Residents hold Emanuel's feet to the fire on future of former coal-fired plant

Posted2/15/2018 3:24 PM

Six years ago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel brokered a deal with a corporate polluter to shut down coal-fired power plants in Pilsen and Little Village that had belched out lung-damaging pollution for decades.

Midwest Generation blinked in response to Emanuel's threat to put his political muscle behind a long-stalled "Clean Power Ordinance" that would have given the Crawford and Fisk power plants more time to either clean up or shut down.

On Thursday, community leaders who waged that 12-year battle -- only to have Emanuel take a bow for it -- returned to City Hall to demand a voice in the future of the 72-acre site that includes the Crawford plant, recently purchased by Northbrook-based Hilco Redevelopment Partners.

Kimberly Wasserman, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Center, said she fears the fix is in for Hilco to proceed with its plan to demolish the plant and build a warehouse-style logistics and distribution center to process orders for items purchased online.

"These uses would bring with them a massive increase in dangerous toxic diesel pollution from trucks. Simply moving from one toxic air pollution source from burning coal to another toxic air pollution source of diesel means risking the health of our community once again," she said.

Pollution is only part of the problem. So is gentrification and the history of low wages and poor treatment of employees at distribution centers, Wasserman said.

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