end of an emerging trend. The city is Chicago and it’s starting what could be a national movement to clean up dirty energy in the inner city.
Some of our oldest and dirtiest coal plants are located in major cities across the U.S.; and they are often located in areas with other major pollution sources, exposing residents of these densely populated areas to higher levels of harmful pollution than their neighbors.
What’s happening now in Chicago is just the beginning as residents of these communities organize and rise up against these environmental injustices, finding ways to clean up their air and water.
In Chicago, more people live near the city’s two old coal plants than any other coal plant in the nation. The plants, located on the southwest side of Chicago, cause 40 pre-mature deaths, 500 emergency room visits and 2,800 asthma attacks every year. Chicago also has one of the highest asthma rates in the country, and the city’s asthma hospitalization rate is nearly double the national average. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, on average, one out of seven school-aged children has asthma; in a number of Chicago-area neighbors, upwards of one out of three children suffer from asthma.
As such, community groups are working to clean up the two coal-fired power plants: Fisk and Crawford – both owned by Midwest Generation. And it goes beyond their asthma-causing air pollution. The Fisk plant produces more than 1.78 million tons of CO2 annually. The Crawford plant produces more than 3.18 million tons of CO2 annually.
Today in the Windy City, more than 50 local and national organizations, joined by local community members and elected leaders kicked off a ward by ward effort.
“Like many working-class communities of color around the country, Pilsen (a Chicago neighborhood) is inundated with multiple pollution sources, the worst of which is the Fisk plant,” said Jerry Mead-Lucero, member of Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), “Your race or class should not determine whether or not you have a healthy environment in which to live.”
For years, local organizations such as Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and PERRO have been champions for cleaning the Crawford and Fisk coal plants. Then the Chicago Clean Power Coalition was formed early this year, and support for the groups has grown as more families living in the affected communities get sick of the coal plants’ pollution.
The groups are working to pass the Clean Power Ordinance introduced by Chicago Alderman Joe Moore in April. The ordinance will require the coal plant operators to reduce particulate matter pollution (soot) from the coal plants by 90% and global warming pollution (CO2) pollution by 50%, resulting in significant health benefits for neighboring communities. The ordinance currently has nine cosponsors and the coalition has collected close to 1,000 signatures and letters from citizens asking their aldermen to support the ordinance.
“We are looking to the City Council and Mayor Daley to not only protect the health of its citizens, but also lead the country towards a clean energy future,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, who was at the kick off event.
This Chicago event is just another example of action against coal and for clean energy. All over the U.S. we’ve seen local residents uniting to protect public and environmental health from the massive pollution spewed out from coal-fired power plants. Together we can make these changes.
An grassroots campaign to win aldermanic support for the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance had its first victory yesterday when Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) signed on as a co-sponsor. Meanwhile the other alderman representing a ward containing a coal plant, Ald. Danny Solis (25th), faces a protest outside a fundraising dinner tonight.
Solis has not endorsed the clean power ordinance, which would raise standards for emissions of carbon dioxide and particulates.
A press conference at 6:30 p.m. (Wednesday, August 4) and a “people’s dinner” outside Alhambra Palace Restaurant, 1240 W. Randolph, will highlight the group’s charge that Solis is “more concerned about his campaign donors than the health of neighborhood residents,” said Jerry Mead of the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization.
He said that Midwest Generation has been a major contributor to Solis’s campaigns.
Midwest Gen’s two Chicago plants, Fisk in Pilsen and Crawford in Little Village, cause premature deaths, ER visits and asthma attacks, and contribute to lung cancer and respiratory disease, according to the Chicago Clean Power Coalition. The two plants are located in more densely populated areas than any other coal plants in the nation.
They are also among the largest sources of carbon emissions in the city, emitting 5 million metric tons – the equivalent of 872,000 cars – in 2007, according to the coalition.
In 2003 voters in a precinct near Fisk voted by nearly 90 percent in favor of tougher emission standards, Mead said.
In recent weeks PERRO and others have been petitioning residents at neighborhood festivals and churches. “The response has been really good,” Mead said. “It’s clear that people really favor the ordinance.”
Munoz announced his support for the ordinance Tuesday morning, citing congressional inaction on climate change and health concerns in his ward.
“For over eight years our communities have fought to clean up these plants, and we are glad Ald. Muñoz is responding to our cries for clean air,” said Kimberly Wasserman of Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.
Curtis Black, Newstips Editor
tel: 312-369-6400 | fax 312-369-6404 | firstname.lastname@example.org
How green is Chicago?
Thanks to a growing ward-by-ward grassroots campaign for clean energy, the Windy City has attracted the attention of national environmental and citizens organizations to ask that very question.
On Thursday, July 15th at Dvorak Park, Alderman Joe Moore and Dorian Breuer, of the Pilsen Environmental Rights & Reform Organization, will be joined by an unusually broad coalition of fellow aldermen, clean energy and health care activists, and over 50 Chicago organizations, along the Sierra Club‘s Executive Director Michael Brune and Greenpeace National Climate Director Damon Moglen to call on Mayor Daley and the Chicago City Council to adopt the nationally acclaimed Clean Power Coalition energy platform.
Thirteen aldermen have signed onto Moore’s breakthrough Clean Power Ordinance, which calls for reducing pollution at the city’s two notorious coal-fired plants by 90 percent.
With one of the worst asthma rates in the nation, the Fisk Generation Station in Pilsen and Crawford Power Plant in Little Village–where nearly 50,000 tons of toxic pollution have led to atrocious health care rates over the past three years–were built before the invention of the Model T.
The CO emissions from the two plants are equivalent to the pollution of nearly 875,000 cars.
According to a report compiled by the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, Chicago ranks second among all cities in the country adversely affected by power plant pollution, leading to 855 premature deaths, 848 hospitalizations, 1,519 heart attacks and 23,650 asthma attacks. The report also states that according to EPA officials, fine particle pollution from power plants shortens the lives of 1,356 Illinoisans every year, citing Crawford and Fisk as two main pollutants.
Today’s press conference brings Chicago’s leading clean energy effort to the forefront of several national campaigns to transition away from fossil fuels. Says Lan Richart, with the Eco-Justice Collaborative:
The decisions by the national offices of Sierra Club and Greenpeace to make the Chicago Clean Power Campaign a priority are signs that not only is the campaign gaining momentum, but it is part of a growing recognition across the country that our addiction to fossil fuels is literally killing us. The on-going oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the recent mining disaster in West Virginia, the destruction of the Appalachian mountains by mountaintop removal coal mining and the poisoning of our air in Chicago should shake us to the core. How loud must our wake-up call be before we act?
We are calling on Mayor Daley and the members of the Chicago City Council to demonstrate that they are serious about making Chicago a green city. Right now the Clean Power Ordinance is bottled up in the Rules Committee. With the entry of the national offices of Greenpeace and Sierra Club into the campaign, we are sending a message to our city leaders that the public call to clean up the power plants is growing and the issue is not going to go away.
For more information, visit the Clean Power Campaign.
From: Jeff Biggers Author, “Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland”