The time has come for a coal severance tax in Illinois

A recent study points out how the state of Illinois is spending more to promote the coal industry than the corporations are paying in taxes to the state. It points up the real need for a coal severance tax on these companies that are selling Illinois coal out of state for huge profits.

Also, citizens are in effect subsidizing these corporations, as much of the damage left behind by these operations is repaired with our tax money also.

“Downstream Strategies” came out in June 2013 on “The Impact of Coal on the Illinois State Budget, FY2011.” Rory McIlmoil (MA, project manager), Meghan Betcher (MS, environmental science) and Amanda Kass (MS, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, Chicago) did the study.

Our legislators need to review the true needs and priorities of Illinois, especially with our current budget problems. We cannot afford to supplement industries with grants when they are not providing the numbers of jobs originally promised, while being allowed to ship coal out of state and even out of the country without paying their fair share of taxes to the state of Illinois. Other states charge severance taxes. Why doesn’t Illinois?

Then there are the problems of permanent damage to farms and roads, as well as air pollution and water contamination. A severance tax could provide funds for repairing the damage left behind. These corporations also could be required in their original operating permits to set up funds for this purpose.

The above referenced study showed that out of 17 companies operating coal mines in Illinois in 2010, only three were required to pay corporate income tax. The remaining 14 companies, classified as LLCs, do not pay tax. Only 34 percent of Illinois coal produced in 2010 was produced by companies with corporate income tax liability. The study showed that taxes on coal came to $1,400,860. Meanwhile, the state’s total expenses in promoting the industry also came to $1,400,860.

The authors recommended the following actions: one, a state severance tax on coal; two, a permanent trust fund to help remediate environmental damages due to mining; and three, a detailed analysis of the full costs and benefits of grant programs supporting coal-related projects, with a plan for more oversight.

Charles Goodall: A Man Who Stood Up to Coal (1944-2013)

20121207-221705-pic-350666101Illinois lost a loyal farmer, who spoke out against the loss of water, and pollution of farms caused by coal mines.  Charles Goodall, of Sidell, Vermilion County, a founder of Stand Up to Coal, passed away July 4 at age 68 in Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago of complications from multiple myeloma.  He is well known in environmental circles, as well as agricultural organizations.

Memorial services will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, July 28, 2013 at the Sidell Methodist Church, 202 Chicago St., Sidell, Illinois.

A fifth generation farmer, he grew up on the family farm outside Sidell with sisters, Carol, Marjory and twin, Catherine.  He was a graduate of the University of Illinois with a degree in agricultural economics.  He spent two years in Venezuela as a Peace Corps volunteer, and graduated from Washington University School of Law, St. Louis.  He greatly valued community, historical preservation, the natural world and conservation and spent time and effort on these causes.

Charles is survived by his wife, Nancy, daughters Catherine (Uwe) Goodall-Heising and Andrea (Milyon) Trulove, and granddaughter Norah, three sisters, Carol Wock, Marjory (Paul) Queen, and Catherine (Albert) Allen, and many relatives and friends.

He invited members of CALM to come to Vermilion County to serve on panels for Stand Up to Coal programs.  He also came to Montgomery and Macoupin Counties on a sponsored tour of mines in Carlinville and Hillsboro.  He will long be remembered as a leader with a strong sense of justice, who fought for the fair treatment of rural citizens in our democracy.

(Catherine Edmiston, President, Citizens Against Longwall Mining)

In Remembrance of Charles Goodall (1944-2013)

20130408-205955-pic-370176059To describe the entirety of a man’s life cannot be done with mere words, but Charles Goodall’s  life long focus in protecting our natural world, farmland, and communities from destruction is exemplary of his character.  Charles founded Stand Up to Coal to fight a proposed coal mine in Champaign and Vermilion Counties by Sunrise Coal LLC.  As a fifth-generation farmer, he valued the land and water resources and dedicated his efforts to preserve them.  As an avid outdoorsman, he appreciated clean air and the beauty of nature as essential elements in preserving the community’s quality of life.

Charles was influential in alerting his community about the reality of coal mining and why his fellow citizens should not believe the sales pitch of Sunrise Coal.  He realized the promise of jobs and profits to the community by the mine proponents was misleading while the detrimental effects to the environment were not discussed.  Perhaps the most misleading statements by mine proponents were that all state and federal mine laws would be applied and therefore these laws would protect the environment. Charles with other Stand Up to Coal members knew this contention was not realistic.

The leadership of Charles in the Stand Up to Coal organization along with his active board membership of Prairie Rivers Network and participation in Heartland Coalfield Alliance helped to bring about a collective change in attitudes and established an extensive group of mine opponents.  They did what they should have done to protect their community.  They united and stood up to coal and the myths that the coal industry promotes to get entrenched into their neighborhoods.

The coal industry’s influence permeated well beyond the placement of coal mining into communities.  Charles worked toward removal of the coal industry’s curriculum that was distributed by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to any teacher that requested the coal program.  He objected to the state promoting coal propaganda as valid information to Illinois youth.  He considered education to be about how to develop a clean energy future, not how to enhance fossil fuel profits.

He protected and fought for what was important to him and his family and inspired others to do likewise.  Charles led with his heart and mind to better his community, state and country.  His legacy is his actions.  We all have benefited.




Open Letter to Simmons Cancer Institute Regarding High Incidence of Cancer in Montgomery County

Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU
Dr. David Steward, Director of
Internal Medicine-Population Science
P.O. Box 19636
Springfield, IL 62794-9636

February 23, 2013

Dear Dr. Steward:

Montgomery County Cancer Association has established a fine tradition of raising funds to help cancer patients and finance cancer research.  Richard Small announced recently that MCCA donated $30,000 to Simmons Cancer Institute to study why there is such a high incidence of cancer in Montgomery County.  To help you with historical and current background information, I have listed some of the most harmful environmental influences on Montgomery County’s air, land, and water.

  1. Eagle-Picher Corporation in Hillsboro, IL was placed on the Superfund list in September, 2007 by the U. S. EPA.  In 1916, the Picher Lead Company of Missouri merged with Eagle White Lead to form Eagle-Picher Lead.  This merger made it the second largest producer of lead and zinc products in the world.  It declared bankruptcy protection in January 1991 and for the second time in April 2005.  The clean up of the contaminated area is in the preliminary stages and will be covered by federal funds.
  2. American Smelting and Refining Company (ASARCO) in Taylor Springs was added to the National Priorities List of Superfund hazardous waste sites on September 2006.  Sites on the NPL are eligible for added resources under the Superfund program.  The 181-acre site contained a zinc smelter and zinc oxide production facility.  The extensive pollution on the property dates back to 1911 and includes contaminated soil and two production waste slag piles containing lead, arsenic, cadmium, and other metals.  This site is in the watershed of the Middle Fork of Shoal Creek.
  3. Hillsboro, as well as many other sites in Illinois, is contaminated with coal tar residues left over from manufacturing gas from coal during World War II.  In 1995, the area north of the former ice plant adjacent to Illinois Power (now Ameren Power) was established as a hazardous site by the EPA due to coal tar contamination. Coal tar is known to contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that can cause cancer and other health problems.  Coal tar can leach toxic materials such as PAHs, benzene, benzo (a) pyrene, pyrenes, and toluenes into waterways.  Coal tar based pavement sealant was found to be the major source of PAHs found in 40 urban lakes studied by the U.S. Geological Survey.  The study titled, “Coal Tar Sealant Largest Source of PAHs in Lakes,” was released 12/1/2010.
  4. U. S. Minerals, LLC in Coffeen, IL receives coal combustion bottom ash from Ameren Energy Generating Company-Coffeen Station.  The bottom ash is stored on site until it is processed. This includes drying, crushing and screening in order to make products for roofing shingles, blasting abrasives, road base materials, and filler for seal coating, plastic, paint, and ceramic tile.  No additional ash has been shipped from Ameren since May 2002 although at one time the site contained eight acres of 45-feet deep stockpiled ash and eight more acres paved with ash.Residents living near U.S. Minerals petitioned the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) to determine if the contaminants in air and dust were a health risk for them.  McCrone Associates did a comparative study on the coal dust from U.S. Minerals to the dust from an outside table off site and to the dust found inside the house.  The conclusion was that the particle types matched for the outside dust and to a lesser degree the inside dust. The American Testing Company analyzed the dust for 10 metals and concluded the metal levels were consistent with levels available in Illinois soil.  There were no air emission data, stack testing, or organic analyses like PAHs performed.  Illinois Department of Public Health concluded that exposure to metals in ambient air near U.S. Minerals was indeterminate since no air sampling data exist.There was a news release in December 2010 from Region 5 of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration that cited U.S. Minerals LLC for 28 violations and a fine of $396,000.  The company has received serious citations in prior years and this time the citation was listed as willfully exposing its workers to dangerously high levels of hazardous dust, and not providing adequate breathing protection and training for workers at its facility in Coffeen.
  5. Coffeen Power Station is a coal-fired power plant owned and operated by Ameren Energy Resources located south of Hillsboro.  At the end of 2009, Ameren announced it had spent $1 billion for the installation of scrubbers at two of its facilities, Coffeen Power Station and Duck Creek Station.  Scrubbers reduce nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide emissions.  In 2006, there were 22,007 tons of sulfur dioxide and 11,680 tons of nitrogen oxides emitted by the Coffeen Power Plant.  Coffeen Lake that cools the plant operations has mercury contamination and fish consumption should be limited.  In 2005, 80 lb. of mercury was emitted at the plant.  Data provided by the contaminants emitted by coal-fired plants, the fine particle pollution of 2.5 microns is considered one of the most damaging to health.  In 2010, Abt Associates was commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force to quantify the deaths and other health effects resulting from fine particle emitted by coal-fired plants similar to Coffeen Power Plant.  Abt’s study reported that each year over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of reported cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia are contributable to U.S. coal plant emissions.  Fine particle contaminants are a mixture composed of soot, heavy metals, and oxides of sulfur and nitrogen.  PAHs are not monitored, although they are the most carcinogenic compounds found in coal. There is no ambient air monitoring station in Montgomery County to document the 2.5 micron particulate emission of Coffeen Power Plant.
  6. Deer Run Mine is located in Hillsboro just a short distance from a nursing home, day care, and Hillsboro Hospital that is so close to the hospital that the air filters are contaminated with coal dust.  This mine exposes the residents to toxic materials in coal products such as arsenic, mercury, selenium, chromium, beryllium, lead, and sulfur and nitrogen oxides.  PAHs are not monitored locally or nationally, but are present in coal dust, coal slurry, coal tar, and coal combustion waste.  The city leaders must not have realized the damage to health caused by coal or they would not have promoted the mine, knowing it was to be located in the city so close to residents.  In addition to coal dust, on occasions the processed coal spontaneously combusts.  Smoldering coal produces noxious fumes, smoke, and particulate matter.The community is also exposed to contaminated runoff from the mine site.  There was an exemption given to Deer Run so rain water and spray water at railroad loading docks and roads are not confined to the mine site.   Another source for polluted mine water in Hillsboro comes from Structure Five.  This body of water collects overflow from mine outfalls and then drains into Central Park Creek.  This flows through the area that has the high school on one side and the middle school on the other side and then proceeds through the community.Over time the 80 ft. high hazard coal slurry structure impoundment will leak toxic chemicals off the mine site resulting in surface and ground water contamination.  Failure of the impoundment can cause loss of life and considerable property damage. The impoundment will never be removed and 5-6 more will be constructed over the 20-30 year life of the mine.  This means that there is a permanent source of water contamination forever in Hillsboro.  The watershed of Hillsboro and Middle Fork of Shoal Creek will help to distribute the mine pollution farther downstream affecting other communities.

A summary of coal’s effect on health can be found at:

There is also an informative book titled, “The Silent Epidemic:  Coal and the Hidden Threat to Health by Alan H. Lockwood, MD.  I appreciate your efforts to help the residents in Hillsboro and Montgomery County to escape from the devastation of cancer.

cc: Chairman of the Montgomery County Board, Mayor of Hillsboro, Montgomery County Cancer Association, and the Director of Montgomery County Public Health.

Do We Have Enough Water for Communities and Coal?

The lack of rain and extreme temperatures has prompted cities of Hillsboro and Litchfield to encourage conservation and caution in water usage.  Hillsboro has even activated an existing city ordinance #1416 that regulates water usage to minimize evaporation and households’ watering distribution.  Offenders may be fined $50 to $500 for a water violation.

A definite warning sign came on July 3 when Glenn Shoals Lake, Hillsboro’s water supply, dropped 2 ½ feet below the normal level and that required Deer Run Mine to stop withdrawal of raw water on July 9, 2012.  (reported in The Hillsboro Journal-News, July 12, 2012)    The purchase agreement between the city and the mine stipulates that the mine must stop withdrawal of water when the lake level drops 2 ½ feet below normal. However, as reported in The Hillsboro Journal-News, August 2, 2012, Glenn Shoal Lake is 4 feet lower than pool level according to Roger Fath, the water superintendent.

Although Deer Run also has a purchase agreement with the city of Litchfield to withdraw raw water from Lake Lou Yaeger, the pipe installation has not yet been completed to transport the water over to Deer Run.  Litchfield’s contract will supply up to 2.5 million gallons per day from Lake Lou Yaeger to Deer Run during March through September provided that the water level does not drop more than 2 feet below the spillway.  Jim Cadwell, the Lake Lou Yaeger superintendent, reported on July 19, 2012 that the lake was dropping ½ inch per day and at that time was 13 inches lower than normal.  The level of water in Lake Lou Yaeger would obviously be much lower if water were removed for the mine.  With or without the drought, the problem for many lake homeowners on Lake Lou Yaeger is that there are several shallow areas and coves (5-inch depth in some areas) where residents cannot use their boats even though they have a contract for lake access.

Lake Lou Yaeger as well as Glenn Shoals has major siltation problems that are not addressed by either city. Both cities assured the residents before the mine was built that money from selling water to Deer Run Mine would be used to manage, maintain, and dredge the lake if needed.  Unfortunately, both cities placed the coal money in the general fund with no specific designation to be used for care of the lake. These two lakes are precious resources that must be cared for because no water translates into destroyed communities.

The real question is, “why community lake water is sold as an industrial commodity?” when it is so desperately needed by citizens.  Water contracts are made and fulfilled without consideration of present or future needs of the community.