Remarks of Doctors Council Vice President Dr. Simon Piller for the 2016 SEIU International Convention

The following is a transcript of Dr. Piller’s remarks which were prepared for the 2016 SEIU International Convention held in Detroit, Michigan:

Good afternoon! My name is Dr.Simon Piller and I am a Vice President with SEIU’s Doctors Council in Chicago.

Still today, more than 30 percent of our Country’s electricity is generated from the combustion of coal. Coal-Fired Power Plants Threaten the Environment and Your Health.

Burning coal pollutes the air we breathe. Coal-fired power plants are among the most polluting industrial facilities. They produce staggering amounts of greenhouse gases and pollute the air with sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter, all of which can cause respiratory problems including asthma, lung disease and lung cancer, and adversely affect normal lung development in children. This has been a big problem in Chicago.

In the last three years – 45,000 tons of pollution was released into the air we breathe, compromising the health of all Chicagoans. The Fisk and Crawford coal fired power plants were the two single largest sources of air pollution in Chicago and emitted thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides every year, which led to the formation of ozone smog and fine particle pollution. More people live near the Fisk and Crawford plants than near any other power plant in the United States.

Living in the Little Village community which surrounded the plants are close to 100,000 residents. Close to 90 percent of those residents are Latino with close to 50 percent of residents being foreign born. Pollution from these two plants caused $1 billion in health and environmental-related illnesses like respiratory problems, heart and lung disease and even neurological damage. The Fisk and Crawford plants were responsible for an estimated 42 deaths, 66 heart attacks and 720 asthma attacks annually.

To fight this pollution in our community, we joined with a diverse group of organizations to form the Chicago Clean Power Coalition. The coalition is a growing coalition of individuals and organizations committed to creating a sustainable and clean energy economy for Metropolitan Chicago. Some groups involved were the Eco-Justice Collaborative, the Environmental Law and Policy Center, the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago Health Advocacy and the Sierra Club. In the fight against pollution, this movement empowered people to protect public health and the environment, while also strengthening the regional economy through new job development.

The coalition also advocated for cleaning up or shutting down the coal-fired power plants in order to transition Chicago to a cleaner energy economy through energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy. In 2012, after years of work, we won several high-impact clean air victories. Dominion Inc.’s State Line coal power plant, which operated mere feet from Chicago city limits in northwest Indiana, was permanently closed in March. And two of Chicago’s notorious coal-fired power plants, Fisk in Pilsen and Crawford in Little Village, were also both permanently retired in August of 2012. Their closure is a major victory for the public health and environmental health of all Chicagoans!

This is what we can accomplish when we join together. We can fight back and we can win. I know this is true because I’ve seen communities band together and advocate for their common interests. If we can fight the big power companies and win, we can take on any fight together.

When we fight, we win!

Thank you.

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