The closing date for the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants was pushed forward to this September, which provides a sense of urgency for Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. The Crawford plant in Little Village was initially slated to close in December 2014, as set by a February agreement between Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and plant owner Midwest Generation.
“It’s a lot sooner than expected and it has me on my toes,” says Rafeal Hurtado, an organizer at the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, or LVEJO. “People are taking it more personal now, thinking, ‘Okay, this is really happening.’”
California’s Edison International, Midwest Generation’s parent company, announced the new date in a call to company investors last Wednesday. The shut down roughly coincides with the three to four month timeline of when a city task force will issue a report on the future of each site, according to the mayor’s office.
The plants closing earlier won’t change this timeline, states Emanuel spokesman Tom Alexander, as the task force “always knew there was a chance they’d close earlier.”
The announcement also did not surprise residents of the adjacent Pilsen neighborhood, home of the Fisk plant – originally slated to close by December 2012.
“We actually had some indication that the plant would close in September,” says Jerry Mead-Lucero, an organizer at the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, or PERRO.
LVEJO, PERRO and another community group, Pilsen Alliance, are part of the task force picked by Emanuel, a group that includes executives from Midwest Generation and Commonwealth Edison, and the aldermen of the wards that include the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods.
According to Alexander, the task force was looking at the future of Crawford, as well as Fisk, prior to the Edison International announcement.
But what ideas the task force has is not clear, as members made a confidentiality agreement.
One firm idea LVEJO got from community meetings is to put a trade school in the Crawford site, maybe one with a focus on green jobs. Hurtado says the trade school has emerged as the top suggestion thus far.
Emanuel has professed his desire to get community input. He described the task force as made up of “thoughtful, community-focused people” crafting a plan “that will benefit the neighborhoods and their residents.”