Anti-pollution groups pressure Mayor Emanuel on coal plants
June 30, 2011

Though an ordinance that would have forced Midwest Generation to reduce soot and greenhouse gas emitted from its Chicago coal fired power plants did not make it out of a joint City Council committee hearing in April, supporters have turned to new Mayor Rahm Emanuel to take action.

Members from the Midwest chapter of Greenpeace, the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, and Credo hand delivered a petition with 3,534 signatures to the new mayor’s office, asking Emanuel to work on cutting pollution from the plants—Fisk Generating Station at 1111 W. Cermak Rd. in Pilsen and Crawford Generating Station at 3501 S. Pulaski Rd. in Little Village.

The ordinance would force the company to reduce the plants’ direct particulate matter pollution by 90% and global warming emissions by 50% over the next four years or face shutting down.

Edyta Sitko, the senior field organizer for Greenpeace’s Midwest region office, said the groups hope Emanuel will address the plants within his first 100 days in office.

There had been some indication Emanuel would take action on the issue, Sitko said, noting that, during his campaign, Emanuel said pollution in the city was on his radar. Still, he “has not yet signed on as a supporter of the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, and he has not explained how he plans to address this,” she added.

Sitko said Greenpeace leaders want Chicago to be a coal-free city; at minimum, the group wants Emanuel to force Midwest Generation to reduce emissions even further. The plants cost the city more than $120 million per year in environmental and health costs, according to the National Research Council, and offer little benefit for Chicago.

Sitko explained Chicago does not receive any of the power generated by the plants. Instead, it enters into the Midwest’s power grid and provides electricity to Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The coal comes from Wyoming, and the profits generated by the plants benefit California-based Edison International, Midwest Generation’s parent company.

“The only thing Chicago gets stuck with is the pollution from the plants,” Sitko said.

—Miriam Y. Cintron