Former Edison International CEO nominated for Secretary of Commerce

by Kelly Mitchell

May 31, 2011

A week ago, eight Greenpeace activists scaled a 450-foot smokestack at the Fisk coal plant in Chicago and painted QUIT COAL on the side. That same day, a different team of activists rappelled off a bridge and blocked a shipment of coal destined for Chicago’s Crawford coal plant.

These two actions are the latest steps in a decade long fight for clean air and healthy communities in Chicago.

As one of those smokestack activists, I was proud to lend my voice to the thousands who are demanding that the plants’ owner, Edison International, stops putting its short-term profits over the lives and wellbeing of people in Chicago.

In the last week alone, over 20,000 people have called on Edison CEO, Ted Craver, to close the Fisk and Crawford coal plants – please add your name to the call to shut Fisk and Crawford.

So, you can imagine my surprise this morning when Edison International made headlines, not for finally deciding to close old, toxic coal plants in Chicago, but because its former CEO, John Bryson, was nominated for Secretary of Commerce.

This nomination underscores the unique Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde nature of Edison International. Their California based subsidiary, SoCal Edison, has become the largest purchaser of renewable energy among any utility company in the nation. They are phasing out coal power and creating thousands of jobs along the way. Their portfolio is far from strictly “green,” but state health and environmental standards have pushed SoCal Edison to prove that clean air and a healthy economy can work hand in hand. Perhaps that’s why Bryson got Obama’s nomination.

Unfortunately, for residents of Chicago, the picture is not as sunny.

Chicago’s Fisk and Crawford plants, operated by Edison subsidiary Midwest Generation, have been spewing toxic pollution for decades, and are the largest single sources of global warming pollution in the city. Their power is sold out of state, the profits go to Edison HQ in California, and Chicagoans get stuck with all the pollution.

Edison’s green[er] credentials out West can’t justify the forty-two lives that are lost prematurely each year as a result of pollution from these two plants. That legacy rests on Bryson’s shoulders as well.

Here’s to hoping that Edison’s current CEO, Ted Craver, will do what Mr. Bryson could not: take responsibility for the public health crisis his company has created in Chicago. Edison has the opportunity to live up to the green image it promotes, and show that power generation doesn’t have to cost lives.

People in Chicago will continue standing up to Edison and demanding their right to clean air. You can join that effort by taking action HERE.

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.

We Need Your Voice. Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.