Updated September 30, 2011: The ordinance never got on the Committee on Health and Environmental Protection’s agenda for September. So my fingers are crossed for the October meeting.
Clean power advocates march in Pilsen on Saturday, September 24, 2011. Photo by Ryan Williams.
Instead of voting on the Clean Power Ordinance on September 8, 2011, the Committee on Committees, Ethics and Rules “re-referred” it to the Committee on Health and Environmental Protection. This is a companion post to Rollin’ beyond coal, on Grid Chicago.
What the Clean Power Ordinance is
It sets emissions standards for coal-powered plants in Chicago. It applies modern standards about air pollution, as they apply to coal and natural gas power plants, to any coal-powered plant in Chicago.
The Chicago Clean Power Coalition has a summary of the ordinance.
Why this is needed
Residents of Pilsen, Little Village, Bridgeport and other communities (pollution has no boundary) have suffered for decades from the release of carbon dioxide, mercury, lead, hydrochloric acid and other chemicals into the air. Read the Toxics Release Inventory for the Fisk Generating Station.
A large portion of the population is 18 and younger; this portion is growing. Pollution has a greater negative effect on young people.
The Fisk and Crawford power plants, owned by Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of Edison International, were grandfathered in to the Clean Air Act of 1970. That means the standards imposed by that legislation don’t apply.
The ordinance’s “Whereas” clause lists six studies that define the effects of certain levels of particulate matter (better known as soot) on human disease, mortality, and life expectancy. A 2002 Harvard study (PDF) that found the power plants combined caused 41 premature deaths per year.
It appears that Alderman JoAnn Thompson, 16th Ward, is no longer a co-sponsor. The Chicago Clean Power Coalition lists her as a co-sponsor as of August 12, 2011, but on the ordinance document (ordinance number O2011-6489) published on the City Clerk’s website, her name is missing.
Midwest Generation, or one of its sister companies, Edison Mission Energy, is known to have lobbied the City Council, the Mayor’s Office, and the Department of Environment in 2010. “Midwest Generation officials said the ordinance is not needed because they already have started to comply with federal standards that will significantly cut pollution at their plants” (Chicago Tribune). The company also claims that a shutdown of the plant will harm electricity supply in Chicago. On that:
Chicago doesn’t actually need the electricity from the plants, though if the plants go offline before ongoing upgrades to local transmission infrastructure are completed it could cause instability on the grid including possible blackouts, according to a spokesman for the utility ComEd. (Midwest Energy News)
Alderman Solis (25th Ward) joined Alderman Joe Moore (49th Ward) during the election time this year as a lead sponsor, to help save his seat on the council in a fight with Cuahetemoc “Témoc” Morfin.
Since the Committee on Committees, Ethics and Rules (CCER) “re-referred” it to the Committee on Health and Environmental Protection (CHEP), the members of CHEP, 18 of which are also on CCER, must discuss the ordinance. Oddly, CHEP did not place on its agenda for their Tuesday, September 27, 2011, meeting a consideration of the ordinance. After discussion, the committee can recommend that the full council vote on it. If the council passes it, Mayor Emanuel can sign or veto it.
In July, Mayor Emanuel talked about his support for the ordinance but didn’t go so far as to endorse it.