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Chicago to Redevelop Sites of Shuttered Coal Plants

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans on Saturday to redevelop the sites of a pair of coal plants shuttered in last month, citing potential light-industrial, residential, commercial or retail uses for the two parcels.

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During his 2011 campaign for the mayor's office, Emanuel vowed to order the plants upgraded or closed due to their proximity to residential neighborhoods. According to a study by the National Research Council, emissions from the plants annually resulted in $120 million in health damages to area residents. Prior to their closure, the facilities reportedly were the last of their kind to operate in a major U.S. city. Both were owned by Midwest Generation.

“The next step is to return these areas to active, productive use for the residents of the Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods,” Emanuel told reporters on Saturday. “I think this will be a national example of brownfield development.”

Emanuel indicated he has received a plan by a task force he assembled last spring to investigate potential uses for the the two sites.  One option cited in the document calls for marketing the sites to private developers while another envisions public access to both the Chicago River and an existing ship canal.

Midwest Generation has agreed to develop specifications for the demolition of the two plants, as well as seek quotes relating to demolition. The Delta Institute, a local non-profit organization specializing in brownfield redevelopment, indicated it would identify industrial developers to facilitate remediation of the two sites.

The facilities together burned more than 2.5 million tons of coal per year while producing about 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, roughly the amount generated by 800,000 automobiles, according to the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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