The company that owns two coal-fired power plants blamed for pollution in Chicago’s largest Hispanic neighborhoods announced the installation of emission controls to comply with new state and federal environmental regulations.
“We have been among Illinois’ leaders in working for a clean environment,” Susan Olavarria, spokeswoman for Midwest Generation that operates the Fisk and Crawford plants in Chicago, as well as power plants in other Illinois cities including Waukegan, Joliet, Romeoville and Pekin.
The company, a subsidiary of the California-based Edison Mission Group, was established in 1999 after acquiring the six coal-fired plants in Illinois.
“All our plants comply with the regulations of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,” Olavarria said in an interview with Efe.
The spokeswoman said that the company has invested in additional pollution controls including selective non-catalytic reduction systems that diminish the emissions from nitrogen oxides.
According to a communique issued by the company, with the new systems plus controls put in place since 1999, nitrogen oxide emissions will be slashed by 80 percent.
Midwest has also reduced emissions of sulphur dioxide - a cause of acid rain - by 40 percent since 1999, and beginning in January will comply with the new limits, the communique said.
Olavarria also said that Midwest has been among the industry leaders in developing and installing controls for mercury emissions in all its plants, which it did between 2008-2009.
Environmental groups are pressuring the Chicago City Council for a clean-energy statute targeting Fisk and Crawford, which affect the Latino neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village, or La Villita as it is also called because of its large Hispanic population.
According to the Clean Air Coalition, 72 percent of people consulted in a recent survey said the city government should impose measures to assure clean air or else close the coal-fired plants.
Environmentalists say that pollutants from these plants would cause 42 premature deaths, 66 heart attacks and at least 720 asthma crises every year.
That estimate is based on studies made since 2001 by Harvard University’s School of Public Health.
Nonetheless, Midwest said that research done by its own experts in Pilsen and Little Village “did not find higher levels of asthma there than in other neighborhoods” of Chicago.
The new state and federal regulations require further reductions of sulphur dioxide in the coming years, which would force Midwest to “modernize its equipment or eliminate some energy-generating units,” the communique said.
Olavarria denied, however, that there was any chance of Fisk and Crawford closing down as environmentalists demand, considering the large investments already made to modernize those plants.