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Southeast Side Residents To Protest Coal Plant

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Coal Gasification Plant Site

A coal gasification plant is planned for a 140-acre site at 116th Street and Burley Avenue in Chicago. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Residents of the city’s Far Southeast Side plan to protest Wednesday against a planned $3 billion coal-powered synthetic gas plant.

The neighbors want Gov. Pat Quinn to veto a bill passed by state legislators, which would require utilities to buy synthetic gas from the proposed new plant for 30 years. New York-based developer Leucadia National would construct the plant at 116th Street and Burley Avenue – the site of the old Republic Steel plant.

Hoyt Hudson of Eco-Industrial Development, which is behind the plant, said earlier this year that the new facility would turn dirty coal into clean synthetic natural gas.

But residents of the Southeast Side do not agree with the “clean” part, and are concerned about the potential health effects of gasifying coal and pet coke – the toxic waste generated by refining tar sands. They say Leucadia is planning the facility in “a densely populated area already struggling with the health and economic ramifications of heavy pollution.”

They are also concerned about the environmental and economic impact of the proposed plant, and say its output would almost double the price of natural gas for the duration of the 30-year state contract.

But Hudson says plant emissions would be similar in amount to the pollution put out by the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago or Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Hudson said in January the plant would generate 2,300 jobs in the Chicago area, 500 coal mining jobs downstate and billions of dollars in tax revenues.

But the Sierra Club opposes the plant, and in January, a Chicago Tribune editorial called it a “raw” deal for some of the gas companies and said it was “rammed through the House with scant review.”

The rally Wednesday is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at the Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph St. Among the planned speakers are retired steelworker and coke plant worker Victor Storino, student activist Robert Garcia, community leader Rich Martinez, and the Rev. Zaki Zaki of the East Side Methodist Church.

At the end of the rally delegation of children and adults from the community are expected to deliver postcards to Gov. Quinn, urging him to veto the bill.

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