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February 29, 2012

Historic Win for Clean Air as Chicago's Fisk and Crawford Coal Plants Announce Retirement

Tremendous news - today Chicagoans are celebrating a huge public health victory as Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Midwest Generation announced the planned retirement of the Fisk and Crawford coal plants. These are two of the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the nation, and they’re located in the heart of Chicago’s Southwest side.

This announcement comes after years of pressure from local citizens and numerous organizations, including the Sierra Club – over 60 groups have worked together to make this historic day possible. The local communities affected most by these plants have done the heaviest lifting to get these coal plants retired. This announcement is the culmination of many years of hard work by those families and concerned residents in Pilsen and Little Village, and this victory belongs to them.

Here are words from one of those great local activists: “This victory proves that when communities and organizations work together, they can stop big polluters in their tracks. This is the first of many victories to come in Illinois, as people from all different backgrounds will come together to move coal out of their back yards and bring clean air and clean jobs to their neighborhoods,” Rosalie Mancera of the Pilsen Alliance.

Pollution from these coal plants has been making local residents sick for over 100 years, since way back in 1903, contributing to asthma attacks, respiratory illnesses and other health problems. The Sierra Club has worked with local community groups on an extensive organizing campaign to retire these coal plants, due to the threat they posed every day to the health of Chicago families.

“This is a grassroots victory for environmental justice. Over the past year-and-a-half, hundreds of Chicagoans have logged calls to their Aldermen, to the Mayor, to Midwest Generation, delivered thousands of postcards and petitions, marched in the streets and demanded that every person, regardless of who they are where they live, has the right to breathe clean air,” said Tony Fuller, volunteer for the Sierra Club.

These communities were suffering the brunt of serious health problems for electricity sent to other parts of the country.In fact, the coal burned in these plants is brought in from Wyoming, the power is sold out of state, and the profits go to a California-based company, leaving Chicago to deal with the pollution.

The announcement set the retirement date for 2012 for the Fisk plant in Pilsen, and 2014 for the Crawford plant in Little Village. Mayor Emanuel knows that moving Chicago from coal to clean energy works for all of us, and we applaud him for his efforts to bring cleaner air to Pilsen, Little Village, and all of Chicago. Now, as America transitions away from coal, we call on Midwest Generation and other power companies to ensure that communities, workers and families will have a just and stable transition from working with coal to becoming leaders in a clean energy future.

Now is Midwest Generation’s chance to increase investments in energy efficiency, create new jobs in Chicago, and assist the workers and community with a smooth transition to a clean energy future.

Chicago is the only major metropolitan area with not one, but two polluting coal plants within the city limits, and the Sierra Club has been an active member of the Chicago Clean Power Coalition which has been encouraging Mayor Emanuel to retire these two Midwest Generation plants. We salute all our partners who worked so hard to make this historic day possible.

The Fisk and Crawford plants now join the ranks of polluting coal plants like Cane Run in Louisville, Kentucky and GenOn in Alexandria, VA that have been announced for retirement in recent months.

The Beyond Coal Campaign aims to replace dirty, polluting coal-fired power plants with clean energy like wind and solar power. The campaign has stopped more than 160 coal plants from breaking ground, and the number of planned retirements continues to grow as the nation transitions to a clean energy future. The Fisk and Crawford plants are the 97th and 98th existing coal plants announced for retirement in the US since January of 2010, accelerating our momentum towards a nation powered by clean energy.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Clean Power Coalition.


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