Once again the question needs to be asked, ”Is the Illinois Government making the right
decision?” Last year Illinois was the only state in the nation to have increased its coal
production. The Illinois Government has promoted Illinois coal and has worked toward
establishing coal as the 21st century energy source. Considering the dire outcomes from
climate change and the ongoing accumulation of toxins from use of coal, the Illinois
Government should reconsider the wisdom of establishing coal mining that will involve
as much as two-thirds of land resources in Illinois.
The influence of the coal industry in Illinois is not demonstrated by the amount of
electricity produced by coal-fired utilities, but rather the control over the state regulatory
agencies and legislative bodies. In Illinois, the term, “King Coal” is truly descriptive
of the coal industry’s pervasive influence on legislative statutes, appropriations, mining
permits, and environmental protections. The government in Illinois has determined
that coal is the energy solution for the state, and the citizens through their taxes are
subsidizing the very industry that pollutes their backyard.
Is the state’s rationale for coal based on the hope of improving Illinois economy through
coal development? It is difficult to understand how Illinois is financially benefiting
from coal. Sales tax is paid only if the coal is sold in state. Most of the coal goes out of
state or is exported. Unlike other coal states, there is no severance tax for extracted coal.
Illinois exempts mining machinery from sales tax and new mines are often in enterprise
zones for additional tax breaks. Does the State of Illinois and its citizens really profit
The coal industry has received millions of taxpayer dollars from the Illinois Department
of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to enhance its profits and to establish
it as the energy source for Illinois as “clean” coal. DCEO through its Office of Coal
Development already funds 6 programs to establish coal resources as a fuel
for the future. Yet, DCEO is also the agency listed in the Comprehensive Solar Energy
Act of 1977 that is the primary authority for supervising and implementing the solar
energy program in Illinois. What has been done by the Illinois DCEO to establish solar
energy as a viable energy source as legislated in the 1977 act? As the rest of the U.S.
moves to alternative energy sources, are the energy decisions by the Illinois government
preparing its citizens for future economic growth?
In addition to the millions of dollars in subsidies for the coal industry administered by
DCEO, the taxpayer also covers the administrative costs of coal mining permits since
the fees paid by coal applicants are insufficient. Insignificant revisions (no public
participation) and significant revisions are approved at no extra charge to the coal
operator. Deer Run Mine in Hillsboro, Illinois has 16 revisions (last count) and one
significant revision after Permit #399 was approved in 2009 for the same administrative
fee. This process encourages mine operators to submit inadequate and misleading
permit applications since Illinois Department of Natural Resources/Office of Mines and
Minerals is very obliging with no cost revisions.
At one time, the public trusted that Illinois regulatory agencies enforced mining laws,
the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Air Act. These laws should protect citizens and the
environment while mining operations are conducted. The reality is that our communities
are subjected to harmful air, contaminated water resources, subsided land, damaged
roads, and permanent coal slurry structure impoundments. There is no monitoring or
protection from the most harmful components from coal mining in the community.
Illinois citizens are entitled to a government that minimizes community contamination
from coal and sustains water and farmland for future generations. Instead, the Illinois
coal industry is entitled to preferential treatment that increases contamination in
communities and damages water and farmland resources.