Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel unveiled today the members of a city task force empowered to decide what is to happen with the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plant sites when they go offline, as well as the best way to clean up pollution from the century old facilities.
The immediate question: What will become of the Fisk site in the Pilsen neighborhood, which plant owner Midwest Generation agreed to close by December.
The Crawford plant, also owned by Midwest Generation, is slated to close by December 2014.
Task force members include Doug McFarlane, a senior vice president of public affairs of the Edison Mission Group, parent company of Midwest Generation. Additionally on the task force is a representative from the Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development, an executive from Commonwealth Edison, and the aldermen for Pilsen, Danny Solis (25th), and Little Village, Rick Munoz (22nd).
Also included: Tom Villanova, President of the Chicago & Cook County Building & Construction Trades Council, and one representative each from three neighborhood groups that pushed to shut down the plants: the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Pilsen Alliance, and the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, or PERRO
The task force has met twice, but task force members declined to say what was discussed, citing a city confidentiality agreement.
Jerry Mead-Lucero, an organizer with PERRO and task force member, would say that the initial meetings were “about getting to know each other.” Mead-Lucero is concerned the task force might make a decision by June regarding Fisk, preventing sufficient community input.
Emanuel stated that the task force would have two public hearings. Emanuel noted in a statement that the task force includes “thoughtful, community-focused people” to “craft a plan for these sites that will benefit the neighborhoods and their residents.”
Emanuel also said that any plan should create jobs. This is a concern of task force member Nelson Soza, executive director of the Pilsen Alliance. “A lot of folks would like to replace the jobs that are lost [by the plants shutting down],” Soza says.
Emanuel announced the shut down of the almost century old coal plants in March, much to the vindication of community groups and environmentalists. Pilsen and Little Village residents, though, have expressed concerns about their voice in what happens next.