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Environment/Sustainability Sun Jul 18 2010

Clean Power Ordinance for South Side Plants Gets a National Boost

This article was submitted by Chris Didato.

On Thursday, two national environmental groups, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, joined Alderman Toni Preckwinkle and the Chicago Clean Power Coalition in their effort to pass an ordinance that would limit the emissions of two South Side coal-fired power plants by 90%. At the press conference, held in Pilsen's Dvorak Park, with Midwest Generation's Fisk plant looming in the background, included several aldermen and community supporters, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune, and Global Warming Campaign Director Damon Moglen. All gave the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance their support.

The proposed ordinance, introduced by Alderman Joe Moore (49th Ward), would have the two coal-fired power plants in Chicago limit their emissions of "particulate matter" (or soot) and carbon dioxide.

"What we're seeing here today is a local effort with potentially huge implications for our country," said Brune. "It is a real opportunity for Chicago and local officials to set the example--to stand up to dirty energy and demand a cleaner, healthier way of doing business. Change can start in Chicago." Brune explained why it was necessary to move the United States beyond its reliance on coal for energy consumption, including 24,000 deaths due to coal each year, mercury poisoning, destabilization of the atmosphere, and the destruction of the Appalachian mountains and devastating rivers and streams due to the coal extraction method known as "mountaintop removal." Brune stated that the Sierra Club's effort to move beyond coal was the most central priority in the Club's history. Brune declared the Coaliton was "fighting simply to breath clean air."

Moglen added, "All Chicagoans deserve better than dirty power generation." Adding that both coal-fired plants produce 5 million tons of "global warming pollution" and 180,000 pounds of toxic soot each year "that has made Chicago's asthma epidemic among the worst in the nation....It's time for Chicago's leaders to recognize that coal power stands fundamentally at odds with Chicago's Climate Action Plan and our clean energy future."

Alderman Toni Preckwinkle (4th Ward), the Democratic nominee for Cook County Board President, announced her support of the proposed Clean Power Ordinance aswell. Preckwinkle stated that in her view, the issue of the coal-fired power plants is not just an environmental issue, but a public health issue; "The plants damage our health. This is not just a [Chicago] issue, this is a regional issue....It takes 26 votes to pass this ordinance; we're halfway there."

Also present at the announcement were Aldermen Joe Moore (49th Ward), Sharon Denise Dixon (24th Ward), Eugene Schulter (47th Ward), and Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward).

Two aldermen, Solis (25th Ward) and Muñoz (22nd Ward), have been criticized by local groups for a lack of leadership on the issue. Lifelong Pilsen resident Patricia Mendez of the group Pilsen Environmental Rights & Reform Organization (PERRO) recounted how her group met with Alderman Solis two months ago to discuss the proposed Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, and that Solis suggested that they meet in two weeks so that he can get more information. According to Ms. Mendez, since that time, Solis' office has not returned calls by PERRO representatives or sought the group for the meeting. The Little Village Environmental Organization was represented at the announcement by Kim Wasserman. Wasserman, a mother of three and 22nd Ward resident, asked where Aldermen Muñoz and Solis stood on the proposed ordinance. "Put your contributions behind and stand up for your community," admonished Wasserman.

Aldermen Solis and Muñoz did not return requests for comment.

Disclosure: The writer is a member of the 22nd Ward Independent Political Organization and a volunteer with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.

 
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