Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=196192
Story Retrieval Date: 5/22/2013 7:49:13 AM CST
Stella Rymus says she can’t hang her clothes outside to dry without soot from coal covering her laundry. It’s that kind of pollution that residents say has been plaguing their neighborhood for years, and they want it to stop.
Rymus, a representative of the New 10th Ward Community Service Organization, is just one of the 80 residents, advocates and community leaders of Southeast Chicago who gathered on Saturday to protest the potential new Leucadia National Corp. coal gasification plant in their neighborhood and rallied for clean, renewable energy jobs in their community.
The New York City-based company is planning a $3 billion plant at 115th Street and Burley Avenue.
Hoyt Hudson, full-time consultant and developer of the Chicago Clean Energy Project, said the gasification plant is clean energy and will not harm the community. The project was created as the Chicago headquarters of Leucadia to oversee the project planning.
“As a project, we’ve been very open and engaged with the community,” Hudson said. “A lot of the nature of the opposition is simply people who don’t know enough about the project. The more people learn about it, generally the more they like it.”
Tom Conway, regional program manager for the BlueGreen Alliance, spoke to the crowd about the fight for better environment solutions for Southeast Side in the 21st century.
“We’re here today to fight for the next generation of jobs,” he said. “We want to make our schools energy efficient. We are fighting for a better solution for Southeast Chicago.”
Carolyn Martinez, a resident who attended the rally, said her whole family, along with others in the neighborhood, have respiratory illnesses. There needs to be more awareness about the potential dangers of “dirty industry,” she said.
“This will make other people aware besides those in our community on how much dirty industry we have here, on how many generations this has been going on and now it needs to stop,” Martinez said.
Gasification does not involve burning or any kind of combustion, Hudson said.
“It is an ultra-clean process for chemically converting these solid fuels into clean energy projects,” he said. “Coal contains a lot of impurities. We are able to chemically remove all of the contaminants that are in the coal or coke.”
The building of the plant will require an average of 1,100 construction workers for three years. Once the plant is up and running, there will about about 200 high-paid jobs at the plant and another 300 jobs supporting related industries, Hudson said.
“We think that this project has amazing benefits to Southeast Chicago, as well as the city, the county and the state at large. It’s $3 billion of investments, thousands of new jobs and a new clean energy source in Illinois. There’s a lot to like about this.”
Hudson emphasized that this project is a major clean air facility and has no concerns about its safety.
“I think concerns about it are really misguided and stem from misinformation,” he said. “There are hundreds of these facilities in operation worldwide. There have been no major incidents whatsoever around this technology. It really represents a safe and reliable source of energy that everyone should get behind.”
Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill in July mandating that the Leucadia would have to capture and sequester 85 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions or face $20 million in fines.
“[The plant] advances clean energy technology and shows how these fuels can be used cleanly,” Hudson said. “We’re going to commercialize the technology that could ultimately replace all of the coal plants in the country with something that is 99 percent cleaner.”
The Chicago Clean Energy Project plans to file for environmental permits with the Environmental Protection Agency in early 2012.
“The project needs to demonstrate that it will have a non- or negligible impact on air quality and human health and ecology," Hudson said. "We will need to prove that conclusively in order to receive a permit.”
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