After decades of struggle against coal pollution, Pilsen and Little Village may have encountered an ally they did not have in almost six decades: City Hall. Under the headline “Emanuel brokers deal to shutter coal-fired power plants”, Crain’s Chicago Business reported October 15 that Mayor Rahm Emanuel was “close to backing” a formula to trade “clean energy for dirty energy” in Chicago.
“It is great to know that City Hall is backing the community on this urgent public health issue,” said Rosalie Mancera, a Pilsen Alliance member participating in the Chicago Clean Power Coalition. “We have already began to think about the day after these coal plants are gone.”
Midwest Generation operates the last two remaining coal plants in Chicago, Fisk and Crawford, both of them in the working class, minority communities of Pilsen and Little Village, respectively. Pollution from these plants leads to roughly 42 premature deaths, 66 heart attacks and 720 asthma attacks every year, a Clean Air Task Force study concluded in 2010. Children living in the proximity of these plants suffer from alarming asthma rates. Nationally, one in 10 children suffer from asthma.
According to Crain’s, in exchange for ending coal-generated power in Chicago, Midwest Generation is seeking long-term contracts for the electricity generated at its Big Sky wind farm in Northwest Illinois.
“We have to make sure we end coal and Chicago, but also that we hold the company accountable for the harm they have caused,” Mancera said. “We hope Midwest Generation decides to walk away from our community through the big door.”