‘Quit Coal’ Greenpeacers Scale Power Plant Smokestack in Chicago

CHICAGO, Illinois, May 24, 2011 (ENS) – Before dawn, eight Greenpeace activists climbed the 450 foot smokestack at the Fisk coal and oil fueled power plant in Chicago. From the stack, they demanded that the operators shut down the Fisk plant and Crawford, another nearby coal power plant.

The demonstration was timed to coincide with a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearing in Chicago today on a rule that will place a limit on the amount of mercury and other air pollutants coal-fired power plants are allowed to emit.

Greenpeace activist displays a Quit Coal banner from the Fisk power plant smokestack. (Photo courtesy Greenpeace)

“As a Chicago resident, I know that we must shut this plant down – to make our air cleaner, our communities safer, and to stop the effects of global warming,” said Kelly Mitchell, one of the activists who climbed Fisk’s stack.

“All across America, companies like Edison International are poisoning communities with their coal plants – and people like us are fighting to have those communities voices heard. We’re going to stay up here until Edison International hears our message,” said Mitchell.

As of this afternoon, the activists were still up on the stack, though “it looks like the police are arriving on the scene,” Greenpeace spokesperson Molly Dorozenski told reporters.

The Fisk and Crawford plants, operated by Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of Edison International, are among the oldest in the United States.

More people live in range of these plants than any other coal plant in America, says Greenpeace, adding that nearly one in four Chicagoans live in a three mile radius of one or both plants.

Greenpeace is outraged that coal fired power plants kill between 13,000 and 34,000 people a year – as many as one person every 15 minutes.

“That staggering figure includes the 42 Chicagoans who die as a result of pollution from Fisk and Crawford, including residents in the severely affected communities of Pilsen, near the Fisk plant, and Little Village, near the Crawford plant,” Greenpeace said in a statement announcing the protest action.

Leila Mendez, a resident of the Pilsen community affected by this plant said, “We’re fighting for our lives. This plant has a significant impact on the health of our communities and our children. These plants don’t power Chicago; the profits go out of state, and we get stuck with the pollution. It’s time to stand up to Edison International and demand more for our future.”

Greenpeacers up on the Fisk smokestack (Photo courtesy Greenpeace)

Greenpeace says its supporters have now sent at least 11,000 emails to Ted Craver, chief executive of Edison International, asking that the company shut down the two coal-fired power plants.

Today, over 50 local calls have been placed to Mayor Rahm Emanuel over the polluting power plants, Greenpeace says.

“We’re sending a simple message to Edison International: Shut down these plants and quit coal,” Mitchell blogged this morning from atop the smokestack.

According to the EPA, residents exposed to coal-fired power plant emissions are at elevated risk for heart disease, cancer, and respiratory illness.

The EPA’s new power plant mercury and air toxics standards would require many power plants to install what the agency says are “widely available, proven pollution control technologies” to cut emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases, while preventing as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year.

Greenpeace says that in addition to air pollution, coal-fired power plants are the biggest single source of global warming pollution in the United States, which will cause sea level rise and extreme weather, as well as droughts and lower crop yields.

“Together, Fisk and Crawford generate about 18 times the emissions of O’Hare airport’s ground operations and equal two-thirds of the CO2 [carbon dioxide] emissions generated by all modes of transportation in Chicago,” Greenpeace says.

Earlier this spring, the Chicago City Council failed to vote on the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, which would have forced the plants to clean up or shut down.

“Chicago is facing a serious challenge,” says Chicago community activist Edyta Sitko. “Will the Council lead the country by quitting coal and standing up to corporate polluters? Or will it be the last major American city with two dirty coal plants within its borders?”

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