The city of Chicago on Thursday reintroduced an ordinance that could shut down two coal-burning power plants in the city owned by Midwest Generation, an Edison International subsidiary.
The Chicago Clean Power Ordinance would mandate particulate and carbon dioxide emission cuts at the 326-MW Fisk and 542-MW Crawford coal plants that are only achievable with carbon capture and storage, technology not currently commercially available. The measure, introduced Aldermen Joe Moore and Danny Solis, is backed by 34 of 50 councilmen. An ordinance requires 26 votes to become law.
Supporters hope the ordinance will be passed and signed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) in the coming weeks.
“The coal burned at these plants is mined in Wyoming, the power is sold out of state, the profits go to a company in California, and Chicago is left with one thing – the pollution,” said Aldermen Moore. “This is the year Chicagoans will win the right to breathe clean air.”
Midwest Generation said in a statement on Thursday that the ordinance was “unnecessary when introduced in the City Council last year, and the case is even weaker now given new federal air quality regulations and ongoing emissions reductions at the plants.”
“The so-called ‘Clean Power’ ordinance failed to win approval in the previous City Council because it makes no sense for Chicago to regulate emissions from power plants that already are heavily regulated by the federal and state environmental agencies charged with protecting public health,” said Pedro Pizarro, president of Midwest Generation’s parent company, Edison Mission Group.
Pizarro added that the ordinance was motivated far more by a national anti-coal campaign than by the facts on the ground in Chicago.
“The proposed ordinance has little if anything to do with improving air quality in Chicago and everything to do with a national campaign to stop the use of coal as a power source even though we use it to generate more than half the nation’s electricity,” Pizarro said. “We think the far better course is to promote the environmentally responsible use of coal under state and federal regulations that protect the public health to ensure we have a reliable and affordable supply of electricity.”
Midwest said that it is seeking to comply with brand new regulations governing nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide from coal plants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), rules that apply to 28 states, including Illinois.
In March, the EPA also proposed regulations for mercury, toxic metals, and particulate matter emissions. “The Fisk and Crawford power plants already meet the mercury standard,” the company said. “Midwest Generation supports the proposed limits for other emissions and is planning the work needed to comply.”
Regarding the ordinance’s proposed carbon dioxide limits, “Compliance could only be achieved by repowering the plants to run on natural gas, a massive new construction project that would require policymakers to ensure long-term contracts for power sales in order to obtain construction financing,” the company said.
“The Crawford and Fisk plants are in the process of making steep reductions in emissions imposed by the State of Illinois in 2006 under a long-range plan that extends through 2018. This state-mandated cleanup plan runs ahead of many of the federal regulations now being released.”
“The only real impact of this ordinance would be shutting down the Fisk and Crawford power plants,” Jerry Roper, president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce said in a statement. “That would risk the reliability of the electricity grid in Chicago, and we’ve seen in this recent heat wave how important it is to make sure we have enough electricity available for these high-demand days.”