Chicago is leading what promises to become a national movement to clean up dirty energy in the inner city. They have good reason to take action. More people live near the city’s two old coal plants than any other coal plant in the nation. According to Little Village Environmental Justice Organization in Chicago, the Fisk and Crawford plants, located on the southwest side of Chicago, cause 40 pre-mature deaths, 500 emergency room visits and 2,800 asthma attacks every year. Chicago also has one of the highest asthma rates in the country, and the city’s asthma hospitalization rate is nearly double the national average. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, on average, one out of seven school-aged children has asthma, and in many Chicago neighborhoods, it's as high as one out of three children.
In 2009 ADPSR gave its Lewis Mumford Award for the Environment to Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. The organization is taking leadership in this campaign to move away from coal. Today, November 30th, 2011, the organization's executive director, Kim Wasserman, authored an Opinion page article in the Chicago Tribune about the air pollution and high rates of asthma caused by coal burning power plants—"Fighting for a breath of fresh air". Kim Wasserman speaks with the authority of a knowledgable environmental watchdog and the passion of a mother living under the smoke of dirty industry and whose own sons have asthma. Her son Peter is depicted holding an inhaler in a city-wide ad campaign that is raising public awareness of these issues.
Little Village Environmental Justice Organization is currently demanding that the Fisk and Crawford coal-fueled power plants either be cleaned up or shut down. The Fisk plant produces more than 1.78 million tons of CO2 annually. The Crawford plant produces more than 3.18 million tons of CO2 annually.
"By clean, we mean finding some fuel other than coal to make energy. (Our community also knows that there's no such thing as "clean coal.") The company is trying to scare people about job losses by talking about "shutdown," but that's a red herring. We can replace coal with clean energy solutions like wind and solar. We're coming to the table in favor of transitioning workers to something else."
More than 50 local and national organizations, joined by local community members and elected leaders, are working together on this "Beyond Coal" campaign which began in 2010.