This morning, environmental advocates in Chicago kicked off a 24-hour vigil outside of 25th Ward Ald. Danny Solis' neighborhood office. The protesters are pressuring the city councilman into co-sponsoring legislation -- called the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance -- that would require Midwest Generation's Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants to cut the amount of climate change-causing carbon dioxide they spew by 50 percent and particulate matter by 90 percent over four years.
Securing Solis as a co-sponsor would mark an important symbolic milestone in the fight for this bill: Solis' ward includes the Fisk plant and the alderman has a deep relationship with Midwest Generation, which opposes the proposed ordinance. According to research compiled by the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), Solis has accepted 19 donations from the company worth $48,900 since 1999, making them his third most generous contributor over that time period. Midwest Generation spokesman Charley Parnell, himself a member of a Solis political fundraising committee, said the company's executives often get involved in areas where the firm operates and argued the donations have had no outsized impact on Solis. He pointing out that Ald. Rick Munoz (22nd Ward) has thrown his support behind the Clean Power bill and accepted donations from the firm. "Their argument is fundamentally flawed," he said.
Solis himself was unavailable this morning when PERRO began its vigil and delivered a 1,541-signature petition in support of the bill to his office. But the hand-off did lead to a debate about the Clean Power Ordinance's merits between PERRO member Jerry Mead-Lucero and Maya Solis, a spokesperson for the alderman. Solis insisted that the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency was better suited to regulate emissions and noted the federal government may regulate carbon emissions. Mead-Lucero and other advocates pushed back against her policy take.
Ald. Solis supported a failed 2002 bill offered by Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward) that would have regulated some emissions coming out of Fisk and Crawford. Environmental campaigners and 25th Ward residents say they plan to keep the pressure on Solis (who's getting pressed on other neighborhood issues as well) until he backs the new ordinance, too. It'll be a stiff battle. The environmentalists will get another chance to make the case to Solis; his spokeswoman promised a meeting today after what Mead-Lucero said was six months of silence from the alderman on the issue.