Mayors Bloomberg and Emanuel Talk Clean Energy in Chicago
On Leap Day, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Midwest Generation announced that the utility's Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants in Chicago had been scheduled for retirement. A week later, Emanuel announced plans to begin redeveloping the sites.
On March 8, Emanuel was joined on a tour of the Fisk site by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was in Chicago for a Global C40 Cities climate leadership conference. Last fall Bloomberg Philanthropies pledged $50 million to the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.
"Closing these plants is a first step," Emanuel said, "but the key is to make sure these facilities are used to spur economic development and job creation for these neighborhoods." Chicago is the only city in the country with two coal plants inside its city limits.
“Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago have taken a big step forward in building a healthier and environmentally sustainable city,” said Bloomberg. “Today is also a great step forward for the Beyond Coal campaign that has been working with Mayor Emanuel, residents, and local organizations."
Below, Emanuel is congratulated by activists from P.E.R.R.O. (Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization), one of the Sierra Club's coalition partners. The Fisk plant is located in the Pilsen neighborhood in southwest Chicago.
The Sierra Club's Illinois Chapter and Chicago Group have been working with Beyond Coal and the Chicago Clean Power Coalition for the last year-and-a-half to retire Fisk and Crawford. The plants' scheduled closure pushed the number of coal plants now set for retirement over the century mark since Beyond Coal launched in January 2010.
Illinois Sierra Club Director Jack Darin joined the mayors on the Fisk tour. "Chicagoans can breathe easier thanks to Mayor Emanuel’s leadership in closing these old, polluting plants," Darin said. "He knows that moving Chicago from coal to clean energy works for all of us, and we applaud him for his efforts." That's Darin below, with Bloomberg.
The Sierra Club and the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation will finance the effort to craft a redevelopment plan for the two plants, and the Delta Institute, also based in Chicago, will take the lead in working with community groups, labor, and local elected officials to implement the plan.
"This is a grassroots victory for environmental justice," said Chicago Sierra Club volunteer leader Tony Fuller, at right below with Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune. According to a 2011 NAACP report, Fisk and Crawford were ranked number one and three respectively on a list of the nation’s top environmental justice offenders.
Sierra Club volunteers and their coalition allies made hundreds of calls to their aldermen, the mayor, and Midwest Generation. The coalition delivered thousands of postcards and petitions, marched in the streets, rallied at City Hall, and packed public hearings in support of a clean power ordinance to address air pollution issues in the city, chiefly by retiring Fisk and Crawford.
"We demanded that every person, regardless of who they are and where they live, has the right to breathe clean air," Fuller said. "This victory proves that when communities and organizations work together, they can stop big polluters in their tracks."
Above and below, Clean Power Coalition ralliers outside Chicago City Hall last December.
"Mayor Emanuel's plan to redevelop the Fisk and Crawford sites is a huge step in our work in Chicago," said Kady McFadden of the Beyond Coal campaign. "Community groups will be involved in deciding what happens with the sites after they stop burning coal, and how they can be used to create more economic opportunities for the area. We are grateful to Mayors Emanuel and Bloomberg and all the powerhouse coal-fighting activists who made this possible."