Breathe Free: Chicago's Coal Plants have Shut Down
Submitted by Illinoisnoki1 on Fri, 08/31/2012 - 13:59
By Bill Bianchi, PDA-Chicago 8/31/12
An Environmental Victory for Chicago!
Even as you read this, know that the air in Chicago is better for you than is was just one week ago.
With the closing of the Fisk coal-fired power plant in Little Village on Thursday 8/30 and the Crawford coal-fired plant on Wednesday 8/29, the air Chicagoans breathe contains far less lung damaging soot, nerve damaging mercury and climate changing carbon dioxide.
"This marks a turning point from Chicago's reliance on two highly polluting coal plants that use fuel from out of state to a cleaner energy future that's less polluting and uses more Illinois wind and other clean resources," said Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center in Chicago, as reported in the Chicago Tribune.
While several factors converged to pressure Midwest Generation to close the plants ahead of schedule, it definitely took "a village" in form of continued pressure from neighborhood community groups to get to closure.
Kim Wasserman, coordinator for Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, said the closings show that communities can stop polluters in their own back yard, and that environmentalists can now focus on other coal-burning power plants. "It's not just us, it's hundreds of other communities who are fighting this," Wasserman said.
National environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club helped in the struggle, but local political activists were crucial to finally turning the tide in favor of closure. Due to the strong showing of challenger Temoc Morfin in the recent aldermanic primary, Little Village alderman Danny Solis, switched his corporate friendly position to that of a being a strong proponent of closing the Fisk plant. It was a dramatic turn around and one that undoubtedly helped convince the owners to shut the plants.
Other factors contributing to the decision to close included the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) continued enforcement of air quality standards which required expensive retrofitting. Market factors also played a role. The recent drop in the cost of natural gas and the growing availability of wind-generated electricity means that dirty coal is no longer the low-priced choice for producing electricity.
The combined force of federal standards, low national gas prices, the availability of wind energy and pressure from national and local environmental groups has resulted in the closing of 120 of the nation's 520 coal-fired power plants in just 2.5 years.
So Chicagoans, take a deep breath and enjoy the cleaner air.
Read the full story of the plan closings in Friday's Chicago Tribune.