A proposal for Chicago to regulate exhaust from coal-fired power plants may be dying. But the bill’s sponsor, Ald. Joe Moore, 49th Ward, says it will come back to life soon.
Moore’s legislation is stuck in a joint City Council committee chaired by Alds. Virginia Rugai, 19th, and James Balcer, 11th — close allies of Mayor Richard M. Daley, who opposes the bill. But Moore says he will introduce a similar version after Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel takes office next month and a new City Council convenes.
The proposal targets fine particulate matter, known as soot, that many health experts blame for respiratory diseases. It would also impose one of the nation’s first limits on emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.
California-based Edison International, which owns coal-fired generators in two mostly Latino neighborhoods of Chicago, dispatched a top Latino executive to a Chicago City Council hearing Thursday. Pedro Pizarro, president of a company arm called Edison Mission Group, warned that the regulations would force the plants offline.
“If we take on, unilaterally, costs that our competitors don’t, we can’t compete,” Pizarro told WBEZ after the hearing. “We don’t protect the jobs for employees. We don’t end up serving our customers.”
The company’s Fisk and Crawford plants, which stand in Chicago’s Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods, together employ about 185 workers. The company sells the electricity in the wholesale market.
Moore accused Pizarro of crying wolf. “Business and industry always claim we’re going to drive them out of business,” the alderman said. “And you know what? If you push them hard enough, they’ll do what they need to do. We have a cleaner environment and a stronger economy as a result.”
Spectators packed the council chambers for the hearing. Edison’s local unit, Midwest Generation, bused in about 300 employees. Many wore hard hats and blue work shirts. Outside the hearing, they chanted, “Save our jobs!”
A similar number of environmentalists and neighborhood activists attended to urge the bill’s passage. They tried to hijack the workers’ chant, changing it to, “Save our lives!”