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Pilsen, Little Village, Back of the Yards

Fisk Diesel Peaking Permit To Be Discussed At Community Meeting Wednesday In Pilsen

If a permit is approved, the peaking turbines at the generating station could be used during periods of high demands.

Hilco plans to build a giant data center at the Fisk Generating Station in Pilsen.
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PILSEN — Officials from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO) will host a community meeting to discuss a pending permit for the usage of the Fisk Generating Station’s diesel peaking turbines Wednesday in the South Side neighborhood.

IEPA officials will present details of the draft permit which, if approved, would allow for the diesel peaking turbines at the generating station to be used during periods of high demands, said Brad Frost, manager of community relations for the IEPA. 

In addition to details on the permit, officials will present the history on the Fisk Power Generating station during the meeting in Dvorak Park’s gym, 1119 W. Cullerton St., from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday. 

Under federal law, all major sources of air emissions are required to have a Clean Air Act Permit Program permit to operate, Frost said.

The Fisk Generating Station, at 1111 W. Cermak Road, was previously issued a permit to operate its diesel turbines for several years, but the permit was pulled during the state’s review of all coal power plants, Frost said.

Now, officials are negotiating and considering re-instating the peaking turbines permit at Fisk, Frost said. While the diesel peaking permit is being considered, the facilities coal power plant would never go into operation again, he emphasized. 

The permit would allow the turbines to be used for up to 20,000 megawatt (MW) hours per year, Kim Biggs, an IEPA spokeswoman, said in an email. 

 A megawatt hour is equal to 1,000 kilowatt hours, which is about equivalent to the amount of electricity used by 330 homes in one hour.  There are emission standards outlined in the permit for opacity, sulfur content of the distillate fuel oil purchased and used, sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, Biggs said. 

The peaking operation would provide some stability to the electric grid, Frost said. 

“Peaking [plant] tend to operate a quarter of the year, not much more than that,” Frost said.  “They operate when there is an increase need for electricity, typically during the summer when people use more air conditioning units.”

Troy Hernandez, director of PERRO and an aldermanic candidate for the 25th Ward, said the Pilsen environmental group pushed for a community meeting with the IEPA.

“This event is being held so the community can be informed about it,” Hernandez said. “I don’t think a lot of people realize… that it is still a functioning plant in some respects.”

In response, PERRO will be proposing a battery-powered peaking plant instead, which have zero emissions, an electric bus depot, and green space at the location, Hernandez said.

The electric bus depot would be an alternative idea to the city’s 2015 pitch to turn part of the Fisk property into a CTA bus depot. 

“We want to mobilize the community again so we don’t get caught off guard like Little Village,” Hernandez said, referring to a one-million square foot distribution facility that is set to replace the Crawford Power Plant. 

After the meeting, neighbors will have an opportunity to weigh in on the draft permit plan, Frost said. After reviewing their comments, the IEPA will make a final decision on the permit, he said. 

The Fisk Generating Station’s opened in 1903, and shut down its coal-burning operations in 2012, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The closing was a result of a community-led effort that called for the closing for the Pilsen coal plant and the Crawford Generating Station in Little Village.

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