Chicago Goes Coal-Free; Protests Against Mountaintop Mining Escalate

Chicago’s two coal plants are shutting down after more than a decade-long battle by the Chicago Clean Power Coalition.

Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of giant Edison International will shut down one plant this year and other in 2014, when Chicago will be "coal free."

Called notoriously decrepit and toxic Model-T-era coal plants, they are among the dirtiest and oldest in the US.

"For over ten years our communities have been fighting for the right to breathe clean air, clean land and clean water. Today we are ending over 100 years of pollution for profits and showing the power of community," says Kimberly Wasserman of LVEJO, one of the groups that participated in the coalition. "Hopefully, this is the first of many victories in Illinois, as citizens and politicians come together to hold corporate polluters accountable and usher in a clean energy future."

In December, the EPA released long-awaited Mercury and Air Toxics Regulations that would force plants like these to either retrofit or close. Naturally, they’re being fought by industry and the GOP.

The rules have already led to announcements of closures of the dirtiest coal plants.

GenOn Energy, the third-largest US independent power producer by market value, also plans to close 13% of its  generating capacity by 2015 because the plants don’t make enough money to justify retrofits that would reduce pollution. 

Starting this June, it will shut down 3140 megawatts in  Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey.

Speaking of Dirty …

The war against coal, this time from blowing the tops off mountains in Appalachia is reaching a crescendo.

Although the EPA gets lots of flack over regulations, it’s yet to put a stop to this horrific practice, that’s causing widespread ecosystem destruction, poisoning of rivers and the peoples’ health who live there. It did revoke a permit preventing the most massive mountaintop-removal mine last year.

Protesters are in Washington, DC today calling for an immediate moratorium on "the toxic coal acquisition process that has been shown to be associated with heart-breaking birth defects, cardiac problems, lung problems and systemic failures in other human organs."

(Photo: Vivian Stockman)

While mountaintop removal mining supplies less than 5-7% of national coal production, millions of pounds of explosives are detonated every day in West Virginia, Kentucky, southwest Virginia and eastern Tennessee.

Some of the key human health impacts are:

– 26% higher chance of babies born with birth defects, which has risen 181% higher in recent years, specifically for heart and lung defects;
– higher death rates, higher death rates from cardiovascular disease, and breat, lung, digestive and urinary cancer.

Instead, they want a sustainable economy that provides clean, healthy renewable energy jobs – they’d prefer to see wind turbines on mountaintops than have no mountaintops at all, which costs the health of humans and wildlife.

What’s behind mountaintop mining? The largest banks are financing it.


Read Time Magazine’s article, The War on Coal:

Chicago’s air on July 17, 2011 was so polluted that the government recommended that children and people with respiratory ailments – too common in a city that has nearly double the national asthma-hospitalization rate – limit their time outdoors. "People are getting sick in Chicago because of the air," says Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental-health programs at the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago.

Read the full article:

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