Sunday, November 07, 2004

Governor Blagojevich and the filthy coal power plants -- an election day wrinkle

As regular readers know, the State of Illinois (not to mention the federal government) permits a few very profitable companies to run about a dozen coal-burning power plants without using modern pollution control equipment that every newly-constructed power plants must install. It's like letting old cars on the road that still use leaded gasoline.

On Election Day, the precinct where Governor Blagojevich votes had an advisory referendum asking whether the State should require modern pollution control equipment on all power plants, including those old, filthy coal power plants.

It passed with something like 90% of the vote.

I wonder how Governor Blagojevich voted on it? Will some mainstream reporter ask him?

Here is an account from Ira Shakman, a pollwatcher and petition circulator for the effort.

On November 2, one ballot booth in Governor Blagojevich’s precinct was missing an advisory referendum addressed to him. A more than sufficient number of his precinct neighbor’s signed a petition to have a vote on this question: “Shall Governor Blagojevich direct the State to establish safeguards that require the two aging metropolitan Chicago coal-burning power plants to reduce their dangerous emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and mercury by at least 90 percent from 1999 levels by no later than 2009, in order for the region to meet the deadline for federal air quality standards?” If not for a poll watcher, his precinct's election judges may have led Governor Blagojevich to the booth with a deficient ballot and he would not have had to see it that day. Every other day the Governor certainly appears to be ignoring the two 'grandfathered' plants, the biggest industrial air polluters in Chicago, found in the Little Village and Pilsen neighborhoods. In February, 2003, nearly 90% of the neighbors surrounding the plants voted for the city to impose mandatory emission caps on the plants by 2006. The city fathers have yet to act upon their request. When running for office, Governor Blagojevich promised to enact strict state-imposed safeguards on all of Illinois' 23 coal-fired power plants. He has yet to act upon his promise and the plants remain regulated under lax federal standards at the mercy of the Bush administration. On November 2, 2004, 91% of Governor Blagojevich’s precinct neighbors in Chicago, residing well out of sight from the hundreds of feet high smokestacks but, along with their kids, well within the range of the toxic emissions, voted for him to do what he promised and impose modern safeguards on the plants. The emissions from coal-fired power plants are proven to cause health problems for young and old, such as asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer and heart attacks, beside neurological damage from their completely unregulated mercury emissions. Chicago’s air fails to meet minimum federal standards. Kids and expectant mothers are warned against eating fish caught in Illinois' lakes and rivers because of the dangers of mercury poisoning. Ultimately, it does not much matter whether the Governor looked at his own neighbor's advisory referendum on Chicago's coal-fired power plants. What matters is whether he will turn the same blind eye toward the toxic emissions from Chicago’s grandfathered coal-fired power plants as have the city fathers for all of these years.

Anyone who wishes to be heard on the issue may call Governor Blagojevich at his Chicago office at (312)814-2121.

Ira Shakman

petition circulator and poll watcher

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