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Aldermen to Coal Plants: Clean Yourselves Up

By Lindsey Miller in News on Apr 13, 2010 7:40PM

Fisk Generating Station. Photo by swanksalot.
A new city ordinance, announced today, would limit the amount of pollution that Chicago's two coal-fired power plants can produce. The Clean Power Ordinance was sponsored by Alderman Joe Moore of the 49th Ward, co-sponsored by Aldermen Sandi Jackson (7th), Toni Preckwinkle (4th), and Gene Schulter (47th), and supported by more than 30 businesses and nonprofit groups.

According to the Chicago Clean Power Coalition, Chicago’s two coal plants - the Fisk Generating Station in Pilsen and the Crawford Generating Station in Little Village - were built in the early 1900s and some of the equipment it uses dates back to the late 1950s. They follow more relaxed federal pollution standards because of their age, but the city ordinance seeks to limit the amount of particulate matter and carbon dioxide they can create per unit of energy produced. According to a press release:

The ordinance would create “rate based” limits for particulate matter and carbon dioxide, setting a threshold for how much pollution the plants can create per unit of energy produced. The limits on particulate matter are equivalent to those set for new coal plants being built today. The limits on CO2 are equivalent to the pollution from a natural gas plant. The Fisk and Crawford plants would have one and two years, respectively, to phase in required pollution controls for particulate matter and up to three and four years, respectively, to reduce CO2 emissions.

The ordinance would make Chicago one of the only cities in the nation to regulate pollution from coal plants - and bring the city closer to its goal of being the greenest in the nation. We've talked about this goal before and we're not entirely convinced. The BBC also evaluated Chicago's progress toward being greenest late last year which focused on the coal plants and found that many residents aren't convinced either. In fact, the city's Department of Environment Commissioner Suzanne Malec-McKenna was quoted in the broadcast as saying that the coal-fired plants are regulated by federal and state governments and the city has "limited power" over them. The exception is where air quality is concerned so here's hoping that the Clean Power Ordinance isn't just another empty rule on the books.