Referendum could mean more renewable energy for Chicago

October 4, 2012

Tricia Bobeda

Tricia Bobeda/WBEZ
Edward Warden passes out flyers for the Clean Energy Coalition outside Chicago City Hall on Thursday.

Environmental and labor groups rallied Thursday in support of an energy referendum on the November ballot.

The referendum will ask Chicago voters whether the city should be able to buy electric service on behalf of residents.

If it passes, the city will be required to hold public meetings about where to buy electricity.

Environmentalists see it as an opportunity to lobby for more investments in renewable energy.

Rafael Hurtado spoke on behalf of the Clean Power Coalition at the rally outside City Hall.

The Clean Power Coalition lobbied hard recently for closing two coal plants in the city.

Hurtado said those closures were just step one.

“Now it’s the next steps,” Hurtado said. “It’s what’s going to happen, where are we going to get energy from. If we pass the clean energy choice we have the possibility to choose where our power is coming from and choose where our money is going.”

Hurtado is with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization. He said the Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods have lived “in the shadow” of coal power for generations.

“In these communities we have a lot of brownfields,” Hurtado said. “These brownfields are eyesores for all these visitors and all our residents.”

Hurtado wants the neighborhoods on Chicago’s West Side to turn vacant space into production facilities for wind and solar energy.

If the referendum passes, the Coalition will lobby the city to invest in more local renewable energy production.