Chicago’s City Council Steps up to Fight Coal Pollution

by Kelly Mitchell

July 28, 2011

This morning, one hundred people gathered at Chicago’s City Hall to announce the reintroduction of the Clean Power Ordinance. This precedent-setting city law would require Edison International’s Fisk and Crawford coal plants to drastically reduce soot and CO2 emissions – forcing either costly retrofits or the closure of these aging plants.

While press conferences aren’t always the most exciting affairs, today’s announcement marks a major milestone in the effort to hold the coal industry accountable for its toxic legacy.

Fisk and Crawford are some of the oldest coal plants in the country, located in the heart of Chicago. More people live near these two plants than any other coal plants in the country, and the pollution is contributing to premature deaths, heart disease, asthma attacks, and climate change. Edison International, the owner, has elected to put its short-term profits ahead of the lives of Chicago residents.

That’s about to change.

For almost ten years, citizens have been standing up to this company and demanding their right to clean air. Recently, Greenpeace activists scaled the Fisk smokestack to paint the message “Quit Coal,” while another team of activists blocked a coal shipment heading to the Crawford plant. From petitions to direct action, the people of Chicago have made it clear that coal has no place in their city.

When the Clean Power Ordinance was originally introduced last year, only nine Aldermen stepped up as co-sponsors. Today, 31 Aldermen have put their name behind this bill, just a few votes shy of a two-thirds majority in City Council. That didn’t happen by accident. Because of the tireless work of citizen-activists, tackling coal pollution is now a priority issue in Chicago.

Pilsen resident Leila Mendez speaks at today's announcement

Edison International has the moral obligation to close Fisk and Crawford. Corporate profits shouldn’t cost lives.  Until then, the City of Chicago and Mayor Emmanuel must hold this company accountable and set strict limits for coal plant pollution.

Today’s announcement demonstrates that when people fight with conviction and determination, our leaders have to listen.

UPDATE: The momentum keeps on building! Since this morning, three more aldermen have joined the fight, bringing our total co-sponsors to 34.

Kelly Mitchell

By Kelly Mitchell

Kelly Mitchell is the Climate and Energy Campaign Director for Greenpeace, based in Chicago. Since 2006, she has worked with activists and organizations across the country to confront corporate polluters and transform U.S. energy policy. She currently leads Greenpeace's campaign for an economy powered by 100 percent renewable energy, pushing some of the largest companies in the world to embrace wind and solar and working alongside communities to develop a just and democratic energy system.

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