Monday, November 29, 2010

UIC's Quiet But Harmful Neighbor

Chicago's very own Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants create the biggest source of pollution in the city and surrounding areas. Owned by Midwest Generation in Pilsen and Little Village, these two plants annually release more than 17,000 tons of toxins into our air; toxins that have greatly affected the health of Chicago residents for years.

The Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago released an article on Fisk and Crawford stating, "A Harvard School of Public Health study found that air pollution from the two coal-fired plants causes more than 40 deaths, 550 emergency room visits, and 2,800 asthma attacks annually. " This places Chicago second in the ranking among cities affected adversely by power plant pollution. Increased likelihood for cancer, shortened life spans, increased worker sick days, increased chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and other causes for hospitalization have created $127 million a year in health costs.

Since Crawford and Fisk are such old plants, they have "grandfathered" in and become exempt from most regulations passed requiring plants to use cleaner, safer technologies. The two plants have been exempt from the Clean Air Act requiring them to use scrubbers that contain an aqueous limestone mixture to absord most sulfur dioxide.

So what is being done?

The owning company, Midwest Generation, has been sued by many public health groups for violating air safety standards. The Chicago Clean Power Ordinance needs support of 26 Alderman to resuscitate the Ordinance. They are still 14 short. This Ordinance is currently tracking time in the Rules Committee; although many think it is doomed, Ald. Joe Moore says the Ordinance is "still very much alive." If the ordinance is passed, it will impose significant restrictions on the plants despite their grandfather status.

The Chicago Clean Power Coalition is trying to pass a city ordinance in Chicago bringing the strictest reductions in pollution through the "Best Available Control Technology." Columbia College has partnered in this campaign to provide innovative educational materials.

Other groups like Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and PERRO- Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization have been campaigning to pass the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance as well. But they all still have a long way to making any significant changes. Hopefully, once Chicago's Climate Action plan continues to grow, we will see some changes.

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