Pilsen Beats Coal: Community to be Part of Future Development of Site

Friday March 02 2012

In the shadows of the famed smokestack at Fisk Generating Station on Cermak and May, in Pilsen, over 100 community members and representatives from various coalition partners gathered to celebrate a historic victory over coal pollution. After more than 10 years of mobilizations, Midwest Generation announced that it will be closing the last two coal plants in Chicago.

This victory could have not been possible without the commitment and support of so many people in the community and beyond,” said Rosalie Mancera, Pilsen Alliance board member. “I want to thank our neighbors and the members of Pilsen Alliance for not giving up and work hard to get the job done… We did it!”

Surrounded by supporters, Mancera recalled the cynicism she encountered early on in the campaign and how she was motivated to continue to organize and reach out to the community. Her hard work, along with others in the community and around Chicago helped grow a movement that caught national attention.
Through negotiations with the owners of the power plants, Midwest Generations, the mayor’s office along with the Clean Power Coalition were able to agree to shutdown dates for the aging relics in Chicago’s Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods. Fisk Generating Station in Pilsen will shut down by the end of 2012, Crawford Generating Station by 2014.

An important component of the agreement is the creation of a Community Advisory Council to deal with the future of the sites, including finding ways to clean it up and develop it. Mayor Rahm Emanuel will play a leadership role in the effort to remediate the sites. The Council will also have input in Midwest Generation’ community involvement program, including monetary donations.

“Our next task is to make sure that the sites are cleaned and developed with community residents in mind,” Mancera said. “Whatever it is that happens, we have to make sure it doesn’t mean more working families displaced from Pilsen.”

An important victory for the community and for clean air, the closing of these power plants, will bring new concerns and issues around the clean up and development of the sites. The creation of a community advisory board will give the community a seat at the table in this debate. Pilsen Alliance will continue to champion for the concerns of the neighborhood. Through grassroots organizing and community outreach, we look forward to bring the voice of the people to the fore front and always stay true to our mission.

The coal burning power plants have been active for nearly 100 years, and have been linked to serious health conditions. The Clean Air Task Force found in 2010 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. Pilsen is home to over 60,000 predominantly working class, Latino residents.

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