This morning, eight Greenpeace activists surprised the city of Chicago by scaling a smokestack at the Fisk power plant and unfurling a banner that read “Quit Coal.” The activists will occupy the smokestack indefinitely.
The protest was part of the organization’s Quit Coal campaign, a national effort to reveal the health and environmental damage caused by a local coal-fired power plant.
These problems are particularly pronounced in Chicago, where 1 in 4 residents live within three miles of the Fisk plant. American Progress reports that approximately 159 million Americans live in areas that violate clean air health standards.
To see a live blog of the protest as it unfolded today, please see Treehugger’s coverage.
A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services report on respiratory hospitalizations in areas near power plants found that emissions are linked to a variety of respiratory problems, including irritation of the airways, difficulty breathing and decreased lung function.
In general, the effect of pollutants is more severe among persons with preexisting respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), persons with cardiovascular disease and older adults and children.
According to the Clean Air Task Force, the Fisk plant is responsible for killing 15 Chicago residents a year, it afflicts thousands more with respiratory illnesses and has cost the city over $1 billion in health care costs since 2002.
Edison International, the company that owns both Chicago power plants, argues that they would no longer be cost-effective if they were required to meet clean air health standards. But this is far from true.
In fact, Edison International has already done it in California where their local subsidiary has become the largest purchaser of renewable energy among American utility companies and has plans to phase out ALL coal power by 2016.
TAKE ACTION: Help Greenpeace gather 30,000 signatures in favor of quitting coal. Tell Edison International CEO Ted Craver to shut down the Fisk and Crawford plants by 2013.
If you support the activists’ actions, join the virtual rally at 8 pm ET tonight (5/24)! See videos from the day and find out what you can do to support clean air and healthy communities in Chicago and around the world!
Image Credit: Flickr - Eli Beck