WBEZ | soot http://www.wbez.org/tags/soot Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en New flag program to promote air quality in the Chicago area http://www.wbez.org/news/new-flag-program-promote-air-quality-chicago-area-106911 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F90211484&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7223_IMG_1509-scr.jpg" style="height: 240px; width: 375px; float: left;" title="Kids from the Chicago Academy for Global Citizenship hold the color-coded flags to indicate air quality (IEPA)." />An airplane pulled out of Midway and over the Chicago Academy for Global Citizenship while a group of kids raised a yellow flag Tuesday to signify that the air is moderately clean, but not perfect. The flag-raising signaled the launch of a program created by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and Illinois Partners for Clean Air to involve school kids in pollution monitoring.</p><p>The IEPA already monitors and color-codes a <a href="http://www.epa.state.il.us/air/aqi/">daily air quality index</a> for the greater Chicago area, but IEPA director Lisa Bonnett says she wants to involve the public more closely in air quality monitoring.</p><p>&ldquo;All of us can do our part,&rdquo; Bonnett said, &ldquo;and that&rsquo;s how you really get those improvements to air quality.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Although air pollution in the Chicago area has decreased in recent decades, Cook County this year got <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/chris-bentley/2013-04/cook-countys-air-quality-gets-f-american-lung-association-106828">a failing grade for air quality from the American Lung Association</a>. Meanwhile, says Bonnett, standards for air pollutants have been lowered as regulators discover or confirm new health risks from poor air quality.</p><p>Weather is the primary cause of daily fluctuations in air quality; hot, stagnant summer days mean Chicago&rsquo;s smog sticks around in the area, and the direction of the wind or a storm can also lead to higher-air pollution days.</p><p>&ldquo;The weather&rsquo;s been a challenge over the last few years,&rdquo; said Bonnett, referring to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/what%E2%80%99s-causing-record-low-levels-lake-michigan-105262">drought</a>, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/flooding-drought-year-106171">flooding </a>and heat waves that have all stricken the region lately.</p><p>IEPA says Chicagoans can contribute to cleaner air over the long term by taking public transportation and switching to energy-efficient lighting and appliance options. And the USEPA is taking public comments on a <a href="http://www.epa.gov/otaq/tier3.htm">new proposed regulation</a> for vehicle emissions that would hold the whole country to a much tighter standard beginning in 2017.</p><p>For now, any school in the greater Chicago area can request air quality flags.</p><p><em>Lewis Wallace is a Pritzker Journalism Fellow at WBEZ. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/lewispants">@lewispants</a></em>.</p><p><strong>Map of commercial and industrial air pollution sources</strong></p><p><a name="map"></a>A USEPA map provides data from 2008 on yearly emissions of six key pollutants from major contributors like landfills, airports and manufacturing plants. Find out more about air pollution in your area on <a href="http://www.epa.gov/air/emissions/where.htm">USEPA&#39;s website</a>.</p><div id="map-canvas">&nbsp;</div></p> Tue, 30 Apr 2013 16:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-flag-program-promote-air-quality-chicago-area-106911 Activists rejoice as coal-fired plants shut down http://www.wbez.org/news/activists-rejoice-coal-fired-plants-shut-down-102129 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Fisk.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 219px; width: 300px; " title="Built in 1903, the Fisk station stands near Dvorak Park in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. (AP file/M. Spencer Green)" /></p><div>Neighborhood and environmental activists are celebrating as Chicago&rsquo;s last two coal-fired electricity plants enter a three-month decommissioning phase. But the closings are leaving dozens of Midwest Generation workers without a job.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The company, a subsidiary of California-based Edison International, says its Crawford station in the city&rsquo;s Little Village neighborhood burned its last lump of coal more than a week ago after operating since 1924. The Fisk station, constructed in 1903 in nearby Pilsen, shut down Thursday night.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Activists campaigned for more than a decade to close the plants or curb their harmful emissions, which included asthma-triggering soot and carbon dioxide, a contributor to global warming.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Standing near Crawford on Friday afternoon, Rafael Hurtado of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization almost had to pinch himself to make sure he wasn&rsquo;t dreaming.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;The smokestack and the chimney are not running,&rdquo; Hurtado observed. &ldquo;The parking lot is empty other than the security guards. This is a victory not only for our organization but Little Village and Pilsen and the city of Chicago.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Local 15 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which represented about 135 workers at the plants, says some are accepting retirement packages or transferring to another Midwest Generation site, where they will bump employees with less seniority. The union represents about 700 workers at the company&rsquo;s six Illinois generators.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;There just aren&rsquo;t enough jobs,&rdquo; said Doug Bedinger, a Local 15 business representative for the workers. &ldquo;There will be hardship.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Midwest Generation President Douglas McFarlan said roughly 100 union members are leaving voluntarily while another 50 get laid off.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>McFarlan, meanwhile, said the company is trying to sell the Chicago sites. The timing of environmental remediation &ldquo;depends on the interests&rdquo; of the buyers, he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s part of the sales process,&rdquo; McFarlan said, adding that a school might have different cleanup needs than a warehouse.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The closings resulted partly from federal clean-air rules requiring Midwest Generation to retrofit its plants. McFarlan said a bigger factor was the rise of natural gas production, which has put downward pressure on energy prices. &ldquo;We just can&rsquo;t run profitably,&rdquo; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 31 Aug 2012 18:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/activists-rejoice-coal-fired-plants-shut-down-102129 Power-plant emissions bill dead, but not for long http://www.wbez.org/story/power-plant-emissions-bill-dead-not-long-85522 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-April/2011-04-21/hardhats.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>“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.”</p><p>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.</p><p>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.”</p><p>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!”</p><p>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!”</p></p> Fri, 22 Apr 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/power-plant-emissions-bill-dead-not-long-85522