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UPDATED: Greenpeace Occupies Fisk Coal-Fired Smokestack: Chicago, Your Lives Are in the Balance

by Jeff Biggers

UPDATE: 5:45pm CST: Greenpeace’s daring actions against Chicago’s lethal and widely denounced old coal-fired plants expanded this afternoon, as eight more activists rappelled off the Pulaski Bridge, near the Crawford coal plant in the neighborhood of Little Village and dropped a banner that blocked coal barge traffic on the river. The banner declared: “We can stop coal” and “Nosotros podemos parar el carbόn.”

This morning, eight Greenpeace activists dangled 450 feet from the smokestack of the Model T-era Fisk Generation Station in the ailing Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago, to tell their city and their country to "Quit Coal".(Photo courtesy of Greenpeace Chicago)  

UPDATE: 4pm CST: In a true testament to civic duty and responsibility, the eight Greenpeace activists atop the Fisk Generation Station are now cleaning up the filth and toxic particulates along the 450-foot tall smokestack with a new coat of paint–and a special message for the city of Chicago, Mayor Emanuel, and the Irvine, California-based multinational corporate owners Edison International. Stay tuned.

Chicago, your lives are in the balance. And the nation is watching.

That is the message this morning, as eight Greenpeace activists dangle 450 feet from the smokestack of the Model T-era Fisk Generation Station in the ailing Pilsen neighborhood. Citing the spiraling and devastating impact of the decrepit coal-fired plant on the area citizens and the city at large, the protesters are calling on the Edison International subsidiary Midwest Generation and the city of Chicago to “quit coal” and shut down the plant.

Numerous studies have documented the link between Chicago’s two coal-fired plants and lung cancer, heart attacks, premature deaths, acute and chronic bronchitis, emergency room visits, and record asthma rates and other respiratory illnesses, which cost the city an estimated $127 million annually in damages.

According to a released statement by Greenpeace, “Fisk and Crawford generate about 18 times the emissions of O’Hare airport’s ground operations and equal two-thirds of the CO2 emissions generated by all modes of transportation in Chicago.”

“We’re fighting for our lives,” said Leila Mendez, a resident of the Pilsen community. “This plant has a significant impact on the health of our communities and our children. These plants don’t power Chicago; the profits go out of state, and we get stuck with the pollution. It’s time to stand up to Edison International and demand more for our future.”

Earlier this spring, the Chicago City Council failed to vote on the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, which would have forced the plants to clean up or shut down. A national coalition has focused on Chicago’s dirty plants as ground zero for clean energy transition in the nation.

“Chicago is facing a serious challenge,” says Chicago-based community activist Edyta Sitko. “Will the Council lead the country by quitting coal and standing up to corporate polluters? Or will it be the last major American city with two dirty coal plants within its borders? “

In 1892, an editorial in the Chicago Tribune opined: “Doubtless the end of the coal, at least as an article of a mighty commerce, will arrive within a period brief in comparison with the ages of human existence… How long can the earth sustain life?”

Over one century later, citizens across Chicago and the nation are now demanding that Midwest Generation and Chicago’s new mayor Rahm Emanuel finally make good on this promise and transition the city to clean energy.

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