Chicago City Council puts off vote on clean power ordinance

Posted: 4/21/2011

From Chicago Tribune's Clout St. Blog: 

A pair of Chicago City Council committees put off a vote today on a controversial ordinance that would force two coal-fired plants to convert to cleaner natural gas, cut their operations or shut down within three years.

Ald. Virginia Rugai, 19th, and Ald. James Balcer, 11th, announced at the start of a hearing this morning that no vote would be taken. "Because this issue is so complicated it requires much more scrutiny and investigation," Rugai said, explaining the decision.

That leaves the long-debated issue to the incoming administration of Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel and new City Council. Following the May 16 inauguration, 18 aldermen elected to their posts for the first time will be on the council.

The Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, introduced a year ago by Ald. Joe Moore, 49th, became an issue in the recent city election, forcing Ald. Daniel Solis, 25th, into a runoff. Finding himself at risk of losing, Solis switched his position in favor of the measure.

Solis' ward includes the Pilsen neighborhood, where the Fisk power plant is located. The other one, Crawford, is in Little Village.

"Because there has been federal inaction and state inaction in resolving this issue, we must address the effects of coal power here on the local level, especially in the communities of Pilsen and Little Village," Solis today. "Regardless of the outcome of today's hearing, I will continue to fight for a cleaner, safer environment for our neighborhoods."

The announcement by Rugai and Balcer came before a packed council chambers of ordinance supporters and opponents who work for Midwest Generation, which operates the plants. Many wore hard hats and carried placards that stated, "Save our Jobs."

But Moore, one of the council's staunchest union supporters, said the choice between jobs and clean air is a false one. "When the companies comply with this ordinance, they will actually create more good-paying union jobs."

Kimberly Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Center, said Midwest Generation had made profits of more than $1.8 billion since 2005. "If they are crying chicken because they don't want to pay up and clean up, that's not my fault," she said. "We will work with you to make sure that your jobs are not lost. . . . We all deserve to work and live in health communities."

Suzanne Malec-McKenna, Mayor Richard Daley's environment commissioner, said that under a regional plan Midwest Generation has until 2018 to reduce its emissions, but Moore contended those standards do not apply to carbon-dioxide and fine-particulate matter emissions.

Malec-McKenna said the city has focused more on issues where it can have bigger impact, like diesel-fuel emissions, which cause far more pollution in the city.

Original here.

View Respiratory Health Association's statement here.