Activists have succeeded in getting Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to shut down the city’s two coal plants — one of them by the end of the year. That doesn’t mean the city is off coal power entirely, of course, but banishing coal plants from within the city limits will have a massive effect on urban health.

As Philip Radford wrote here on Grist last year, pollution from the Windy City’s coal plants costs tens of thousands of lives:

Every year, the toxic pollution that spews from the smokestacks of America’s coal-fired power plants kills between 13,000 and 34,000 people, according to studies by the Clean Air Task Force and Harvard University. That staggering figure doesn’t include the carbon pollution — one third of all U.S. emissions — that is driving the planet into runaway climate change.

That health carnage inspired groups like the Chicago Clean Power Coalition to lobby against the plants, which it says were “two of the oldest and dirtiest in the nation.” After more than two years of campaigning, the activists have now convinced Emanuel to have the Midwest Generation utility shut the plants down. And he’s done it without a city council ordinance, which the Chicago Sun-Times says could have invited court battles and potentially been overturned.

Instead, Midwest Generation has agreed to shutter both plants — one by December, the other by 2014 — in exchange for community groups dropping their lawsuits against the company. They’re  basically saying “okay, we’ll stop killing you if you stop needling us” — kind of imbalanced, but you know, whatever works.

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