Environmental groups in Chicago are starting the legal legwork necessary to sue the operator of two South Side coal plants in an effort to cut air pollution.
The groups, including the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Natural Resources Defense Council, provided the plant operator, Midwest Generation, with a legally required 60-day notice of their plans to sue.
The groups say Midwest's Illinois plants are violating the federal Clean Air Act standards on how much soot can be contained in smoke discharged from the plant.
The company's Crawford and Fisk plants figure prominently in the allegations.
“By it’s own admission Midwest Generation has violated these standards thousands of times,” says Faith Bugel senior attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center.
Midwest Generation released a statement detailing efforts it's taken to improve air quality. The statement did not directly address whether the company has violated the Clean Air Act.
The Fisk and Crawford stations have made significant environmental improvements since being acquired by Midwest Generation in 1999.”
In August 2007, the US EPA cited Midwest Generation for violating the Clean Air Act at all of its six plants. Two in Chicago, one in Waukegan, Romeoville, Joliet and one just outside Peoria. The plants were cited for producing too much soot and failing to upgrade pollution controls.
Environmental groups say the EPA has allowed the case to languish since then.
Leila Mendez, a volunteer with the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization, has lived in Pilsen since she was nine. She says she developed a rare form of cancer in her left breast, and blames pollution from Midwest's plants.
“I don’t understand why these companies are above the law,” says Mendez.