The People Won

Last week, residents of Chicago received the wonderful news that the coal-fired power plants located within city limits would be shutting down within the next two years. Fisk Generating Station, in the Pilsen neighborhood, will close by December of this year; Crawford Generating Station, located in Little Village, will shut down no later than December of 2014.

Agreements were reached between Mayor Emmanuel, Midwest Generation, and organizations in the Clean Power Coalition —of which PCG is a member—after months of negotiations and years of grassroots organizing and lobbying. In addition to closure dates for the two plants, the agreements contained provisions for the formation of a community advisory group that will focus on toxicity of the site and plans for future use.

This is certainly a victory for residents of the two communities in which the plants are located, but given that one in every four Chicagoans lives within a three-mile radius of either plant, this is truly a victory for the city. Studies have shown that these two plants alone were responsible for 42 premature deaths, 66 heart attacks, and 720 asthma attacks each year. They were built in and have operated since 1900 and will finally be closed in a matter of months. Victories like this are rare, and we would be remiss if we didn’t take a minute to appreciate just how wonderful it is. We are grateful to Mayor Emmanuel for his work, and unbelievably proud to be a part of the Clean Power Coalition.

What makes this a compelling story is not just the closure of the two plants, but the fact that years of grassroots efforts finally paid off. Community residents, faith, environmental, health, and labor organizations, and so many others, came together and demanded change. We called on the company, the aldermen, and the mayor to do something—and we won. So, as the celebrating draws to a close, what follows is the question, “what next?”

Fortunately for you, we have the answer! Join us on March 29th in Springfield for the 2012 Environmental Lobby Day. We will build on our victory at the city level by turning to the state level. This is the one time each year where we remind our legislators—in person—just how much we value clean air, clean water, and our natural resources. It’s a great experience, and we hope you’ll be part of it!

This year we’ll be focusing on an issue that will affect local communities across the state—hydraulic fracturing of natural gas, or “fracking” as it’s often called. Fracking is method for extracting natural gas from deep levels of shale rock underneath aquifers. A well is drilled straight down into the shale seam and then the drill bit is turned horizontally, to expand the well in to the shale layer. A fracking mixture—made of water, sand, and a variety of chemicals—is pumped at high pressure down into the well causing fissures in the shale along the horizontal portion of the well. These fissures go into gas deposits in the shale seam and allow for large quantities of natural gas to be extracted from one well.

While this is certainly an effective way to get natural gas—a recent draft report by the EPA indicates a relationship between fracking and groundwater contamination. For this reason, environmental groups are working with Senator Frerichs (D-52) and Representative Jakobsson (D-103) to pass legislation (SB3280 and HB3897) that will set in place strong regulations for the disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracking process, well-casing regulations to ensure that fracking solution doesn’t seep into natural aquifers, and waste-water storage regulations that will prevent the leaching of chemicals into ground water.

Fracking for natural gas is coming to Illinois—and we must ensure that if it’s going to be done, it is done safely. Join us in Springfield on March 29th to speak with your legislators. You’ll be working alongside environmental advocates from across the state—and hopefully, when all is said and done, we’ll be celebrating another victory very soon!

If you’re interested in attending, register online and indicate that your organization is PCG. Contact Courtney Eccles at 312-223-9544 ×221 or courtney@thecommongood.org with any questions you might have. Lobby Day is a wonderful experience and a great opportunity to learn more about the political process, meet face to face with your representative and senator, and contribute to the passage of these two very important bills. Join us on March 29th.

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