Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office will hold two community hearings this week regarding the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plant sites on Chicago’s South Side. Midwest Generation is scheduled to close the plants in September. Community excitement that the aging plants are shutting down has partly given way to fears that the city and Midwest Generation will never clean up or “remediate” the sites.
“Nobody wants to deal with the remediation process,” claims Rafeal Hurtado, an organizer at the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), a group that advocated shutting down the Crawford plant.
Remediation is the process for which a former industrial site is removed of its polluting materials. The Fisk plant in the Pilsen neighborhood has been in operation for 109 years and the Crawford facility, located in the Little Village neighborhood, has been around for 89 years. Air pollution from the plants has been linked to premature deaths and heart attacks.
Henry Henderson, executive director of the Natural Resource Defense Council’s Midwest office, says that a “full blown remedial investigative study” is needed of Fisk and Crawford, where investigators do a chemical analyses to determine the extent of lingering pollution. Henderson pointed to concerns like coal ash and asbestos still being at the sites.
Henderson says it is in the city’s best interest to move remediation forward so the two sites are not reduced to “a fence and a mean dog.”
But Midwest Generation might not have any clean-up obligations.
Emanuel and the company, which is a subsidiary of California-based Edison International, have not made the terms of its February agreement to shutter the plants public. Messages to Midwest Generation and Emanuel’s office were not returned.
Jerry Mead-Lucero, an organizer at the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), says “none of the community members have ever seen the actual agreement that was signed with the city.”
This is despite the fact that Mead-Lucero and representatives from LVEJO and Pilsen Alliance are part of a mayor-appointed task force to determine the site’s future.
Mead-Lucero suspects that, besides closing the plants, “Legally, there is not a whole more that we can hold [Midwest Generation] too.”
The community hearings will take place in Pilsen Tuesday night and Little Village Thursday evening. In addition to clean-up issues, community members and task force officials will offer possibilities of what might become of the sites. Idea’s discussed at community forums organized by PERRO and LVEJO ranged from a park to a vocational school.
According to the city, the task force is expected to issue a report prior to the September closings.