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October 19, 2012

A Clear Energy Choice in Chicago

Chicago

The choice is clear.

Less than three months after Chicago turned off two coal plants that were harming the health of local communities, voters will have the chance to give a nod to clean energy this November. A referendum on the ballot – if approved – would allow the city to purchase its energy from different sources, such as residents who generate power from clean energy.

"We are trying to enlighten and inform as many people as possible on this, and of course, we only have a few months to do it," 20-year Sierra Club activist Rose Gomez said last month. "Our coalition is made up of nearly 20 different organizations and everyone is reaching out and working with the same effort to get to as many votes as possible."

To help push the referendum past the goal line, Sierra Club activists joined the Chicago Clean Power Coalition in launching Chicago Community Energy Choice, a campaign to mobilize voters and city leaders to make clean energy a top priority. Earlier this month, campaign organizers helped turn out 100 volunteers at City Hall, who delivered 3,000 petition signatures to the desk of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Chicago

The event featured speakers from Blue Green Alliance, Respiratory Health Association, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, and Solar Service.

"Not only could Chicago see significant cost savings by using its collective bargaining power, but the city could also see a new energy plan crafted with a focus on clean, renewable power," said Christine Nannicelli, a Sierra Club organizer.

The coalition is making huge waves in the Windy City. It was given the 2012 Leadership Award by the Illinois Environmental Council, its highest award, for pushing for the retirement of the city's Fisk and Crawford coal plants. Coalition leaders are looking ahead to November's election and beyond.

"If we pass the clean energy choice we have the possibility to choose where our power is coming from and choose where our money is going," said Rafael Hurtado of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, as reported by WBEZ.

"In these communities we have a lot of brownfields. These brownfields are eyesores for all these visitors and all our residents," said Hurtado, who added that vacant spaces can be spots for wind and solar energy production.

Chicago activists and allies have triggered a true grassroots energy movement. If voters make the right choice next month, it could inspire communities across the country to follow suit and make the clean-energy switch.

-- Brian Foley

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