In a major victory for environmental activists, the two coal fired power plants in Chicago will close over the next three years. The Fisk plant, located in the Pilsen neighborhood, will shut down by the end of this year and the Crawford power plant in Little Village will stop functioning by the end of 2014. Both plants are operated by Midwest Generation.
Neighbhorhood activists fought for more than a decade to see this day. Meanwhile, a Sun-Times article quotes an anonymous mayoral aide saying:
It’s a lot cleaner. We don’t have to go through City Council meetings with more protests outside. It was just good to sit down and come to a workable solution together.”
“The company could decide to significantly reduce emissions, but energy prices are bottoming out and the cost of retrofitting the plants would be heavy. They don’t want to make that type of investment. At the end of the day, this is an economic decision.”
Talk about pushing off credit from the local activists. But the credit should go to them for waging this long of a battle. Studies have shown that pollution from the two plants is responsible for at least 40 premature deaths and millions of dollars in health care costs.
Last fall, I covered an asthma screening at a school near on of the power plants, noting:
Nationally, one in ten children suffer from asthma. The C.A.R.E. van tested 20 children from the neighborhood, just blocks from the Fisk power plant, and ten showed suggestive signs of asthma.
The closing of these two plants will help alleviate the symptoms of many of these children but comes too late to avoid the ailment’s harmful affects on their lifestyles. Both plants are located next to neighborhoods that are predominately Hispanic and have little political power. That really changed when the local Alderman was forced to change his position on the plants during his last election. The about face come during a run-off and showed the power behind the growing organizations.
“I am overcome with emotion! Justice has finally come to those that have died, or whose health has been affected by the pollutants caused by the Fisk plant!” said PERRO (Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization) member Leila Mendez. “PERRO, and the Pilsen/Little Village community has shown, that when united, we have a voice, and our voice has been heard! We will continue in our fight for the right to breathe clean air in the Pilsen/Little Village community!”
The environmental organization is not finished though. They are determined to make sure the plants are properly cleaned up once closed. They would also like to see them developed into productive areas of the communities.
Photo by Aaron Krager