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Sierra Daily

Feb 29, 2012

Every Breath You Take

Br1Wonderful news out of Chicago today for teacher Leila Cepeda and her students (at right), who lived and worked near the Fisk coal-fired power plant in the city's Pilsen neighborhood: After years of pressure from local residents and the Sierra Club, today Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Midwest Generation announced the closure of Fisk and its companion Crawford plant, two of the oldest and dirtiest in the nation. Along with Fisk and Crawford, six other coal plants announced their retirement today, pushing the number of plants closing since the beginning of 2010 past 100.

In 2006, Monika Bauerlein wrote from Chicago for Sierra about what it was like to live in the shadow of these polluting plants.

[Leila] Cepeda, a curly-haired, olive-skinned second-generation Chicagoan and near-lifelong Pilsen resident, meets me on the light-filled ground floor of her house a few blocks from Fisk. The house once belonged to the guy who drove the beer cart for the local brewery, she explains, and the first floor was where he kept the horses. She and her husband replaced the barn doors with a glass-brick wall, filled the space with dwarf-size furniture, and--voilà--transformed it into a Montessori children's house that draws kids from across the Chicago area. Today three preschoolers are busy making stars from Popsicle sticks and taking turns on the teeter-totter. One is Cepeda's niece, four-year-old Tirsa. When she finds out why I'm here, she asks, "The smoke from the plant, can you make it stop?"

Bauerlein's story is still well worth your time; you can find it here.

--Paul Rauber / Photo by Ralf Finn-Hestoft

Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly stated the date since which 100+ coal plants have announced retirement. The correct date is 2010.

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