A Grassroots Victory for Chicago
Edison International has agreed to close its Fisk and Crawford coal plants, some of the oldest and dirtiest coal plants in the country. This news marks a historic victory for a decade-long grassroots campaign to close the plants. Community members partnered with environmental, health, faith, and labor organizations to form a powerful coalition in Chicago that pushed this victory over the finish line. Below is a timeline, highlighting some of the incredible work over the past ten years. Greenpeace is proud to have supported this campaign.
Harvard School of Public Health issues a report stating that the pollution from the Fisk and Crawford coal plants contributes to 2,800 asthma attacks, 550 emergency room visits and 41 premature deaths every year.
In response to health concerns raised by local organizations such as Pilsen Greens and the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago (RHAMC), Ald Ed Burke introduces a Clean Power Ordinance, which would set limits for SO2, NOx, mercury, and CO2 pollution from the Fisk and Crawford plants.
A public referendum in Pilsen and Little Village shows that 90 percent and 86 percent of residents, respectively, support the goals of Burke’s ordinance. Nonetheless, the bill sits in committee for over a year. That same year, groups including RHAMC, Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), and community organizations challenge new operating permits for Fisk and Crawford.
Organizations continue to challenge air permits at the two coal plants.
On the heels of the passage of a city-wide smoking ban, the Chicago Reader publishes another feature on the continued grassroots efforts to clean up Fisk and Crawford.
Midwest Generation reaches a settlement agreement with the Illinois EPA and State of IL. Under the agreement, Midwest Generation must reduce NOx and SO2 emissions at all of its IL plants by 2018, or shut them down. That February, 8th Day Center for Justice, Blacks in Green, Center for Urban Transformation, Chicago Jobs with Justice, Eco-Justice Collaborative, Environmental Research Foundation, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS), and Rainforest Network, Chicago form Climate Justice Chicago.
Environmental justice groups such as LVEJO, PERRO, and Eco-Justice Collaborative continue mobilizing in response to the City’s Climate Action Plan. That November, over 150 people turn out to discuss the local impacts of Fisk and Crawford, as part of Step it Up - a national Day of Action on climate change
July -Environmental and health organizations Environmental Law & Policy Center, Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, Sierra Club, Citizens Against Ruining the Environment, and Natural Resources Defense Council announce their intent to sue Midwest Generation over opacity violations.
August -IL Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the US Justice Dept also file a lawsuit against Midwest Generation’s six IL plants. The environmental and health groups join the lawsuit.
October -As part of an International Day of Action on climate change, over 300 people join a march and rally through the Pilsen neighborhood, organized by LVEJO, PERRO, Rainforest Action Network (RAN), and Greenpeace. Eight protestors blocked a road heading to the Fisk coal plant by locking arms and sitting in the street. During the rally, Alderman Joe Moore of the 49th Ward announced his intention to introduce a new Clean Power Ordinance. [VIDEO, PHOTO]
Following the October 24th day of action and Joe Moore’s announcement, the Clean Power Coalition is formed. Founding organizations include Eco-Justice Collaborative, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago, and Sierra Club.
Grassroots mobilization kicks into full swing. A new study by the Clean Air Task Force shows that Fisk and Crawford are responsible for 42 pre-mature deaths and hundreds of asthma attacks annually. A study by the Environmental Law and Policy Center claims that pollution from Fisk and Crawford have cost Chicagoans over $1 billion since 2002 in health costs.
April -Alderman Joe Moore introduces the Clean Power Ordinance, which would set limits for particulate matter and carbon dioxide pollution at Fisk and Crawford.
July -Greenpeace Climate Campaign Director Damon Moglen and Sierra Club Executive Director Mike Brune speak at a press conference, announcing the two national groups’ intention to dedicate significant grassroots resources to the campaign to close Fisk and Crawford.
Chicago Reader publishes a front-page, in depth feature on the growing grassroots campaign to close Fisk and Crawford.
February -The Clean Power Ordinance continues to sit in committee. Tired of waiting for the powers-that-be in City Council to grant a hearing, the Clean Power Coalition organizes an ad-hoc “People’s Hearing.” Over 300 people turn out in support of the bill.
March -Facing a tough run-off challenge and increasing scrutiny of his ties to Midwest Generation by PERRO and SEIU, Ald. Danny Solis steps up as a vocal supporter of the Clean Power Ordinance.
April -City Council holds a joint committee hearing on the Clean Power Ordinance. Over 300 community members are blocked from sitting in on the hearing, but gather outside chambers to support their right to clean air. After an all day hearing weighed in favor of Midwest Generation, Council punts on a vote, leaving the fate of the plants to the next administration. Earlier that week, activists from Rainforest Action Network and LVEJO climb the coal pile at the Crawford plant, calling for both plants to close.
May -Greenpeace teams up with Change.org to collect 25,000 letters to Edison CEO Ted Craver calling for the retirement of Fisk and Crawford coal plants.
The Chicago Tribune editorializes on the plants. While the paper opposes the Ordinance, it acknowledges the work of community groups in Pilsen and Little Village, and the need for Fisk and Crawford to clean up or shut down.
July -Aldermen Joe Moore and Danny Solis re-introduce the Clean Power Ordinance, which quickly picks up 35 co-sponsors. Mayor Emmanuel delivers a clear signal that he supports the goals of the Clean Power Coalition
September -Over 200 people participate in a march and rally through Pilsen, calling for the retirement of the plants. Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Nadioo speaks at the event. [PHOTOS] The following weekend, community members from LVEJO and PERRO teamed up with Kumi Naidoo to deliver 25,000 letters to Edison International HQ in California. [VIDEO]
October -A new poll commissioned by ELPC, on behalf of the Clean Power Coalition, shows 72% of Chicagoans would support city efforts to reduce pollution from the Fisk and Crawford coal plants.
November -Following talks between Midwest Generation, the City of Chicago, and the Clean Power Coalition, the IL State Legislature considers, but ultimately rejects, a deal to close Fisk by 2012 and Crawford by 2014.
2012 – VICTORY
Grassroots pressure continues with a series of events at City Hall, calling on the Mayor to push for retirement dates for Fisk and Crawford. The campaign also picks up a strong show of support from Latino elected officials from throughout the city.
Mayor Emmanuel issues an ultimatum to Midwest Generation – come up with a plan to clean up or shut down by the end of February, or face the Clean Power Ordinance.
Midwest Generation reaches a series of agreements with the Clean Power Coalition and the City of Chicago to retire Fisk in 2012 and Crawford in 2014.