Author Archives: sierraclubillinois
Chicago, IL — Today, the Trump Administration released its 2018 budget proposals for discretionary spending. Among those proposals, Donald Trump has proposed a complete elimination of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
In response, Sierra Club Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin released the following statement:
“President Trump’s proposal to completely eliminate all funding for Great Lakes protection and cleanup programs is a shocking abandonment of crucial, successful efforts to protect our drinking water and the most important natural asset for our entire region.
Budgets are much more than numbers, they are statements of values and priorities. By hitting the delete button on all federal efforts to protect the Great Lakes, President Trump is telling our entire region that our health is not his priority. By cutting Great Lakes protection, President Trump is cutting good jobs in water infrastructure projects, he is cutting the cleanup of toxic pollution in our drinking water, and he is cutting off hope for communities that rely on these resources.
Protecting our Great Lakes has long been a bipartisan priority for our region’s leaders. Trump’s Great Lakes cuts should be dead on arrival for all members of Congress from our region. We are ready to work with all of the people and communities of our region to resist and reverse Trump’s cuts, and continue the critical work to clean up and restore the Great Lakes that are so important to all of us.”
Streams Feeding Canton Lake Saved
With the signing of a Circuit Court Consent Order on January 16, 2015 to terminate the North Canton Mine mining permit, two big victories were realized. First, the order to stop the strip coal mine in the watershed of Canton Lake protects the public drinking water supply for half the population of Fulton County from mine drainage pollution. Second, the victory set in motion a fundamental change in the way the Department of Natural Resources will evaluate permit applications going forward. No longer will the Department be able to ignore the regulatory definition of “intermittent” stream.
Sierra Club volunteers and others requested a public hearing on the mine permit in 2006. In 2008 the Sierra Club’s Heart of Illinois Group worked with local residents to form the Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues (CACEI). The groups teamed up with Prairie Rivers Network to fight this badly located and designed mine. Believing that the Department had not characterized the streams correctly in the permit, members of CACEI and the Heart of Illinois Group petitioned the Illinois Department of Natural Resources for an Administrative Review of the mine permit in 2008. The review hearings finally began at the end of May 2012 and took 12 days spread out from May to the end of August.
Based on expert testimony given by Dr. Cindy Skrukrud, Sierra Club Illinois Chapter, Clean Water Advocate and Chuck Norris, hydrogeologist with Geo-Hydro Inc, Denver, Colorado, in February 2013 the Hearing Officer removed one tributary and its 163-acre watershed from the mining plan. Legal work by attorney David Wentworth with the Peoria law firm Hasselberg Grebe Snodgrass Urban & Wentworth proved that the state permitting agency had made its own internal decision to use only one half of the state law on stream characterization. The case decision ruled that the petitioners proved beyond preponderance of the evidence that the application for the mine permit failed to list Stream 6 as an intermittent stream, thus failing to provide information as to the protection of the stream as required by mining law. The decision stated that baseline surface water information submitted by Capital Resources in its application was insufficient to meet the requirements of 62 IL Administrative Code 1780.21(b) [Final Order pp 26-27]. In June of 2013, Capital Resources submitted a revised application for the remaining 921 acres. The IDNR immediately approved the revision to the application as an insignificant revision, and simultaneously granted a 5-year permit renewal. \ Sierra Club and local citizens saw the revision to the application as very significant, rendering the original permit obsolete.
Required permits from the IEPA to allow discharges from the coal mine (NPDES permit) and destruction of the tributary streams by mining activities (401 certification) were neither approved nor denied as of the date of the court order ending the mining permit.
Sierra Club and local citizens filed for State Administrative Review of the IDNR permit renewal in the summer of 2013. Earlier that spring, Sierra Club and Brenda Dilts filed an appeal of the IDNR Hearing Officer’s February decision into Circuit Court in an effort to save the remaining tributaries. We argued that the revised plan in no way matched the December 6, 2011, mine operations plan that North Canton LLC presented at the IEPA hearing, which the mine contended would protect Canton Lake from discharges.
Not long before a scheduled three-hour hearing before the circuit court judge, Capital Resources communicated that they were going to stop all plans for mining and asked that the hearing be cancelled as ‘moot.” Attorney David Wentworth asked for a continuance of the court case until issues regarding the site and subsequent actions by the mine company could be placed into an agreed Consent Order. The order was finalized on January 16, 2015.
After 8 years, dedicated efforts, a lot of bake sales, candy sales, garage sales, and fund-raiser help from Illinois Chapter Sierra Groups as far away as the River Prairie Group in suburban Chicago, to donations from mine community members in other parts of the state, this strip mine has been stopped. The beautiful rolling Copperas Creek valleys, tall mature oak and hickory timber, and productive farmland along scenic tree-lined country lanes bordered by horse pastures and family farms will not be blasted and bull-dozed down fifty to over eighty feet deep for the one time taking of coal. Rubble will not be bulldozed back with a couple feet of top soil put on top to mask the long-term damages to the layers of sand, gravel, and the natural drainage nature built up over the eons to make this watershed.
The battle was long and hard and locals faced discrimination and numerous attempts to intimidate them, but they never gave up.
Contributed by Traci Barkley, Prairie Rivers Network
The dense grey fog permeated the frigid October morning around Spanish Needle Creek. No longer do deer, wild turkeys, or foxes drink from the clear, babbling brook. And the days of children splashing in the water and gleefully fishing are long gone.
In past years, the Extractors systemically destroyed everything that stood in their path while working day and night to exhume what they thought was black gold out of the ground, calling the site Monterey Mine 1. They only wanted the pure black coal to sell for a profit, but their rough, greedy and careless work brought up much more, like releasing angry spirits that can never be subdued again. They brought millions of tons of course gob and tried with all their might to wash the impurities from the coal, but only created filthy polluted sludge.
The Extractors dumped it on Spanish Needle Creek, perhaps with hopes that something so fresh, clear and clean could cleanse the evil they had exposed. A life sentence was imposed then on Spanish Needle Creek and all that relied upon its life forces. Today, millions of tons of toxic coal slurry sit at the headwaters, impounded precariously behind walls of piled rock. If these walls were to fail, Lake Carlinville, the drinking water supply for thousands, will forever be poisoned and miles of farmland, homes and wilderness will be buried.
If you dare, there is an even more sinister twist to this tale. The Extractors got out of the coal business after getting caught nearly eternally poisoning the drinking water supply at their other mine, Monterey Mine 2, near Germantown and Albers and didn’t want to wait around to see what their maniacal work might unleash at the Monterey Mine 1. Enter the next wave of villains, the Desecrators, who wanted their opportunity to extract wealth from the mine. By this time, it was clear that the piles of coal waste were degrading and releasing their pollutants such as salts and heavy metals into the underlying water. Buried for life and now seeping pollution was more than the groundwater source and stream could bear. Cattle downstream were getting sick, wildlife were walking further and further from their drinking holes and families started moving away and warning their children not to go into the water. After some smoke and mirrors to the residents and regulators, the desecrators thought the problem would go away and that they could escape the Coal Curse. But state regulators at the Illinois EPA issued a violation notice for the groundwater pollution and have now referred the case to the Illinois Attorney General. Residents and clean water advocates alike are working for justice in this case, challenging the permit continuing use of these looming, seeping toxic pits that continue to poison and threaten downstream and area residents. Perhaps an exorcism of the evil that the extractors and desecrators unearthed is in order…
Contributed by Sue Forsyth of Stand Up to Coal
Deep in the heart of East Central Illinois’ prime and productive farmland lies a predator waiting to come to life. This predator takes many forms and could be considered a shape shifter in certain circles. It even has a catchy name and logo- Bulldog Mine (Strong, Fearless, Loyal) which aims to take attention away from the destructive and dangerous intentions this predator has to harm the air and land by room and pillar mining coal and shipping it outside of Illinois to a destination unknown.
Shape shifting is a specialty of The Bulldog Mine. Attractive and well-spoken agents cast a spell upon property owners to lease mineral rights, sometimes against the property owner’s better judgment. Most of the time the leases are so full of legalese that they are difficult to unravel and decipher, but the common thread is that the leases benefit only the predator in the long run. When the coal is mined and nothing is left but the threat of subsidence, the mine can turn a blind eye and morph into the producers of the next energy rush.
None of that is scary compared to the proposed seven hundred foot slurry retention pond that would be home to the remnants of the coal washing process. This proposed Mountain of Doom would be located in the middle of productive farmland and visible for miles in any direction. The components of the mountain slurry would contain mercury, arsenic, selenium, and other disgusting chemicals that are a product of making the coal marketable. Will these dangerous residual chemicals leech in to the ground and contaminate drinking water? Something to ponder on a dark chilly night as it is a scary scenario not outside the realm of possibility, even with safeguards in place.
Scarier still is the coal dust that will be created and transported wherever the howling wind takes it. From the mining surface facility where excess coal will be stockpiled in enormous mounds, to the transport of the coal itself in train cars pilfering dust along the way to its destination, or transported by diesel trucks that will allow the dust to escape into the air we and our families breathe. This doesn’t begin to touch upon the mining techniques themselves that are the leading cause of the fatal Black Lung disease that many miners die from.
Perhaps the most frightening aspect above and beyond the health implications is the wasteful and myopic use of water this predator will use to further the mining process. If only 1 percent of all of the world’s fresh water is accessible for direct human use, it should be a crime that predators like The Bulldog Mine should be able to utilize it for their own selfish gain. By using up to half a million gallons of treated (yes treated) water per day to wash coal, this mine seems to be saying they do not care about the finiteness of resources like fresh water. This should scare anybody that profits are put above populations that rely on that water to exist and flourish. They are essentially saying that their enterprise is more important and should be placed above all else.
In this time of renewable energy and efficiency there is a declining need for this kind of archaic energy source. Many organizations are shying away from using coal and are recognizing the need for cleaner, safer, and more productive energy sources. In fact, there is a movement for organizations to financially divest from fossil fuels altogether. This is the future of energy and those operating in the past will find themselves as a relic, just like the fossils they are harvesting for fuel. They will be nothing more than ghosts haunting the abandoned mines they used to operate.
Once upon a time there was a clever Werewolf that convinced the leaders of Montgomery County and the City of Hillsboro, Illinois that they needed and deserved a coal mine in their city. Happy thoughts of many jobs and more money in the community were served with smiles and pleasantries. Many fantasies and myths assured the community that Deer Run Mine would only bestow treats with no tricks.
Permit #399 was approved by the protectors of the community — the Illinois Department of Natural Resources/Office of Mines and Minerals (IDNR/OMM) and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). Some land owners and residents were doubtful of the protections that were promised, but their voices that echoed through the treeless horizon were silenced.
These past echoes, however, collected and reformed to create a force to fight the darkness and myths. This force is called Citizens Against Longwall Mining (CALM) and it continues to brighten the darkness with facts and to enlighten others with hope to do the right thing.
CALM delved into the fantasy of coal mining promises. Can magic really awaken the sunken graves caused by longwall mining? Farming is so much more productive if the land is level and drained without sunken ravines being created.
The promise that water resources would not be destroyed by the evil sinking of land was the easiest myth to bust. All goblins, witches, and vampires know that water seeks its own level, if land sinks, water sinks. Should we even address the myth that streams can be created? Check with Pennsylvania about the folly of how few streams were fixed after being sunk by longwall mining.
CALM is not convinced that surface and ground waters will not be contaminated, since the most toxic and nasty stuff from coal is not monitored. The Clean Water Act is only as good as it is enforced. Even with known National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) violations, little is corrected and the darkness continues.
One very mystical happening was arranged by IDNR/OMM. It strangely converted an in-ground coal slurry disposal area to an above ground high hazard coal slurry impoundment dam in the City of Hillsboro in close proximity to the hospital, nursing home, daycare, and homes. The high hazard dam classification even made the skeletons sit up in fearful fright
Well, fellow goblins, if you think it can’t get any worse, you are WRONG! Permit #424 submitted by Deer Run Mine proposes a second much larger (1/2 by 2 miles) high hazard coal slurry dam impoundment that is even closer to the City of Hillsboro and Schram City. The zombies were astonished that there was no risk assessment. The location of the second impoundment threatens thousands of residents with loss of life and property if the coarse coal embankment ever fails over its lifetime, which is forever, remaining as a threat to the community forever.
The Witches’ Council clued CALM into another huge problem. Within their flight pattern, there is a coal processing plant at Deer Run Mine that spews coal dust that makes them cough. The Witches brooms were no match for the black dust and the effect it had on their lungs. How frightening that the IEPA, that is responsible for protecting air quality and that realizes the need to limit particulate matter (PM) exposure, has failed to require testing or monitoring of PM at the mine site or in the community.
Realizing that everyone, not just the Witches, were at risk, CALM asked the citizens attending Old Settlers Event in Hillsboro in August to sign a petition to ask the Mayor of Hillsboro to facilitate the placement of air monitors at the hospital and nursing home. The petition was well received with a total of 364 signatures that was later presented and well received by the Mayor of Hillsboro.
The community has paid dearly for the mining jobs and the potential financial gain; the tricks far out weigh the treats; we all need clean air, productive farmland, and wonderful water for apple bobbing.
HAPPY HALLOWEEN FROM CALM
What if it wasn’t the woods where the spooky ghoulish terrors lie, but out in the open right beside them? The fright of the Mississippi Sand Company Mine will have you running as deep into the forests of the Starved Rock State Park as you can.
With this 315 acre sand mine, you don’t need to be afraid of the dark—in fact glare lighting at the site will keep you up all night. There might not be any vampires, ghosts, or zombies, but there is something very unnatural that should give you a fright. Toxic silica dust.
Mississippi Sand Mine will blast rock formations containing St. Peter Sandstone, releasing thousands of particles of silica dust daily. Silica dust is a known carcinogen, with particles so tiny they seep into your lungs and can lead to silicosis and other respiratory disease. If that doesn’t give you goosebumps, consider this: recently mined silica dust is even more toxic and can travel up to 15 miles from the original site.
The air isn’t the only hazard from this mine, poised to started operating any day. Mississippi Sand discharge an average of 1.4 MGD of storm water and pit pumpage into Horseshoe Creek—a tributary to the Illinois River that runs through Starved Rock State Park. That means the toxic silica dust and the flocculants used to mine the sand would find their ways into our waterways.
What’s even spookier is the precedent Mississippi Sand, IDNR and LaSalle County has sent. If we allow sand mines next to our most prized state parks, where will they come next? Keep your eyes open.
It’s Halloween and North Canton Mine is up and running at last.
Everything the old hags, old folks and CACEI predicted has come to pass.
The animals are gone and the trees too.
The goblins can’t hide and scare you with a “boo.”
The eagles fly high with no place to perch.
Their nests are all gone, sending them on a search.
The coyotes have left with their nightly howling noise.
Now it’s blasting and lights to keep you annoyed.
Meanwhile back on the once beautiful land that had a story to tell,
The devil and his witches have destroyed our lake and wells.
The cemetery was moved, it’s gone and so went the dead.
This what the environmentalist foretold, with dread.
The underground railroad that saved many lives,
Was part of our history and now is gone forever instead.
Instead of “hoot, hoot, hoot”, the owls say “boo hoo”.
And the poor little Turtles Doves no longer coo.
Where once stood a deer so proud and tall,
Now he turns tail and runs as the trees fall.
The fertile farm fields are now in ruin, times are darkest,
There are no longer large crops for the farmers to harvest.
The beautiful streams that once flowed freely,
Are full of dead critters and fish on their bellies.
All by himself, stands a lonely scarecrow,
‘cause in the barren farmland, nothing will grow.
We rush to the faucet to get a drink, we try,
No water comes out, the well has gone dry.
Instead of clean vapors arising from the lake,
Now it’s just toxic gasses, to save the lake it’s too late.
The above-mentioned area is surely now a ghostly site,
A few temporary jobs will never set things right.
There go the monstrous trucks running down the highway,
Look out, get over or you’ll be squashed and left by the byway.
Witches around their Pot of Gold, cackling “hee, hee, hee”.
Just wait, time will tell, but it will be too late when the truth you see.
A coal mine with many skeletons in the closet,
To the Citizens of Canton, they really have “socked it.”