"CHICAGO -- The twin smokestacks of the 85-year-old Crawford Generating Station are a familiar backdrop in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. It's a largely Mexican immigrant community where children play in the street, families congregate on stoops and pushcart vendors sell corncobs within blocks of the plant and its large coal pile.
Six miles away in another crowded neighborhood sits a second plant, the Fisk Generating Station, built in 1903.
They are among the nation's fleet of aging coal-fired power plants, a handful of them in the heart of urban areas, including Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee and Alexandria, where the Potomac River Generating Station has long stirred controversy.
Many public health and environmental advocates say too little attention has been paid to facilities such as Fisk and Crawford -- "legacy" plants grandfathered in under the 1977 Clean Air Act and largely exempted from its requirement that facilities use the best pollution-control technology.
"Those are the clunkers of the power-plant world," said Brian Urbaszewski, director of environmental health programs for the Respiratory Health Association of Metropolitan Chicago."