Rahm Emanuel: Chicago Coal Plants Must Clean Up, Activists Call For Their Closure

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has put Chicago's two coal power plants on warning: Either present a plan to clean up their pollution or risk being shut down by the city within the next two years.

Various politicians, community groups and others have been pushing for more than a year to shut down the Crawford and Fisk plants -- owned and operated by Midwest Generation -- because they say the plants come with serious health consequences for the Little Village and Pilsen communities located nearby them.

As the Associated Press reports, Alderman Danny Solis (25th) and Dr. Ravi Shah of the Doctor's Council of the Service Employees International Union of Illinois on Wednesday are among those who have spoken out against the plants. According to Shah, the coal-fired power plants such as theirs are the largest generators of the greenhouse gases associated with respiratory problems.

Meanwhile, Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for the mayor, said that Emanuel has urged Midwest Generation to "clean up the two plants, either by installing the necessary infrastructure to dramatically reduce the pollution they emit or by converting to a clean fuel." If an agreement is not reached, the mayor will reportedly join the call for the plants' shutdown, according to the Tribune.

Fisk and Crawford are the subject of the ambitious Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, introduced in 2010 by Ald. Joe Moore (49th), that would implement new, strict regulations. The plants also became an issue during the 25th Ward aldermanic race last winter, after Solis, the incumbent alderman, was called out by his opponent Cuahutémoc Morfin by his initial reluctance to support the ordinance that would limit the plants' dangerous emissions of soot and carbon dioxide.

The mayor's call for the plants to clean up their act comes a week after the Chicago Clean Power Coalition demonstrated inside City Council chambers, urging Emanuel to "finish the work he has begun, and to not delay any further."

Both plants were built more than 100 years ago and generate emissions that would violate the federal Clean Air Act of 1977 -- except that both were grandfathered in under that law.

Late last month, the plants were identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the city's biggest industrial sources of pollution, the Tribune reports. In 2010, the two plants reportedly pumped 4.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, according to the EPA.