Lawmakers consider bill to shutter coal plants

Environmental groups push for vote next week

November 25, 2011

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Illinois lawmakers are taking aim at two coal plants on Chicago’s Southwest Side. A bill in Springfield would speed up closure of the Fisk and Crawford plants operated by Midwest Generation.

Neighbors and environmentalists in the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods have lobbied to close the plants, whose smoke stacks tower above homes, schools and parks, for years.

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) said the two plants are nestled in one of the nation’s most densely populated areas.

"The impact on public health is enormous. There have been studies that have shown 42 premature deaths a year directly attributable to living near these plants," Cassidy said.

Lawmakers meet Tuesday for the final day of their fall session, but it’s unclear whether the bill will get called. The legislation is in addition to an ordinance in the Chicago City Council with the same goal of shutting down the plants.

Midwest Generation didn’t respond to questions but is reportedly negotiating with House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago) to get something from the state in exchange for closing. The firm is pushing for a transitional plan that will allow it to keep operating, and keep its 165 employees working, a bit longer.

The company said it has been cleaning up its dirty emissions through new technology.