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By Patty Hastings/MEDILL

Hearings on the Clean Power Ordinance at City Hall Thursday weighed concerns over pollution and jobs.

Aldermen delay vote on Clean Power Ordinance

by Patty Hastings
April 21, 2011

Patty Hastings/MEDILL

Divergent sides take up the Clean Power Ordinance

Two City Council committees postponed a vote on the controversial Clean Power Ordinance Thursday.

“Because this issue is so very complicated, it requires much more scrutiny and investigation,” said Ald. Virginia Rugai, 19th, moderator of the hearings.

The ordinance would limit emissions of particulate matter and carbon dioxide (CO2) at Chicago’s Fisk and Crawford coal-burning power plants. Midwest Generation, the company that owns and operates the facilities, would be required to install additional pollution control equipment, convert to natural gas or shut down the plants under the ordinance.

Chicago’s Fisk and Crawford coal-burning power plants are subject to federal and state regulations for pollutants. However, carbon dioxide is not one of them, according to the Chicago’s Department of Environment commissioner, Suzanne Malec-McKenna. Fisk and Crawford emit more than 5 million metric tons of carbon equivalent pollutants each year, said Malec-McKenna.

“We have literally led the nation by installing mercury emission controls at the Fisk and Crawford stations in 2008, using a technology that we helped develop with the Department of Energy,” said Douglas McFarlan, president at Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of California-based Edison Mission Group. “We are well into the design and engineering work to further reduce fine particulate matter and sulfur dioxide.”

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., said his residents’ patio furniture is covered in soot from the facilities and claimed people in the area suffer from abnormally high asthma rates.

Conflicting information from both sides revealed the long-debated complexity of the issue, leaving its fate to the incoming Mayor-elect Rham Emanuel and his administration.

McKenna said the city focuses more on other, larger sources of pollution such as diesel exhaust and dust from construction sites. But ordinance proponents repeated at the hearings that the plants directly contribute to health hazards.

However, workers from Midwest Generation, fearing the elimination of nearly 200 union jobs, flooded City Hall along with ordinance supporters including environmental groups.

“I’ve been working there for 30 years and I’m healthy,” said Larry Gorsky, a worker with Midwest Generation.