Child playing at Dovak Park with Fisk Coal Plant in the background [via Greenpeace]
CHICAGO, IL—On Thursday, July 28th, Aldermen Joe Moore and Danny Solis re-introduced the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance to a newly elected City Council, with an impressive total of 35 co-sponsors (in Chicago, a city ordinance requires 26 votes and the signature of the mayor to become law) and with continued support from the Chicago Clean Power Coalition, a grassroots movement of more than 60 local community, health, and environmental organizations.
If passed, the Ordinance would require the two outdated coal-fired power plants operating within city limits to clean up their act by installing modern pollution control equipment, or else shut down their operations. Chicago’s Fisk and Crawford plants, owned by Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of the California-based Edison International, are located in the city’s densely populated neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village. They are the country’s only coal-plants still operating in such a densely populated urban environment.
More than sixty youth and student activists interested in putting an end to Chicago’s two largest stationary sources of air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions, attended a public hearing concerning the Ordinance back in April, and another sixty youth turned out to the Ordinance’s re-introduction in last month.
Youth involvement from local colleges and universities, the Illinois Student Environmental Coalition, the Sierra Club, and other environmental groups have helped shape the renewed effort to pass the Clean Power Ordinance. Students have lobbied aldermen to become co-sponsors, increased media attention around the issue (watch these videos: ABC News7: Clean Power & YouTube: Chicago Clean Power Hearing), provided testimony at Ordinance hearings, attended regular planning meetings, and organized phone-banking sessions to spread awareness and garner support for the Ordinance. Caroline Wooten, a student at the University of Chicago and founder of the UChicago Climate Action Network, explains that youth-lobbying efforts were instrumental in convincing Ald. Newsome and Ald. Cochran to sign on as co-sponsors of the Ordinance this spring and summer.
With the Ordinance currently in the City Council’s Rules Committee, Laura Knezevic, Director of the Illinois Student Environmental Coalition, cautions that “there are never any guarantees when it comes to the City Council,” but she thinks that the Ordinance is “moving forward with renewed strength and more support than we had in the last session.”
With this momentum and the start of the school year approaching, Chicago student leaders are already actively engaged in planning a 350.org International Day of Climate Action on September 24, thinking up strategies to increase student involvement around the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, and drafting up new state-wide campaigns to decrease Illinois’ reliance on coal.
Members of the IL Student Environmental Coalition organize for Clean Air at the 350 Get to Work Day, Oct 2010