By Nicole Burns for SUST 210 online
Any victory in the war against pollution is a step in the right direction—no matter how small—and this week Chicago residents celebrated a pretty large victory. Ten U.S. coal plants have been set to shut down, including two in the Chicago area: The Fisk Station in Pilsen and the Crawford Station in Little Village, both owned by Midwest Generation. The Fisk plant is set to close by December of this year and the Crawford plant by the end of 2014–much earlier than the predetermined 2015 and 2018 dates, respectively.
Coal is by far the dirtiest burning fossil fuel, churning out 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, including 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year from U.S. coal-burning plants alone, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. More facts about the impact of burning coal can be found at their website.
The Chicago Tribune’s March 1st article, “Neighbors Energized by Sped-up Closing of Power Plants,” really puts some perspective on what a monumental triumph the news was for the community. “Chicago is the only major city in the nation that still has coal-burning plants operating within its borders,” states the Tribune, also citing a 2010 Clean Air Task Force study confirming that, “the two plants are responsible for about 42 premature deaths, 720 asthma attacks, and 66 heart attacks.”
In another article from the Environment News Source, Kelly Mitchell, Chicagoan and Greenpeace coal campaigner, is quoted saying, “The Fisk and Crawford coal plants have loomed over the city of Chicago for a hundred years, fueling climate change and exposing families to dangerous levels of soot, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxide. After a groundbreaking 10-year grassroots campaign to shut down these archaic plants, Chicagoans have reclaimed their right to clean air.”
We can all prepare to breathe a deep, unpolluted sigh of relief, as the air around Chicago is about to become a lot clearer. With the outpouring of grateful activists and residents alike peppering the local and national media over the long-awaited decision, we can only hope that our victory can inspire more communities across America to fight for a more sustainable future.
Submitted 2 March 2012