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Victory: Grassroots Pressure Leads to Closure of Two Highly Polluting Coal Plants in Chicago

"Today we are ending over 100 years of pollution for profits and showing the power of community."

- Common Dreams staff

Marking a grassroots victory, Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of Edison International, will retire two of the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the nation. Activists have been working for the past ten years to close the two plants located in Chicago.

Agreements signed by Midwest Generation, the Clean Power Coalition, and the City of Chicago indicate that the Fisk coal plant in Pilsen will shut down in 2012 and the Crawford coal plant in Little Village will shut down by 2014.

Activists Occupy Chicago Coal PlantSix activists with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), Rising Tide North America, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and the Backbone Campaign climbed the fence to Midwest Generation’s controversial Crawford coal plant in Little Village. (photo: Rainforest Action Network)

Jeff Biggers reports on the news today:

In a move that should electrify the clean energy movement across the country, the tireless champions with the Chicago Clean Power Coalition have announced that Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of multinational giant Edison International, will soon shut down the Windy City's two Model-T-era coal-fired plants.

The historic victory, after a decade-long battle, marks a shift in the clean energy battle for the country: If Chicago, once hailed as the "world's largest market of coal," can go coal free, the rest of the nation must surely be close behind them.

Thanks to one of the most determined, diverse and successful clean energy campaigns in the nation--including a breakthrough campaign to pass a Clean Power ordinance--the retirement of the decrepit and deadly Fisk and Crawford coal-fired plants will end the century-long reign of the most toxic polluters in the heartland.

Adds Rosalie Mancera of Pilsen Alliance:

“Today’s victory demonstrates that people shouldn’t have to tolerate toxic polluters in their backyard. By working with our neighbors and elected officials, Chicagoans have finally won the right to breathe clean air.”

Kimberly Wasserman of Little Village Environmental Justice Organization says:

“For over ten years our communities have been fighting for the right to breathe clean air, clean land and clean water. Today we are ending over 100 years of pollution for profits and showing the power of community.  Hopefully, this is the first of many victories in Illinois, as citizens and politicians come together to hold corporate polluters accountable and usher in a clean energy future.”

Jerry Mead-Lucero of Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization notes that the work for environmental justice won't end when the plants are closed:

Quit!Fisk coal plant defaced by protesters 450 feet above Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. (photo: Josh Mogerman)

“Fisk and Crawford have been polluting Chicago neighborhoods for over 100 years. Our work is not over when the plants close. Midwest Generation and the City of Chicago must continue working to ensure these sites are properly cleaned up and returned to safe, productive use for our communities.”

Chicago Clean Power Coalition writes how important the closing of the plants is for public health:

The retirement of Fisk and Crawford will deliver substantial public health benefits. Researchers from the Clean Air Task Force found that pollution from Fisk and Crawford causes 42 premature deaths, 66 heart attacks and 720 asthma attacks each year. One in four Chicagoans lives within a three-mile radius of the smokestacks.
 

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In May of 2011, Greenpeace activists occupied the smokestack at Fisk power plant bringing the message "Quit Coal." From the smokestack climber Kelly Mitchell stated:

“It’s time for Edison International to stand up and take responsibility for the health of communities like Pilsen and Little Village, and the citizens, families and children whose quality of life has been compromised by these coal plants.

“According to the Clean Air Task force, 42 Chicagoans will die this year because of Fisk and Crawford. Will Edison choose profits over the lives of these people? Or will they shut down these plants now?”

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