Big Rally Against Proposed New Coal Plant in Chicago
On July 10, more than 200 Chicagoans rallied outside the State of Illinois' offices in downtown Chicago to protest a proposed new coal plant to be built within the city limits. Despite public opposition, in June the Illinois legislature passed a bill, now sitting on Governor Pat Quinn's desk, which would OK the construction of a new coal gasification plant on the city's Southeast Side.
That's Southeast Side activist Gustavo Mota at the microphone, above. "Today is my 16th birthday, and there is nowhere I would rather spend it than standing up with you all to defend our community!" he told the cheering crowd.
"Governor Quinn, here's a solution: Bring us jobs that don't bring pollution!" was one of the many rallying cries, delivered in both English and Spanish, at the demonstration, which was organized by the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign and the Environmental Justice Alliance of Greater Southeast Chicago. The Sierra Club is a founding member of the Alliance.
"We had a great day voicing our opposition to bringing a new coal plant into the city after we just nailed down the retirement of our two existing coal plants," said Chicago-based Sierra Club organizer Kady McFadden.
This February, the city's Fisk and Crawford coal plants — two of the oldest and dirtiest coal-burning power plants in the nation — were scheduled for retirement. That's smokestack pollution from the Fisk plant, below. Chicago is the only U.S. city with two coal plants inside its city limits; both are on the Southeast Side. And now a new one is being proposed.
"The bill that's now on Governor Quinn's desk would force the state's natural gas utilities into 30 years of contracts to pay for the construction and output of Leucadia Energy's coal gasification plant," said McFadden. "We're urging the governor to veto this boondoggle of a bill."
Chicago's Southeast Side is beset with high pollution and unemployment rates, and the Sierra Club has been working over the past couple of years with community leaders and environmental justice activists to fight the Leucadia plant.
"What goes up must come down!" said Cheryl Johnson, above, at the rally. "Pollution, it don't go to heaven!"
Cheryl is the daughter of Hazel Johnson, known as the "mother of the environmental justice movement," who died last year.
Governor Quinn has supported Leucadia Energy in the past. "It's going to be the consumer angle that gets him to veto this bill," McFadden said. "This bill would force natural gas utilities into 30-year contracts to purchase energy from the new proposed plant, regardless of the price. Because of current low natural gas prices, it would cost consumers across the state an additional $450 a year for the first decade. It's crazy."
Governor Quinn's chief of staff came down to publicly receive 11,374 petitions, collected from residents and ratepayers across Illinois, asking the governor to say no to the Leucadia plant.
"After today's rally we're one step closer to victory," McFadden said.