Faith in Place is excited to announce that it is hiring a part-time congregational organizer to work in Hillsboro, IL. Check out the job description and please share widely! The Congregational Organizer will recruit and engage members of diverse religious congregations to implement strategies for educating and engaging individuals on saving energy and money. This will be done in the context of support to the congregations’ interests in caring for the environment.
The 5 year renewal of Permit 399 for Deer Run Mine is under consideration by Office of Mines and Minerals (OMM) in the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). For over 4 years, Citizens Against Longwall Mining (CALM) and Sierra Club petitioners never got to present their experts or present their full case against this permit. The petitioners against Permit 399 were dismissed on Halloween 2013 by a new IDNR Hearing Officer. It was fitting that the dismissal occurred during IDNR’s Halloween costume parade since the petitioners had already experienced several years of horror and disbelief on the Permit 399 challenge.
The reality of the 4-year battle to challenge Permit 399 with IDNR/OMM involved: an adversarial relationship, dismissal of petitioners on questionable basis, prolonged delays, and stonewalled and unfulfilled FOIA requests. The most threatening action of IDNR/OMM was its request to Hearing Officer (H. O.) Michael O’Hara to sanction the petitioners and our lawyer after a Summary Judgment filing was submitted in July, 2010. After this filing, eight motions were left unanswered by Mr. O’Hara and our case remained on a hiatus for over 2 years. A new IDNR Hearing Officer was assigned to the case and began issuing a response to motions in 2013.
In September 2013 the sanctioning threat motion to our first lawyer was answered and it acknowledged the entry filing made in February 2011 of David L. Wentworth II, the lawyer filing to represent the petitioners. The second IDNR Hearing Officer did not dismiss the sanctioning threat to the petitioners. Without answering other pending motions, the petitioners were dismissed with the stated reason that their attorney had not met a filing deadline. Subsequently, attorney Wentworth, acting for the petitioners, filed an appeal on the Halloween dismissal with IDNR and also filed a Complaint for Administrative Review with the Circuit Court of Sangamon County.
There have been 4 permit applications to OMM by the Deer Run Mine company Hillsboro Energy LLC (HEL): original 399 Permit, Significant Revision 1 of Permit 399 for impoundment 1, Permit 424 for the 2nd impoundment, and renewal of Permit 399. Citizens are greatly concerned about the power of OMM to make changes that it deems acceptable to coal mining permits as “Insignificant Revisions” which are not placed on public notice and have no comment opportunity. At Deer Run Mine, as of January 2014, there are 12 Insignificant Permit Revisions and 6 Insignificant Boundary Revisions for Permit 399.
Citizens feel that OMM delayed and impaired their public participation as established by state and federal mining laws. The administrative review process should have been handled in a timely manner, accepting of concerned citizens’ involvement, and open to freedom of information requests. It is the responsibility of IDNR to hire an appropriate hearing officer to conduct the Administrative Review, but there were delays and a 2 year hiatus of the first hearing officer.
Many issues and inadequacies of Permit 399 exist. These include additional safety and environmental threats resulting from coal production and Deer Run Mine expansion to a proposed 2nd high hazard dam coal slurry impoundment. OMM never addressed the inadequate cumulative hydrologic impact area and unlisted stream tributaries that HEL presented in the Permit 399 application. The drainage problem of subsided farmland and the permeation of coal dust in the atmosphere are still facing the community.
The potential for groundwater and surface water contamination, including Old Hillsboro Lake, is increased by ignoring hydrologic issues and location of impoundments. The likelihood of failure and leakage will only multiply over time, which is a permanent problem for the community since the impoundments plus coal slurry will remain in place covered with soil in perpetuity. Failure of the impoundments would inundate portions of Hillsboro, Schram City and surrounding area with millions of gallons of noxious coal slurry according to the maps presented by the coal company in their permit applications.
If justice were the issue; it did not occur. The opponents to 399 had no idea of the coming intimidating legal ramifications and the resulting economic and personal stresses that included “sanctioning” by the state. Sadly, intimidation by IDNR/OMM is employed as an effective approach in squelching individual objections to Deer Run Mine. The community, health of residents and the environment are still at risk; so once again IDNR/OMM’s “unique” application of state and federal mining laws enhanced coal profits on the backs of citizens.
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