Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Thursday, August 11

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr

The Mechanics
« He's Your Mayor To Be Again, This Time with Meaning! Accountability »

Environment/Sustainability Wed Apr 27 2011

Life in Limbo: The Clean Power Ordinance


Although it received a strong showing of support at last week's committee hearing, the Clean Power Ordinance is still stuck in limbo. The Clean Power Coalition noted on its Website this week:

Committee chairs Virginia Rugai (19th) and James Balcer (11th) did not call a vote at today's hearing, saying that the issue requires more scrutiny and investigation, even though the Ordinance was introduced more than a year ago and a majority of City Council members have signed on as cosponsors. It is now likely that Clean Power Ordinance will be decided under Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the next City Council.

Despite the setback, two local environment groups sent out e-mails to supporters this week detailing even more health problems associated with coal-fired power plants like Fisk and Crawford, which emit thousands of pounds of dangerous skin, lung and organ toxins. These toxins can cause severe health problems, especially in residents who live near the plants.

Max Muller, program director for Environment Illinois, warned in an e-mail this week about the threat of mercury spewed from coal-fired power plants. The mercury is particularly harmful to pregnant women and young children.

Muller writes:

One in six American women of childbearing age has enough mercury in her body to put her child at risk of learning disabilities, developmental disorders, and a lower IQ if she becomes pregnant...The culprit? Coal-fired power plants, which spew thousands of pounds of toxic mercury into our air every year. That mercury then falls to the earth in the form of rain, where it contaminates lakes, rivers, streams and the fish that inhabit them. Just a single gram of mercury is enough to contaminate an entire 20-acre lake. As a result, the food we eat and the water we drink may put our health -- and our children's health -- at risk.

He cites a recent Environment America report, "Dirty Energy's Assault on Our Health: Mercury."

Beyond Fisk and Crawford, other Midwest coal power plants with outdated cooling systems are killing millions of Great Lakes fish every year, says Joel Brammeier, president and CEO of the Alliance for the Great Lakes.

Brammeier notes in an e-mail sent to supporters this week that "old 'once-through' cooling systems suck up hundreds of millions of gallons of water and spit it out at high temperatures, chewing up millions of fish in the process."

He specifically mentions the negative environmental impact of the Bay Shore plant in Ohio, the Avon Lake Power Plant near Avon Lake, Ohio, the Monroe Power Plant in Monroe, Mich. and the Oak Creek Power Plant in Oak Creek, Wis. - all of which use outdated cooling technology.

Both organizations are asking supporters to bring their concern to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has been battling Republicans in the House and Senate over its authority under the Clean Water Act.

Sign Environment Illinois' petition here and Alliance for the Great Lakes' petition here.

GB store

WAJ / April 28, 2011 11:17 AM

"In 1995, an estimated 5,500 tons of mercury was emitted globally from both natural and human sources. Coal-fired power plants in the United States contributed less than 1 percent of the total."

"The amount of mercury being deposited today on land and in water is actually much lower than in recent decades. Peat cores from Minnesota, for example, show that mercury deposition was highest in the 1950s, with levels about 10 times greater than those before 1900"

US Department of Energy

If there are ways to reduce mercury emissions, and there are, there should be no need to cite ridiculous allegations in order to support their implementation. Why is it necessary to resort to scare tactics?
One in six women has enough mercury in her body to put her at risk, and the culprit is coal power plants? Do we really need to go very far to call this one BS? Max Muller apparently belives, and would have you believe, that 1 in 6 women obtains this level of mercury because they eat food from rivers, lakes, and streams.

- Does he cite the portion of fish that is caught or farmed in sources other than the ocean (since those are the affected areas he references)? If he wants to blame coal power plants, then he should be able to cite specifics about the food supply and the relative levels of mercury and their significance. If not, he is simply lying.

- If the department of energy states that mercury deposits have been declining, and Muller posits that mercury pollution is a significant health risk to women and children, I'm sure he can support this statement with time series statistics on the per capita populations of children with learning disabilities, developmental disorders, and a lower IQs. If he doesn't, he is again, just lying.

"The EPA has been battling Republicans in the House and Senate over its authority under the Clean Water Act" Yet in Chicago, the ordinance is not supported legislatively by the democratic party controlled city council.

Hmmmm. So is it those evil republicans who are against mercury pollution? 'fraid not.

"On February 14, 2002, the Bush Administration announced its Clear Skies Initiative for multipollutant controls. The proposal required significant emission reductions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury through an allowance-based cap-and-trade program. Specifically for mercury, the Clear Skies Initiative calls for a two-phase reduction in emissions below 1999 levels (48 tons) with an approximate 45 percent reduction beginning in 2010 and a 70 percent reduction beginning in 2018.

As part of the implementation of this initiative, on March 15, 2005, EPA issued the first-ever federal rule to permanently cap and reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. This rule makes the United States the first country in the world to regulate mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants"


As mentioned in my previous posts about this ordinance, the information that you have cited to support the ordinance is so faulty that it is no surprise that it hasn't gone anywhere.

Garbage in - Garbage out.

Chris / April 29, 2011 3:06 AM

WAJ, I think the garbage in was your justification for having a coal-fired power plant nearby a densely populated urban area. Perhaps we should move the coal-fired power plants to Winnetka, Illinois, Michigan Avenue in the downtown area of Chicago, Illinois, or in the South Loop area of Chicago, Illinois, since it seems that breathing in the emissions is good for you. We should be willing to share the joys of breathing in the emissions of these wonderful plants!

WAJ / April 29, 2011 9:42 AM

Chris, my point is that there is little, if any, evidence that these power plants are the cause of the alleged illnesses or afflictions.

Asthma? There is no medical or scientific evidnece that coal power plant emissions cause an increase in asthma rates. (easily verfied in that the area surrounding the plants do not have the highest asthma rates in the region in question)

Mercury Pollution: more scare tactics and unverified claims

Harvard report: Based off of easily proven false estimates. Didn't even pass muster in peer review.

These organizations would have us reject scientific knowledge in favor of an illogical and emotional argument based on false evidence. Isn't the environmental movement supposed to be based on science? It seems, at least in this instance, to be based more on blind faith than reason.

If that is your thing, fine, i won't bemoan your choice anymore than I'd bemoan someone's choice of church membership.

WAJ / April 30, 2011 11:38 AM

...and just to come full circle on the idiocy, the average compact flourescent lightbulb contains 4 grams of mercury. Which means that for every 250 CFL light bulbs that is sold, there is enough mercury present to "contaminate a 20 acre lake".

So lets do some math.

There are a little more than 1 million households in Chicago. Lets say that each household purchases 5 CFLs. We now have 5 million CFLs which contain a total of 20,000 grams of mercury. So we have now generated enough mercury to contaminate 400,000 acres of lakes.

Scale that out to the 120 million households in the US, and you now have enough mercury to poison 48,000,000 acres of lakes. (Lake Michigan is roughly 15,000,000 acres BTW)

Yeah for green technology! Isn't it awesome how unintended consequences turn out!

Chris / May 1, 2011 9:18 PM

So, I take it that the residents near Pilsen and Little Village are very fortunate to have a coal-fired power plant. I think that the Gold Coast residents, the South Loop residents, and the residents of Winnetka all deserve to be able to be as fortunate to breath in the same air as those near the power plants. I take it that you have no opinion? But the air is healthy!

GB store


Parents Still Steaming, but About More Than Just Boilers

By Phil Huckelberry / 2 Comments

It's now been 11 days since the carbon monoxide leak which sent over 80 Prussing Elementary School students and staff to the hospital. While officials from Chicago Public Schools have partially answered some questions, and CPS CEO Forrest Claypool has informed that he will be visiting the school to field more questions on Nov. 16, many parents remain irate at the CPS response to date. More...


Substance, Not Style, the Source of Rahm's Woes

By Ramsin Canon / 2 Comments

It's not surprising that some of Mayor Emanuel's sympathizers and supporters are confusing people's substantive disputes with the mayor as the effect of poor marketing on his part. It's exactly this insular worldview that has gotten the mayor in hot... More...

Special Series

Classroom Mechanics Oral History Project
GB store

About Mechanics

Mechanics is the politics section of Gapers Block, reflecting the diversity of viewpoints and beliefs of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. More...
Please see our submission guidelines.

Editor: Mike Ewing,
Mechanics staff inbox:



 Subscribe in a reader.

GB store

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15