Little Village, Chicago—At 10:00am today, six 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. The activists unfurled a 7’ x 30’ banner atop a 20-foot tall sprawling coal pile that feeds the power plant, which reads: “Close Chicago’s Toxic Coal Plants.”
The groups are demanding the closure of the plant just one day before the much-anticipated Clean Power Ordinance hearing, which could force the plant to undergo major modifications to upgrade its pollution controls. The activists intend to stand their ground until police arrest them.
LVEJO, Rising Tide and RAN Chicago are calling for the closure of Chicago’s two toxic coal-fired power plants, the Crawford plant in Little Village and the Fisk plant in Pilsen, both owned by Midwest Generation. These two plants are Chicago’s largest sources of particulate air pollution. In the last three years alone, these plants combined have spewed over 45,000 tons of pollution into the air, compromising the health of all Chicagoans.
“As a physical education teacher I am alarmed at the high number of students with asthma due to these toxic coal plants. Every class I teach has four to seven students who suffer from horrifying respiratory illness. I can no longer sit back and watch my students and my community being sacrificed for dirty coal,” said Gloria Fallon, a Chicago public school teacher and life long south side resident who participated in today’s protest.
Pollution from these two coal-fired power plants costs neighboring communities $127 million per year in hidden health damages, according to a report released in October, 2010 by the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Particulate matter from the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants impairs visibility and contributes to lung cancer, heart attacks, premature deaths, acute and chronic bronchitis, emergency room visits, asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
Those who live closest to these plants bear the heaviest brunt of these diseases. According to a September 2010 study conducted by the Clean Air Task Force, air pollution from Fisk and Crawford causes more than 40 deaths, 720 asthma attacks and 66 heart attacks annually.
“The struggle over these ancient coal plants, Fisk and Crawford, has gone on for too long. Politicians have stalled and delayed any attempt to clean up these dangerous and outdated plants while people are getting sick and dying,” said Ian Viteri, the clean power organizer with Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and a life long resident of Little Village. “It's time to stop playing nice with the politicians in city hall and start taking action in the street.”
The Midwest Generation plants have avoided anti-pollution regulations for years. Fisk started generating electricity in 1903 and was rebuilt in 1959; Crawford's latest turbines were installed in 1958 and 1961. Tomorrow’s hearing on the Clean Power Ordinance is a significant step in determining the fate of these two relic plants. The ordinance, if passed, would force Midwest Generation to undergo major modifications to upgrade their pollution controls. Local groups, however, are calling for the plants to be shutdown immediately, finding the bill to be too little too late for plants that have already caused significant illness and death.
Fisk and Crawford are two of Chicago’s largest contributors to climate change. In 2007, they emitted nearly five million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) combined into the atmosphere. This is equivalent to the emission from 872,042 cars together. Nationally, coal-fired power plants are the leading cause of global warming pollution in the United States.
For more information, visit www.extractionaction.net/chicago.
Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org