On July 22, more than 200 Indianapolis residents packed the City-County Council chamber hall wearing bright red "Vote Yes for Clean Air" t-shirts for a hearing on Resolution 241, calling on Indianapolis Power & Light to stop burning coal in Marion County by 2020 and invest in greater amounts of clean, renewable energy at the city's Harding Street Station power plant.
"This is what democracy looks like," says Nachy Kanfer, deputy director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign in the Midwest. "And we were successful! By a 4-1 vote, the Community Affairs Committee passed the resolution, which will now head to the full City-County Council for a vote on August 18."
The hearing came up suddenly, giving the Indiana Beyond Coal team and local Sierra Club activists from the Hoosier Chapter and Heartlands Group just a week to organize -- including printing up the "Vote Yes for Clean Air" t-shirts, thanks to Club organizer Shelly Campbell.
"We were joined by parents of children with asthma, faith leaders, health professionals, small-business owners, and both registered Democrats and Republicans, all sending the same clear message to the Community Affairs Committee: We want clean air, and the time for action is now!
Some highlights of the hearing, according to Kanfer:
- Amber Sparks, a parent who has lived within five miles of the city's Harding Street Station coal plant her entire life, recounting for the committee her three children's struggles with asthma, including yearly visits to the intensive care unit for two of them.
- Council member and clean-air champion Zach Adamson asking the swing vote on the council to pass him the 1,000-plus letters that councilmembers have received so far on this issue.
- Council member and committee chairman John Barth, asking the crowd to come to every committee hearing and saying he wished people were as engaged in other public policy issues.
- Indianapolis Beyond Coal volunteer leader Todd Schifeling delivering a newly-released poll showing that nearly seven in ten Indianapolis voters support Indianapolis Power & Light phasing out coal in Marion County and increasing investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
- John Bowser, a neighbor of the Bear Run Mine in southwest Indiana that supplies the Harding Street plant with coal, speaking of the devastation his hometown has faced due to the impacts of mining.
"Considering the short notice, it was an extraordinarily heavy lift to get so many people to turn out to the hearing and provide such compelling testimony," Kanfer says. "It could never have been done without the countless volunteer hours of phone-banking and canvassing by Hoosier Chapter activists."
"Between now and August 18 we will be pushing hard to ensure that the City-County Council joins us and more than 50 allied groups around Indianapolis that have passed resolutions calling on Indianapolis Power & Light to stop burning coal in the Marion County by 2020," Kanfer says.
Kanfer gives a special shout-out to Hoosier Chapter chair Steve Francis; fellow Beyond Coal organizers Megan Anderson, Jodi Perras, Shane Levy, Allison Fisher, Justin Uebelhor, Matt Skuya, and Mark St. John; and allies Power Indy Forward, Citizens Action Coalition, Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light, the Greater Indianapolis NAACP, and the Hoosier Environmental Council.
All photos by Sierra Club online organizer Justin Uebelhor and Inianapolis Beyond Coal volunteer leader Ellery Diaz.