Today residents of Chicago watched as the city council delayed a vote on their health. In a committee hearing on the proposed Clean Power Ordinance, the city aldermen delayed a vote on the measure that calls for the two coal-fired power plants within city limits (the Fisk and Crawford plants owned by Midwest Generation) to reduce their pollution by 90%.

The hearing is still going now, you can follow the action on Twitter by watching the #chicoal hashtag or going to www.WheresMyWalderman.com

Midwest Generation bused in employees from out of town to fill the room (and some fell asleep during the hearing) – but a very large and vocal crowd of clean energy advocates have been locked out and are chanting in the building’s hallway as they wait.

Bruce Nilles, Deputy Conservation Director of the Sierra Club (and former Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign) spoke at a press conference before the hearing – click here to see that video.

Then during the hearing, Nilles testified. “Chicago is one of the last communities with coal-fire power plants in densely populated areas,” he told the aldermen. “The rest of country knows old coal plants have to go. Why not Chicago?”

The Sierra Club is part of a massive, diverse coalition of community groups that have long been working to either clean up or shut down these two plants because of the pollution they spew into the air. The plants are 100-years-old, emit mercury, soot, and sulfur dioxide, among other toxic pollutants, and are exempt from some Clean Air Act limits.

Children living in the Little Village and Pilsen communities surrounding these plants suffer from a 44% asthma rate. A Clean Air Task Force study states that pollution from Fisk and Crawford kills 40 people every year.

So the communities banded together, created the Clean Power Ordinance with the backing of Chicago Alderman Joe Moore. Had today’s committee hearing approved the ordinance, it would’ve come up for a vote by the full Council on May 4 at the final City Council meeting of Mayor Daley’s administration.

The ordinance would drastically reduce soot and greenhouse gas pollution from the two plants, thereby reducing the number of hospitalizations and premature deaths caused by the plants’ pollution and lowering the estimated $127 million in public health costs the plants create each year.

This Chicago Tonight segment also gives a good background on the issue.

Let’s hope the Chicago City Council does the right thing for Chicagoans’ health.