Del Valle: Clean Up or Close Coal Plants - NBC Chicago
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Del Valle: Clean Up or Close Coal Plants



    Every morning, Miguel del Valle rises early to read The Nation, Mother Jones, Salon, Daily Kos and Democratic Underground. He thinks, “What can I do to make their readers happy today?”

     Stand up for gay marriage. Check. Get money out of politics by raising one-sixtieth as much as Rahm Emanuel. Check. Promise to spend more on the homeless and the hungry. Check.

     But del Valle hadn’t done anything for the environmentalists. It’s not easy when you’re running for mayor of a big city. There’s not much environment left to protect here.

     This morning, though, del Valle will stand outside Pilsen's Fisk Generating Station with a representative of Greenpeace, and demand both Southwest Side coal generating plants convert to natural gas or shut down.

     “It is time, after thousands of asthma attacks, hundreds of ER visits, and dozens of deaths, to heed the calls of Chicagoans demanding not just compensation and partial fixes but a new clean power agenda in our city,” del Valle said in a press release.

     It’s an issue that resonates with the left because it checks the boxes of both environmentalism and racism. According to recent EPA figures, Fisk and its sister station, the Crawford Coal Power Plant, emit 269 pounds of mercury; 17,765 tons of sulfur dioxide; and 260,000 pounds of soot each year. In 2007, the plants emitted five million metric tons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that plays a significant role in climate change. That’s the equivalent of over 800,000 automobiles. They’re so toxic that a Harvard School of Public Health study found they cause 41 premature deaths, 550 emergency room visits and 2,800 asthma attacks every year.

     They’re also located in Mexican-American neighborhoods: Fisk is in Pilsen, Crawford in Little Village. Ald. Ricardo Munoz, whose ward includes Crawford, finds the environmental racism argument a little patronizing. He likes to point out that when the plants were built, in the 1920s, those neighborhoods were occupied by Eastern Europeans. Munoz is co-sponsoring the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, which would force the plants to cut their emissions. Ald. Danny Solis, who represents the Fisk plant, hasn’t signed on to the Clean Power Ordinance.

     Friday morning, del Valle will enjoy a cup of fair trade coffee at a café in Logan Square. On Saturday, he’ll sit down to a vegan breakfast of tofu scramble and egg-less muffins at The Chicago Diner. On Sunday, he’ll pose semi-nude for a PETA anti-fur ad. On Monday evening, Dennis Kucinich will be flying in from Cleveland to headline a $5 a plate fundraiser at the Heartland Cafe….

     Actually, del Valle has done enough to establish his progressive cred in this race. It’s not hard , especially when you’re running against two millionaires, and a former senator who voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement. After a year in which the Tea Party drove the political discourse, it's refreshing to see such an unashamedly liberal candidate.