Lead and Coal Plants in Pilsen


Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our first-ever Eco Youth Reporters program, conducted in conjunction with award-winning journalist Kari Lydersen, Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental Journalism, and Imagine Englewood If, a youth services organization based in that South Side neighborhood. The Eco Youth Reporters program is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation:

A coal-fired power plant in the Pilsen neighborhood. Photo by Kari Lydersen.

On May 11, angry and disappointed residents gathered at Casa Aztlan in Pilsen to hear about the risks from the Fisk coal plant and the H. Kramer brass smelter in their neighborhood.

Forty deaths a year and 550 emergency room visits are caused by Fisk and the city’s other coal plant in Little Village, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. The coal plants were “grandfathered” in under the Clean Air Act that was signed in 1970. Grandfathered means it’s been there for a long time so it doesn’t have to equal up to the same standards as coal plants built these days.

Now a law is proposed that 25 aldermen are supporting which could force the power plants to shut down. The group Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO) is trying to pass the ordinance.

At the meeting, residents said Ald. Danny Solis should stick to his promises since he won the run-off election in April after promising he would shut down the coal plants, or force them to clean up their emissions.

People at the meeting loudly questioned why Solis was not there personally and yelled at the representative he had sent, Steve Stults. They were treating him badly because they didn’t want him there, they wanted the alderman. Raker said Solis could not attend because of a scheduling conflict but is very committed to the issue.

Stacy Raker, a spokesperson for Solis, said the alderman will definitely keep his promise and that the ordinance will be reintroduced in City Council on July 28.

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