Environmental protest groups shut down Chicago’s financial district
January 1, 2010

Twelve climate activists protest carbon cap-and-trade and offsets plans as “false climate solutions” and lock down in the street outside the Chicago Climate Exchange. All were arrested and later released.

By Miriam Y. Cintrón

A group of local environmental advocates drew plenty of attention to their cause on Monday, Nov. 30, when they caused a traffic jam in the center of the city’s financial district. Twelve protesters locked their arms to each other using plastic pipes and lay down in the street at the intersection of Adams and LaSalle Streets for about two hours below the offices of the Chicago Climate Exchange, the first and largest cap-and-trade market for greenhouse gases in North America.

Arrested by First District Chicago Police and released later in the day, the protesters were among approximately 150 who took to the streets of downtown Chicago carrying signs that read “The air is not for sale!” to march on companies they considered “climate criminals.”

The Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) of Chicago, and other community and environmental groups organized the march as part of a national day of action ahead of the United Nations climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, held early last month.

Angie Viands of RAN noted the march and rally focused mainly on the practice of cap and trade, under which emissions of certain pollutants are limited but companies that exceed the limit are allowed to increase their emission allowance by buying credits from companies that pollute less.

Chicago Climate Justice activists march on the financial district, home to the Chicago Climate Exchange.
“Carbon trading is not really going to solve the problem,” said Viands. She noted the cap-andtrade system does not reduce emissions meaningfully and is “prone to fraud.” The real solution to addressing environmental pollution must include the shift from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy, according to Viands. She added that ordinary citizens should have a voice in developing a real solution, rather than corporations merely offering marketbased solutions that do not work.

Though it was likely the most dramatic event of the day, the scene in front of the Chicago Climate Exchange was just one stop on the tour of institutions the protesters said harm the environment. Event organizers aimed to highlight the connection between global climate change and local environmental justice issues; high on their list of local environmental concerns addressed that day were the two coal-fired power plants that operate within city limits.

Protesters visited the head office of Midwest Generation, which owns the power plants: Fisk Generating Station at 1111 W. Cermak Rd. in Pilsen and Crawford Generating Station at 3501 S. Pulaski Rd. in Little Village. The U.S. Justice Department recently filed a complaint against Midwest Generation for alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act, including not installing required pollution control equipment and exceeding opacity and particulate matter limits.

While PERRO members support the suit filed last August, the group continues to campaign actively for the plants’ closure. As part of that effort, PERRO members and fellow protesters called for accountability, holding up “citations” about the company’s alleged environmental violations. The protesters also stopped at JPMorgan Chase for its reported funding of new coal-fired plants across the country and mountaintop removal coal mining. They also went to the Chicago Board of Trade, which trades products that allegedly have contributed to destroying rainforests, particularly in Southeast Asia, Viands said.

For more information about the protest and its organizers, visit www.HowGreenIsChicago.org.

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