Citizens Against Longwall Mining

Deer Run Mine

We are a group of central Illinois residents who have been fighting the Deer Run Coal Mine in Hillsboro, IL since 2004. We are opposed to coal mining practices such as longwall mining that destroy our fertile farmland, as well as coal ash and coal slurry disposal methods that threaten the health of our communities, lands and waters.

Archives

Fracking Added to Coal Mining in Illinois Will Compound Environmental Impacts

High pressure/volume fracking is a growing concern in Illinois. The Public Act 098-0022 (SB-1715) signed into law by Governor Quinn on June 17, 2013 is touted to have safeguards more stringent than other states.  If, however, regulations are loosely interpreted, applied and enforced much like the coal mining laws are handled by IDNR/OMM and the IEPA, the health of residents and quality of the environment will suffer.  Lax enforcement policies may well negate any purported safeguards, and Illinois coal is one such example. Residents in Illinois coal mining communities have few safeguards with regulatory agencies that allow coal mining to operate without adequate monitoring and testing to establish whether mining is compliant with the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. This leaves citizens with no adjudicatory evidence.  Deer Run Mine in Hillsboro, Illinois is a mine that has a life time air permit that does not mandate any air monitoring or testing on or off the mine site.  IEPA has not enforced the use of stacker tubes as listed in Deer Run Mine’s permit  even with residents’ complaining of coal dust in their homes and hospital. Surface waters are threatened by discharges from the mine that empties into Central Park Creek which flows through Hillsboro, Illinois with harmful chemicals that are not monitored.  IDNR/OMM facilitates the coal operator to produce cheap coal, but disregards the health risks to citizens, the contamination of air and water, the threat of permanent impoundments, and lower production from subsided farmland. An insightful article by Philip Gregg titled, “How Safe Is Hydraulic Fracturing?” was published in the August 14-20, 2014 issue of Illinois Times.  The author discussed why there is controversy and lack of validation over the safety of fracking.   Gregg wrote that in most oil and gas producing states, “lobbyists and others have neutralized the regulatory processes.”  In Illinois this has already happened with regard to coal.  A citizen’s right to petition his/her concerns in an administrative review of a coal mining permit is stifled in an adversarial process that has existed for years.  The manner in which IDNR handles mining laws denies citizens their rights to protect their community as established in federal mining laws.  The firewall established through administrative law is problematic due to the resulting absolute and unchecked power, especially of an agency captured by the very industry it regulates. The legality of administrative law has been questioned in a recent book by Attorney Philip Hamburger.  His book titled “Is Administrative Law Unlawful?” reveals the historical and legal background of administrative law that he considers to be unconstitutional, unlawful, and illegitimate.  He thought a more appropriate term for administrative law would be extralegal power.  Any citizen in Illinois that has tried to participate in an administrative review of a coal mining permit would concur and recognize the injustice that is absolute and insurmountable. As a concerned citizen, I have listened to different IDNR/OMM representatives defend their coal position with some rather alarming statements such as the following.  Water quality, health issues, and air quality are not their purview.  Lower property values due to coal contamination in your home are consider a tax benefit!!!  High hazard coal slurry impoundments no longer exist after covering with soil, thereby meeting the “removal mandate” of SMCRA, the federal mining law.  Underground coal slurry injection is better than an above ground impoundment and will not contaminate groundwater as happened in West Virginia. Such misinformation is double talk for a failure to provide a healthful environment as required by the Illinois Constitution. Neither underground coal slurry injection nor high hazard dam impoundments are environmentally safe, but the profit margin of the coal operator determines how coal slurry is created and handled. The 60-80 foot high rise dam impoundments with toxic viscous slurry remain as a threat forever in a community. The safest approach is to process coal using minimal water and mining chemicals.  A dry method or coal press could be used to process the coal that would minimize pollution by producing less or no slurry, but would lower coal profits.  Presently, West Virginia has a moratorium on coal slurry injection and a decline in permits approved for impoundments.   Illinois should recognize the damage in West Virginia from coal slurry injection and permanent impoundments and protect Illinois communities. Best management practices, as listed in coal mining permits, really means the lowest possible expense for the coal operator.  Will best mangement practices for fracking also be motivated by profits?  This attitude translates to producing excessive and unnecessary permanent damage to communities.  There are no severance or extractive fees for coal; yet, Illinois taxpayers are taxed to support future clean up for this “legalized pollution” and for subsidies to coal. The proposed fracking regulations in Illinois does have an extractive tax, but will it be sufficient to compensate for permanent damage to water and land? If Illinois fracking operations receive the same preferential treatment by the regulatory agencies as bestowed on coal, communities will continue to endure unnecessary taxes to cover the hidden costs of coal and now together with fracking will experience diminished health and quality of life. Citizens must stand up for their quality of life and sustainability of their communities.  The coal and fracking industries with the assistance of IDNR and IEPA will continue to damage our health and environment if we let them.  Remember, it is up to us to safeguard our environment. May your concerns be heard and echo through city, county, and state offices.