By Patricia Ramirez for SUST 210 Online
Many Southwest Side residents in Chicago have lived amongst the two of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants for the past 100 years. Chicago is one of the only cities which have operating coal plants within the city limits. Of Chicagoans living near the cold plants, 83% are non-white. It is not uncommon for children who live in the neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village to be diagnosed with asthma. According to the National Health Interview Survey of 1998, Chicago has one of the highest asthma rates in the country. The survey also showed that hospitalization rates for asthma in Chicago are twice as high as the rest of the nation.
The Chicago Clean Power Coalition notes that “According to a September 2010 study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force using methodology approved by EPAʼs Science Advisory Board and the National Academy of Sciences, pollution from Fisk and Crawford causes 42 premature deaths (an average of one death every 9 days), 720 asthma attacks and 66 heart attacks annually.” See this 2011 Fact Sheet (pdf)for more details.
After decades of protests, lobbying, and lawsuits against the Chicago coal plants, a resolution has come forth. On Wednesday 02/29/2012, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel negotiated with Midwest Generation to speed up the closure of the Fisk plant in Pilsen and the Crawford plant in Little Village. The Pilsen plant will shut down at the end of 2012 and the Little Village plant will follow by 2014. The Sierra Club has also dropped the pending lawsuits against Midwest Generation.
Unfortunately, there are several more coal plants in Illinois, including ones in Homer City, Joliet, Waukegan and Romeoville. So the question is, what will happen to these plants in the suburbs? According to Crain’s Chicago Business Report, the parenting companies of Midwest Generation who own the coal plants in Chicago Suburbs will close by 2014 because they are not making a profit. This is great news for Illinois, but will electric rates increase? And what options do Illinois residents have?
There are not too many statistics about what happens after the coal plant close, but there are great websites that allow Illinois residents to choose their source of energy. Illinois has a small amount of wind and solar power but the rates are being advertised at 10% less than Comed prices. See Renewable Electricity and Power 2 Switch for details.
Submitted 5 March 2012