Category Archives: Dirty Coal

Citizens Speak Out in Favor of More Stream Protection at Coal Mines

Citizens for clean water.

Citizens for clean water.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) has proposed a new rule for regulation of coal mining intended to better protect streams, fish, and wildlife from the adverse impacts of surface coal mining operations and impacts to streams from underground mining. 

The proposed rule would update the nearly 30-year-old rule coal mines now operate under and:

  • include regulatory requirements for addressing the hydrologic balance outside the permit area.
  • require mine operators to establish an adequate baseline for evaluation of the impacts of mining and the effectiveness of reclamation.
  • adjust monitoring requirements to enable timely detection and correction of any adverse trends in the quality or quantity of surface water and groundwater or the biological condition of streams.
  • ensure protection or restoration of perennial and intermittent streams and related resources, including ephemeral streams.
  • ensure that mine operators and regulatory authorities make use of the most current science and technology
  • ensure that land disturbed by mining operations is restored to a condition capable of supporting the uses that it was capable of supporting prior to mining.
  • update and codify the requirements and dispute resolution procedures involved when the proposed permit or adjacent areas contain federally listed threatened or endangered species and designated critical habitat.

OSMRE held six public hearings in Colorado, Missouri, Kentucky, Virginia, W. Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Citizens wait in line to get into the hearing.

Citizens wait in line to get into the hearing.

Illinois Chapter Sierra Club gives a loud shout out to the 38 citizens from Illinois, Missouri and Indiana who attended the Missouri hearing to tell their stories of destruction and pollution. They included citizens on the frontline from: Peabody’s Rocky Branch Mine in Saline County, Springfield Coal’s Industry Mine in McDonough County, Foresight Energy’s Deer Run Mine in Montgomery County and Pond Creek Mine in Williamson County, Sunrise Coal’s proposed Bulldog Mine in Vermilion County, and many more supporters from across the region.

Waiting for the hearing to begin.

Waiting for the hearing to begin.

Everyone did an excellent job of telling their stories and tying them to aspects of the draft rule. In fact, OSMRE staff presiding over the hearing thanked our folks for attending and extended high praise for telling such powerful, compelling stories.

Those testifying on the side opposing new, protective rules for clean water included representatives for Congressmen John Shimkus, Rodney Dave and Mike Bost, and State Representatives Terri Bryant and Avery Bourne. Due to some tricky maneuvering to have others hold their place in line, the vast majority, including those mentioned above, were the first to speak. Unfortunately, our elected officials did not bother to stick around to hear what their constituents, some of whom drove over 200 miles, had to say!

All hands-in celebration after the hearing.

All-hands-in celebration after the hearing.

Others in opposition included the Illinois Coal Association and the Indiana Coal Council and industry representatives from Foresight Energy, American Coal, Peabody Coal, Murray, Knight Hawk Coal, Alliance Coal, Sunrise Coal, Arch Coal. The main talking points among the opposition were that the new rules are: redundant, a solution without a problem, going to cause massive job loss, cause the lights to go out, cause severe rate hikes–all intermixed with lots of Obama blaming and some Sierra Club bashing.

Acid mine drainage can be highly toxic and, when mixed with groundwater, surface water and soil, may have harmful effects on humans, animals and plants.

Acid mine drainage can be highly toxic and, when mixed with groundwater, surface water and soil, may have harmful effects on humans, animals and plants.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) is a bureau within the U.S. Department of the Interior. OSMRE was created in 1977 when Congress enacted the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. OSMRE works with states and tribes to ensure that citizens and the environment are protected during coal mining and that the land is restored to beneficial use when mining is finished. Today, most coal states, including Illinois, have developed their own programs to do those jobs. OSMRE focuses on overseeing the state programs and developing new tools, such as the proposed Stream Protection Rule, to help the states and tribes get the job done.

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Victory at North Canton Mine

Streams Feeding Canton Lake Saved

court-order1With 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.

IMG_1352Sierra 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.

N Canton Cindy getting sample south of Brereton Rd on  tributary to West Branch Copperas Creek_096Based 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.

CACEI Donation from Cindy Aug 2013 006Sierra 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.

N Canton mature oak forest saved_106After 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.

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The battle was long and hard and locals faced discrimination and numerous attempts to intimidate them, but they never gave up.

 

Citizens Win Eight-Year Battle to Stop Coal Strip Mine

Local Water Resources Saved Upstream of Public Water Supply Lake

IDNR Stream Protection Errors Exposed

CoalMineNixed

CANTON, Ill. – The court case contesting the North Canton coal strip mine permit was officially ended January 16th, winning an eight-year battle by citizens of Fulton County to protect Canton Lake and its watershed that supplies drinking water to over 20,000 residents. Capital Resources Development Company LLC, an affiliate of Springfield Coal Company LLC, asked to terminate its Permit No. 385 before citizens reached a full court hearing where they had challenged the mine and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) regarding errors in the permit approval.

“For the residents of Canton and Orion townships this is wonderful news for our water supply and for our land,” said Brenda Dilts, Leader of the Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues, Canton Lake and Its Watershed (CACEI). “We did not want an arm of Springfield Coal, the company that had racked up over 600 water permit violations at the Industry Mine, discharging polluted water into our public water supply lake. The strip mine would destroy much of the natural drainage and be harmful to the environment, the watershed and to the people in the community.”

In February 2013, Sierra Club and members of CACEI won a state administrative level permit appeal in part and saved a major stream corridor proposed for strip mining about one mile upstream of Canton Lake. Sierra Club and a member of CACEI then filed in Fulton County Circuit Court in an effort to protect the five other streams in the strip mine permit. Most of the streams feed into the main tributary of Canton Lake, a public drinking water supply source.

During the permit challenge brought by the citizens, IDNR admitted on the witness stand, and the Department’s Hearing Officer found, that IDNR had an unwritten policy to ignore a part of its own regulatory definition of “intermittent stream,” thereby circumventing greater stream protections in the permit approval process.

“My farm and home would have been directly across from this mine if it had proceeded,” said Joe Cooper, member of CACEI. “I am so grateful to CACEI, Sierra Club, and all the local Canton people who helped raise alarms about how this could ruin our lake watershed. The state mine permit should never have been approved for this mine. The state mining agency simply was not doing its job to enforce the laws on the books. We proved that.”

CACEIVictoryPhoto

“Planning a coal strip mine in the watershed that feeds the drinking water lake that supplies water to over half the population of Fulton County was never a good idea,” said Dr. Cindy Skrukrud, Clean Water Advocate for the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. “It took years of community pressure and legal action for this coal company to realizethat. We’re looking to the IDNR to make the institutional changes necessary to protect the integrity of vital water resources like Canton Lake in its permitting decisions, in line with the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.”

Citizens raised funds to hire an attorney and an expert hydro-geologist through bake sales, garage sales, and a wide range of fund-raisers over the years. Springfield Coal Company owns other mines and also makes revenue back-hauling coal ash from power plants for dumping at old mines.

“The significance of Springfield Coal Company’s permit withdrawal cannot be overstated. This coal company – with sites all over the state and all kinds of coal reserves – was defeated by the dedication, caring and hard work of local citizens,“ said Joyce Blumenshine, Heart of Illinois Group Sierra Club Chair. ”Our attorney, David Wentworth, with the Hasselberg Grebe Snodgrass Urban Wentworth firm in Peoria, had a tremendous case to stop this mine. We fought hard in the community and in court to protect the lake and streams. The fact the mine decided to give up on the eve of our court hearing says a lot.”

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Contact:

Brenda Dilts,  Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues, 309-338-9748

Joyce Blumenshine, Heart of Illinois Group Sierra Club, 309-678-1011

 Dr. Cindy Skrukrud, Illinois Chapter Sierra Club,  312-251-1680 x110

Batavia City Government Demands Accountability from Nation’s Largest Coal Company

On November 3, Batavia City Council unanimously approved a resolution calling on the Illinois Attorney General to investigate Peabody Energy’s sales process of the Prairie State coal plant. City Council made this request in response to citizens’ concerns about the environmental and financial risks associated with Batavia’s long-term power purchasing agreement with the coal plant.
The Prairie State coal plant, located in Marissa, Illinois, is the largest point source of carbon pollution built in the last 25 years in the U.S. Peabody Energy, who built the plant starting in 2007, failed to entice private investors, who questioned the feasibility of profitably burning Illinois coal. Instead, Peabody Energy sold more than 200+ municipalities take-or-pay contracts to purchase the electricity for the next 30+ years. This transfered all the financial liability from Peabody Energy (who ultimately profited from this sale), to small municipalities.
In the past year, electricity prices from the coal plant have far exceeded the projected costs that Peabody marketed to municipalities. Citizens across the Midwest impacted by these costs are demanding accountability.

In Batavia, Illinois, a coalition led by the Sierra Club worked to put grassroots pressure on Batavia City Council. Citizens collected more than 1,000 citizen petitions and more than 40 business petitions in support of asking for an investigation.

Sierra Club applauds Batavia City Council, the Mayor, and City Staff for taking this important step forward, and thanks all of our coalition partners and volunteers for their leadership and commitment!

Sierra Club Among 18 Illinois Groups Calling on Rep. John Shimkus to Address Failing Coal Ash Pits

The site where a coal ash impoundment spilled tons of coal ash and wastewater into the Dan River. Credit The Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability

The site where a coal ash impoundment at Duke Energy’s Dan River plant in North Carolina spilled tons of coal ash and wastewater into the Dan River. Credit The Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability

Today, on the six-month anniversary of an impoundment failure at Duke Energy’s Dan River plant in North Carolina, 18 environmental organizations and community groups representing thousands of citizens in Illinois sent a letter to U.S. Representative John Shimkus urging the congressman to address failing coal ash pits in the state.

The letter reminded Rep. Shimkus, who serves as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy Committee on Energy and Commerce, that the North Carolina spill unleashed  50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash and other chemicals, in addition to 27 million gallons of water laden with metals/chemicals.  The toxic coal ash contaminated 70 miles of the Dan River, devastating the river system and communities downstream. Although Duke Energy deemed cleanup “complete,” nearly 94 percent of the waste still remains in the river.

Coal ash, which contains arsenic, chromium, lead, mercury, and a range of harmful heavy metals and hazardous pollutants, is a dangerous waste product of burning coal at power plants. When these pollutants enter drinking water, rivers, and streams, they harm human health, aquatic life, and the communities that depend on these water systems.

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Two of the three ash pits at the Dynegy Vermilion facility are now failing, releasing harmful pollutants into the only National Scenic River in Illinois. Credit Prairie Rivers Network

Many of Illinois’ 24 coal-fired power plants were built adjacent to rivers or over groundwater aquifers in order to meet their enormous water needs. As a result, 91 coal ash disposal ponds were built in places that are unsuitable and dangerous for the disposal of toxic waste. Fifty-six ash ponds were built over groundwater recharge areas, 62 over shallow aquifers, and 9 were constructed over wetlands.

Structural controls to protect the Middle Fork Vermilion River from ash pits have failed. Credit Prairie Rivers Network

Structural controls to protect the Middle Fork Vermilion River from ash pits have failed. Credit Prairie Rivers Network

While many of these coal ash pits present threats of slow but inevitable discharge into water systems, several hold the potential for catastrophic failure. For example, the retired Dynegy Vermilion Power Station hosts three waste dumps in the floodplain of Illinois’ only designated National Scenic River, the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River. Two of the pits were built without liners and have begun to contaminate adjacent groundwater. The banks of the impoundment are also vulnerable to flooding and erosion of the river, with the potential to unleash 3 million cubic yards of coal ash downstream.

The Dynegy Vermilion site is described in a recent report on the company’s pollution sites across the state.

The letter, sent by environmental organizations and community groups across Illinois, urges Rep. Shimkus to hold a hearing within the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy to ensure that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is doing everything possible to effectively address the threat of coal ash to American communities nationwide.

“We believe it is your responsibility to ensure that your constituents and the nation are safe from preventable coal ash disasters,” the groups wrote in the letter, and to hear “from affected communities how these dangerous ponds harm their health, environment and the economic well-being.”

Read a copy of the letter here.

Foresight Energy LP profits rise at the expense of quality of life, clean water and clean air in Illinois

Pond Creek Mine was Foresight's first mine in Illinois. Tons of coal produced from its four mines in Illinois totaled 18 million in 2013; up from 15.1 million tons in 2012. A second longwall operation at Sugar Camp Mine longwall is expected to bring Foresight's full annual capacity to 32.7 million tons/year.

Pond Creek Mine was Foresight’s first mine in Illinois. Tons of coal produced from its four mines in Illinois totaled 18 million in 2013; up from 15.1 million tons in 2012. A second longwall operation at its Sugar Camp Mine  is expected to bring Foresight’s full annual capacity to 32.7 million tons/year.

While there may have been excitement on Wall Street this week as Foresight Energy LP began trading on the New York Stock Exchange, Illinois residents living in the shadow of a Foresight Energy LP coal mine have a different story to tell.

The financial community lauds the chutzpah of Chris Cline’s Foresight Reserves, which controls St. Louis-based Foresight Energy. At a time when coal was on the decline in Appalachia, Cline moved his base of operations into the Illinois basin and bought up 3 billion tons of cheap, high-sulfur Illinois coal reserves. It currently operates four non-union mine complexes in Illinois, with others planned in the future. The mines include Pond Creek Mine, Williamson County; Sugar Camp Mine, Franklin/Hamilton counties; Deer Run Mine, Montgomery County; and Shay 1 Mine, Macoupin County.

This all may sound great to an investor, but Foresight’s rise to success has come at great expense to the people and environment in Illinois.

The greatest expense of a mining operation is the loss of life. Since November 2013 two deaths have occurred at Foresight’s M-Class Mining LLC – MC#1 Sugar Camp Mine, a longwall mine in Franklin County. Longwall mining provides the coal producer higher return but at great risk to the miners.

SL500 01In longwall mining, the coal seam is divided into long panels about 1,500 feet across and 3 to 4 miles long. Rather than leave pillars for support, hydraulic roof supports are put in that run the entire length of the panel. A cutting head runs along the face of the seam, knocking the coal down onto a conveyor belt. With each cut the entire longwall unit—shearer, conveyor and hydraulic roof supports move forward and the roof behind the unit is collapsed, filling in the open space. Because the roof is constantly collapsing behind the mine, the technique is considered inherently dangerous.

Longwall mining creates a condition called planned subsidence. As the panels collapse underground the land overhead drops up to 6 feet, leaving cornfields and backyards like sunken bathtubs. The subsided land also negatively impacts structures such as homes and outbuildings, water wells, springs, farm ponds, and surface drainage.

Numerous homes have been removed and families displaces above Foresight's longwall operation.

Numerous homes have been removed and families displaced above all Foresight’s longwall operations.

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Damaged roads and bridges and flooded agricultural fields disrupt the lives of residents living in the shadow area of a longwall mine. The shadow area is the surface area above the underground mine. Foresight shadow areas are anywhere from 5,000 acres to 10,000 acres.

Rather than pay to repair or replace a resident’s home from subsidence damage, Foresight often buys people out and bulldozes the structures. Entire neighborhoods have been obliterated around Foresight’s Pond Creek, Sugar Camp and Deer Run mines. While this may be profitable for Foresight, the expense to the residents’ sense of community and family legacy is incalculable.

Residents left living or working around the periphery of a Foresight mine have to endure the daily health hazard of coal dust infiltrating their lives and lungs, and 24/7 noise from conveyors, air vent blowers, trucks, loaders, bulldozers, and trains. Area residents must contend with lower property values, lost property taxes, increased truck traffic and train delays, damaged roads, contaminated air and water, and loss of prime farmland.

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The outer walls of a coal slurry impoundment often rise 50 to 90 feet high. An impoundment is classified as high-hazard if its failure or miss-operation will probably cause loss of human life.

Before coal is sold it is washed with massive amounts of water to remove impurities such as clay, silt and rocks. The leftover waste material is stored in on-site impoundments. Larger material such as rocks and pieces of coal are called course refuse, while slurry, made up of a combination of silt, dust, water, bits of coal and clay particles, is called fine refuse. The coarse refuse is used to construct the impoundment dam, which then holds the fine refuse or slurry, along with any chemicals used to wash and treat the coal at the coal preparation plant.

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October 11th, 2000, thick liquid coal processing waste contained in a Martin County Coal Corporation impoundment broke through the impoundment wall into an underground mine shaft, eventually dumping more than 300 million gallons of toxic sludge into the area’s rivers.

Slurry impoundments have been known to fail, as was the case in Martin County, Kentucky on October 11, 2000 when the bottom of a slurry impoundment broke into an abandoned underground mine below.  An estimated 306,000 gallons of slurry polluted hundreds of miles of the Big Sandy River and its tributaries and the Ohio River. The water supply for over 27,000 residents was contaminated, and all aquatic life in Coldwater Fork and Wolf Creek was killed. The spill was 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill and considered one of the worst environmental disasters ever in the southeastern United States.

The original coal slurry impoundment at Deer Run Mine is quickly exceeding it's 140-acre, 90-foot-tall capacity.

The original coal slurry impoundment at Deer Run Mine is quickly exceeding its 140-acre, 90-foot-tall capacity.

Residents in Montgomery County, Illinois are extremely concerned about slurry waste impoundments at Foresight’s Hillsboro Energy, LLC Deer Run Mine. The first impoundment built 5 year ago is an approximately 140-acre, 90-foot-tall high-hazard impoundment. Less than 5 years later, because the first impoundment is not adequate to hold all the toxic coal slurry, the mine is now proposing to build a second disposal area nearly twice the size of the first with a 240-acre impoundment held back with a 60-foot-tall dam. Both impoundments will hold coal waste in perpetuity behind high-hazard dams above the towns of Hillsboro and Schram City.

It irks the residents that their county tax money covers the emergency action management of the high-hazard waste impoundments, yet no sales or severance tax is collected on the coal that leaves the ground.

Sugar Camp has been given a 1-year emergency permit to drill and inject polluted mine water into deep injection wells.

Sugar Camp has been given a 1-year emergency permit to drill and inject polluted mine water into deep injection wells. Citizens were not given the opportunity to comment or participate in the permitting process.

Last month an unexpectedly large volume of groundwater infiltrated Foresight’s Sugar Camp Energy LLC Sugar Camp Mine. Not only were the miners put at risk, but the groundwater, high in chloride and dissolved solids, presented a threat if released to surface waters. Therefore, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency had to issue an emergency permit for two Underground Injection Control (UIC) wells authorizing Sugar Camp Energy to inject wastewaters between 7,500 and 12,900 feet underground into limestone and sandstone formations. Because of the emergency nature of the permit, local residents were unable to comment or participate in the permitting process.

Shay1_waste_impoundment_May_2009_IMG_26161Pollution from salts and heavy metals poses problems at other Foresight mines as well. For example, Foresight acquired Macoupin Energy, Shay #1 Mine located in Macoupin County from ExxonMobile in 2009. Along with the operating coal mine, Foresight also inherited a slurry impoundment that was polluting groundwater with salts and heavy metals. Nearby water wells have been affected, which has possibly contributed to serious health issues of some residents. Since then 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.

Foresight has its sights on expanding existing mines as wells as starting up new ones. Foresight’s Sugar Camp Energy, LLC has submitted a mine application for the Logan Mine No. 1, a longwall mine proposed for Franklin, Jefferson and Hamilton Counties. Landowners, who together own approximately 1,500 contiguous acres in Franklin County, are being pressured by Foresight to sell their land for the mine’s surface facility.  The mineral rights to each parcel of land were severed from the deeds in 1948. The mineral deeds say that the mineral owners have the right to reasonable access to the minerals. The landowners contend taking the entirety of 1,500 acres, including an Illinois Centennial Farm, is not reasonable.

The time has come for coal operators like Foresight Energy LP to pay the true cost of the coal that benefits them so greatly. How many more miners have to die, how many more families have to be uprooted and communities destroyed, how much more farmland has to be sunk and degraded, how much more water and air has to be polluted, and how many more toxic coal slurry waste impoundments have to be constructed for the benefit of coal producers at the expense of Illinois citizens?

Tell the Governor the time has come to Protect the Prairie State from Coal Mining–Take Action Here!

Illinois DNR Rejects Coal Mine Proposal After Scofflaw Company Defaults On Bond Obligation


The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) recently rejected a permit renewal application for Springfield Coal Company’s Industry Mine.  Citing failure of financial obligations, the June 4 permit denial marks a significant step toward stronger enforcement of coal mining regulations in Illinois.

“By denying this permit, IDNR is letting Springfield Coal and the mining industry know that they need to follow the rules,” said Cindy Skrukrud, Clean Water Advocate for the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club.  “For too long Springfield Coal has been allowed to flout the law and pollute our water supply – hopefully those days are now over.”

The Industry Mine, located in McDonough County, has long been guilty of poor mining practices that endanger the environment, drinking water and public health.  Between 2004 and 2011, the mine violated its Illinois EPA permit a staggering 624 times.  The Sierra Club, Prairie Rivers Network, and Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) sued the mine in 2009.

IDNR denied the permit because Springfield Coal, the owner of the mine, refused to post a bond that is legally required to ensure the site gets cleaned up and restored after the company is finished mining.

IndustryMine.Photo:JoyceBlumenshine

Industry Mine Photo: Joyce Blumenshine

“We are pleased to see the Department continuing to strengthen its regulation of dangerous mines in our state,” said ELPC staff attorney Jessica Dexter.  “This is one step of many that are needed to rein in bad actors and protect our water and citizens.”

The move follows an agreement in April by IDNR Office of Mines & Minerals to initiate a number of reforms in its coal mining permit program; a commitment welcomed by rural Illinois citizens who have long called for stronger enforcement of laws to protect their communities and water supplies.

“Business as usual is over for the Industry Mine but reforms need to continue,” said nearby resident Kim Sedgwick who has battled the devastating impacts of this mine for over a decade. “The Industry Mine site still needs to be reclaimed and IDNR needs to implement the measures it promised in April.  Residents and environmental organizations have repeatedly called on IDNR to better protect the state’s natural resources from the impacts of coal mining— public water supplies should be off limits to coal mines and bad actors should be denied mining permits.  IDNR needs to listen to our concerns and start protecting our communities.”

Contacts

Traci Barkley (PRN):  217-621-3013

Cindy Skrukrud (Sierra Club): 312-251-1680×110

Manny Gonzales (ELPC): 303-880-5954