Public Comment Hearing

What:  The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is holding a public comment hearing on the five year renewal for the Deer Run Mine permit #399, which includes the coal processing plant.

Where: Montgomery County Historic Courthouse, No. 1 Courthouse Square, Hillsboro, IL
second floor county board room.

When:  February 19, 2014, 6 PM


CALM Gets a Great Response at the Hillsboro Old Settler’s Celebration

CALM Old Settlers Cathy Aug 2013 009The outside temperature went up to 90 degrees, but CALM volunteers had free iced-cool water for the public, a fan-cooled tent, and some pretty cool displays at the downtown Hillsboro Old Settler’s street fair and celebration, August 21st and 22nd.

Thanks to a Heartland Coalfield Alliance Grant, new brochures were available for handouts. Information included health concerns from coal and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) phone numbers to call to report air issues. To alert the public before the Old Settler’s event, CALM also had a day-glow lime green information page insert in the Hillsboro newspaper with coal dust air quality concerns and a form to file an environmental quality complaint to the state. The Heartland Coalfield Alliance grant provided funding for these special efforts.
CALM Old Settlers display Aug 2013 013At Old Settler’s, a three-panel display board showed longwall mining impacts on flat farm ground. There was information on homes destroyed and historic farm families uprooted because of longwall mining. Issues regarding harmful health affects of coal were also listed. Aerial photos of the Refuse Disposal Impoundment #1 at the Deer Run Mine and large-format maps and information about the second Refuse Disposal Impoundment currently under consideration were also on display. Several photos showed the proximity of the mine processing plant to the Hillsboro Hospital and downtown. Other photos showed the coal slurry refuse impoundment areas and pointed out nearby neighborhoods in Schram City. The coal slurry impoundments are all High Hazard Dams, meaning that loss of life and or property are possible if a breach occurred.
CALM Old Settlers Cathy and Map Aug 2013 011
Signs with “Water Is Life ! CALM Loves Clean Water, Too !” and other posters were around the tent. CALM had a Petition to the Mayor of Hillsboro to request an air monitor at the Hillsboro Hospital and one at the near-by nursing home, which gained a lot of interest and a very good response. Plans will be made in the next weeks to present the petition to the Mayor.

CALM Old Settlers Aug 22 2013 010

Special Thanks go to lead CALM volunteer in organizing the event, Mary Ellen DeClue. Her energy and enthusiasm kept everyone going. Many volunteers made this effort possible, with providing tables, chairs, and other support. In spite of the 10 p.m. finish on a very hot August 22nd, seven dedicated sets of volunteer hands made quick work of packing things up. Several CALM members stopped by the booth during the days to provide fans and support. Chocolate chip cookies were provided by Chair Cathy Edmiston, who helped staff the display and handed out water bottles. Cathy and volunteers handed out  cold water to over 200 people.

Attorney General Filed Complaint Against Office of Mines and Minerals

The Attorney General has filed a complaint against Illinois Department of Natural Resources/Office of Mines and Minerals in Circuit Court at the Sangamon County Court House.  The complaint of the AG involves several aspects of how IDNR/OMM handled the Administrative Review of Permit #355 for the Banner Mine, a proposed strip mine in Fulton County.

The issues in the Banner Mine suit are similar to how other mining permits, like the Deer Run Permit #399 are treated by OMM.  The AG is bringing forth as a matter of public concern for OMM to acknowledge Illinois law and Supreme Court precedent.  The AG is contesting before the court the following practices, procedures and applications of OMM as documented in the Administrative Review of Banner Mine:

1.    The AG considers OMM’s statutory interpretations, rules, and practices to be at odds with the plain meaning and applicability of the Mining Act and other State laws.  In the Mining Act, it is expressed that OMM must “strike a balance between protection of the environment and agricultural productivity, and the Nation’s need for coal as a source of energy.”

2.    The AG contends that OMM denies due process when it fails to afford the public participation rights granted by the Mining Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and Supreme Court precedent.  The Banner Mine Administrative Review was delayed over a year instead of being held within 30 days as directed by the Mining Act. The petitioners against Permit #399 have also been denied for almost 4 years due process since the administrative review has never been scheduled.

3.    OMM has interpreted its administrative rules to curtail and constrain the ability of 3rd parties such as private citizens and environmental organizations to question why any given mining permit has been issued.

4.     The AG considers a mining permit to be a license and a permit application review proceeding to be a contested case.  OMM refused to abide by contested case requirements and the review proceedings were mishandled in the Banner Mine proceedings.

5.    OMM refuses to recognize AG’s authority to seek reversal of coal permit decisions when designated as inappropriately approved as in the case of Banner Mine

6.    The AG anticipates that OMM will continue to delay the timely commencement of the permit review hearing based on a prior pattern that is unacceptable. A circuit court ruling would require OMM to comply with its legislative authorization.

7.    OMM cannot delegate any authority for final action on a mining permit to the Hearing Officer.  This action of insisting on adjudication by the Hearing Officer has delayed administrative reviews for several years.  A 30 day time period for the administrative review is not followed partly due to the emphasis on the Hearing Officer’s role.

8.    OMM participates as an adversarial party to the public by dismissing petitioners for questionably valid reasons.  Petitioners of Permit #399 and their lawyer have been threatened by OMM with potential sanctioning.  The same obstructive behavior exists for an administrative review of Significant Revision #1 of Permit #399.

The irony of the AG’s complaint is that IDNR/OMM is being defended by the same West Virginia law firm, Bailey and Glasser, who has battled against CALM petitioners.  Hillsboro Energy, LLC is an intervener for IDNR/OMM in Permit #399 and Significant Revision #1 of Permit #399.  The petitioners against Deer Run Mine have one lawyer who must face 4-5 lawyers representing IDNR/OMM and Hillsboro Energy, LLC.  Concerned citizens are definitely discriminated against in the handling of mining permit reviews.

According to the Mining Act, OMM should assure that “plans for all mining operations are available for the prior consideration of the public” in order to “prevent erosion, stream pollution, water, air, and land pollution and other injurious effects to persons, property, wildlife and natural resources,” and protect “the health, safety and general welfare of the people, the natural beauty and aesthetic values, and enhancement of the environment in the affected areas of the State,” while providing for “the enhancement of wildlife and aquatic resources.”

The petitioners against mining permit # 399 have been ignored and their rights denied.   This long discouraging battle has a tragic outcome.  There is not only one high hazard coal slurry impoundment in Hillsboro, but soon to be another almost twice the size closer to residents and built over mine voids.  The citizens endure the dust, contaminated and lost water, subsided farmland, lower property values, and the most significant tragedy is the resulting adverse health consequences. The coal will most likely be exported, but the pollution and impoundments remain.

Does Coal Entitlement Benefit Illinois?

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 from coal?

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.

More Damage at 15th and 9th