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Little Village: Diesel Intensive Facility Threatens Right To Breathe

IL Coal Plant
A retired coal-fired power plant looms over Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. (Source: Energy Network News)

From Coal to Diesel, The Little Village that Can

CHICAGO, IL —(ENEWSPF)—February 13, 2018

By: Kimberly Wasserman

On Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and Little Village community at large were shocked to learn that Hilco and Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed the demolition of the Crawford Coal Power Plant and the building of a potential logistics facility located at 3400 S Pulaski Rd. Due to the lack of community engagement in this decision, LVEJO is demanding:

  • An immediate meeting with Hilco and Mayor Emanuel’s office
  • Full information on the site conditions, including an assessment of the current status of the coal plant building and surrounding facility, that is shared with the Little Village community in culturally relevant ways
  • Adequate time to share information with the community for meaningful engagement and public deliberation to ensure the future of the site aligns with community priorities

We are disappointed that Alderman Ricardo Muñoz and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have already publicly proposed a plan and are pushing it forward without the involvement of our community as stipulated in the original Guiding Principles for site redevelopment agreed to with former coal plant owner, Midwest Generation. This top-down decision to plan for a diesel-intensive logistics center or distribution facility threatens to undermine the life-saving improvement in air quality won by the shut-down of the Crawford coal plant. Indeed, our community came together to close down Crawford and fight for the right to breathe precisely because we lost 40 community members prematurely every year, had over 2,800 asthma attacks and over 550 emergency room visits annually due to the pollution that the Crawford coal power plant released.

LVEJO asserts that the siting of a diesel intensive logistics center or distribution facility at the former Crawford coal plant is a violation of the longstanding struggle for environmental justice in Little Village. Diesel emissions are well known to be hazardous to human health, as nitrogen oxides contributed to the formation of ground level ozone, which irritates the respiratory system, causing coughing, choking, and reduced lung capacity. Groups at particular risk include workers in diesel industries, such as trucking and rail, and communities located near major sources of diesel pollution, such as ports and freeways.

Since the closure of the Crawford coal plant, LVEJO has listened to community leaders and advocated for the just transition of the site into a multi-purpose campus that becomes a catalyst of improved health, job access, and other economic activities that benefit long-time residents.

It is crucial that our community understand the conditions of the building to see if demolition is needed or if the building and broader site can be repurposed for community priorities. This must be paired with a comprehensive analysis that ensures that our community’s health and environment is centered in the redevelopment. Ultimately, the use of the Crawford coal plant site must be directed by the needs and vision of the Little Village community whose future is at stake.

Source: Little Village Environmental Justice Organization

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