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Coal Fired Power Plants in Chicago, USA

In August of 2012, the Fisk and Crawford Power Plants closed their doors after the "marriage" of community/grassroots organizations and larger "big green" organizations and their campaign against coal.


In August of 2012, the Fisk and Crawford Power Plants in Chicago closed their doors after more than a decade of conflict with local residents, grassroots community groups, and national environmental organizations (NAACP 2012). The two power plants, located in the predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village, had some of the worst environmental compliance records in the country (Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest 2010). In 2010, the latest year of data available in the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory, the power plants were among the leading sources of barium compounds, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen fluoride, mercury compounds and sulfuric acid (

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Coal Fired Power Plants in Chicago, USA
Country:translation missing: en.countries.united_states_of_america
State or province:Illinois
Location of conflict:Chicago
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Thermal power plants
Oil and gas refining
Specific commodities:Coal
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

A 2001 study by the Harvard School of Public Health estimated that each year pollution from the plants led to forty-one premature deaths, 550 emergency room visits, and 2,800 asthma attacks (Moon et al. 2002). The two plants combined emitted 230 lbs of mercury (causes brain damage), 17,765 tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, and 260,000 lbs of soot (

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Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:85000
Start of the conflict:2002
End of the conflict:2012
Company names or state enterprises:Midwest Generation
Relevant government actors:Environmental Protection Agency
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO), Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform (PERRO), Chicago Clean Power Coalition
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Hispanic populaion, arguien in temrs of lack of environmental justice
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Noise pollution, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Potential: Global warming
Health ImpactsVisible: Other environmental related diseases
Potential: Deaths
Other Health impactsAsthma, lung diseases, heart diseases, neurological impairments in babies and children
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Violations of human rights
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
Development of alternatives:If the plants were not to be shut down, activists demanded that the company install additional pollution controls to limit emissions of particulate matter and carbon dioxide. Several groups were working together in this effort including Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization and the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:A deal was reached to shut down the coal plants on February 28, 2012. The Fisk plant closed on December 31, 2012 and the Crawford plant is scheduled to close at the end of 2014. Plans are currently underway in 2018 to begin the process of brownfield development. Activists note that these plants were only part of the problem and are committed to continuing to get other coal plants in the surrounding area closed (
Sources and Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards regulations

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Giambusso, David and Goldenburg, Sally. (2015, April) “Name change: PlaNYC to become OneNYC.” Politico.
[click to view]

Checker, Melissa. (2001, December 9) “Wiped Out by the ‘Greenwave’: Environmental Gentrification and the Paradoxical Politics of Urban Sustainability.” City and Society.
[click to view]

Essoka, Jonathan. (2010, September) “The gentrifying effects of brownfields redevelopment.” The Western journal of black studies. Volume 34, Issue 3, p. 299-315.
[click to view]

Curran, Winifred. (2012, April) “Just green enough: contesting environmental gentrification in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.” Local Environment, Volume 17, Issue 9, p. 1027-1042.
[click to view]

City of Chicago. (2017) “Riverfront Park Planning Study, High School Athletic Field Approved for Southwest and Northwest Sides.” Planning and Development News Releases.
[click to view]

Wernau, Julie. (2014, December 1) “Redevelopment ahead for Chicago's two coal plant sites.” Chicago Tribune.
[click to view]

Dale, Ann and Lenore, Newman. (2009) “Sustainable development for some: green urban development and affordability.” Local Environment, Volume 14, Issue 7, p. 669-681.
[click to view]

Chu, Louisa. (2018, January) “’The Frustrations are Real’: Pilsen anti-gentrification movement renewed after graffiti incident.” Chicago Tribune.
[click to view]

Environmental Law and Policy Center. (2011, July 28) “Chicago Clean Power Ordinance Introduced with Backing of New City Council.” ELPC Press Release.
[click to view]

Ori, Ryan. (2018, February 6) “Former Little Village coal plant to be demolished, replaced with distribution center.” Chicago Tribune.
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[click to view]

Fisk, Crawford coal plants had long history, as did battle to close them

Environmentalists hail closing of Chicago coal plants
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Environmental Protection Agency- Cleanup Sites at Fisk and Crawford
[click to view]

Six months after Fisk and Crawford, Chicago area coal still struggling
[click to view]

Activists win battle to shut Fisk, Crawford coal plants
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Deal Reached To Shut Down Fisk, Crawford Coal Plants Sooner Than Expected
[click to view]

Chicago without Coal: What would it take for the Fisk, Crawford, and State Line coal-fired power plants to close up shop? And what would happen if they did?
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[click to view]

Fisk Coal Plant emissions
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Celebration of closure of Fisk coal plant
[click to view]

Kimberly, a registered nurse in Chicago, describes the health impact of coal fired power plants on their surrounding communities and the importance of this issue in addressing racial disparities in health.
[click to view]

Chicago Clean Power Coalition
[click to view]

Other documents

Fisk Coal Plant Protest
[click to view]

Fisk Protest
[click to view]

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Fisk Coal Plant Protest October 10 protest, photo credit Lloyd Degrane
[click to view]

Fisk Coal Plant Image by Kenneth Spencer.
[click to view]

Other comments:This is one of the top 40 influential environmental justice cases in the United States identified from a national survey of environmental activists, scholars and other leaders by graduate students at the University of Michigan.
Meta information
Contributor:Bernadette Grafton, [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update23/07/2018
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