Who’s Behind the Scenes?
Chris Cline, who made a fortune mining Appalachian coal, came to to Illinois in 2002, after realizing the supplies in Appalachia were dwindling. Cline has made his fortune from one of the dirtiest sources of energy that exist.
When the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required power plants to add scrubbers to cut emissions in 2005, therefore reviving the stagnant market for high-sulfur coal, the value of Illinois deposits quintupled over the the next five years. This helped Cline raise $1.2 billion to build the mines that he’s now parlaying into a fortune.
Cline says mining rights to his 4 billion of tons of Illinois coal are worth at least $3 billion. Others say they are worth much more. Among the mines he runs is the Shay 1 mine near Carlinsville, which started up in 2009 after it was closed down two years earlier by a previous owner, and the Deer Run longwall mine in Montgomery County, near Hillsboro,
The initial coal reserve for Deer Run will last through 2016, but more reserves are accessible and could be permitted at a later date to further extend the mine’s life. Longwall mining causes irreversible damage to the farmland, and turns prized level fields into rutted swamps. Productivity drops substantially in most longwall mined areas, forcing the removal of multi-generation farm families in the process.
Peabody Energy Corporation (previously Peabody Coal Company) has strip-mined the rolling Shawnee Hills for decades, leaving behind a strong imprint of destruction ranging from displacement of communities to polluting coal ash ponds. It is the largest private-sector coal company in the world.
The coal mining giant’s coal products fuel 10% of all U.S. electricity generation. Peabody coal make millions of dollars from coal in Saline County – a county that ranks 98 out 101 counties for the worst poverty, unemployment and health care indicators in Illinois.
Peabody operates the Gateway, Wildcat Hill Complex and Willow Lake Underground mines in southern Illinois, and it will spend $60 million related to their share of the Prairie State Energy Campus in 2010. The company continues to dump millions of tons of toxic coal ash into abandoned mines and watersheds in Illinois.
In a May, 2006 Article about the corporate influence and environmental policies of Peabody Energy, Sierra Club says Peabody:
- Has a long history of opposing efforts to mitigate the negative environmental effects of coal production and combustion.
- Was an active opponent of efforts to enact a strong Clean Air Act in 1970, of acid rain provisions in the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, and throughout the current efforts to significantly strengthen mercury provisions.
- Was among those who decided not to use the latest technology at the 1500 MW Prairie Energy plant, failing to take global warming pollution out of combustion gas.
In a recent report from the National Coal Council, headed by many major executives of Peabody Energy, they called for more than doubling U.S. coal consumption by 2025.
Satellite photo depicts the scars of
strip mining in Southern Illinois
Robert E. Murray is CEO of Murray Energy Corporation, a mining corporation based in Pepper Pike, Ohio, near Cleveland. He is one of the largest independent operators of coal mines in the United States.
Murray Energy Corporation produces approximately 30 million tons of bituminous coal each year, and employs approximately 3,000 people in the United States. In addition to the mining operations, Murray Energy owns and operates river, truck, and rail terminals on the Ohio River; a rail loadout facility in Central Utah; and a diesel and mining equipment rebuild facility in West Virginia He also owns the Galatia Mine Complex in Saline County, Illinois. This is the largest mining operation in the Midwest and one of the largest in the country.
According to Sourcewatch, the Galatia mining complex in Saline County, Illinois has incurred over 2,700 citations and $2.4 million in proposed fines since 2005. Celeste Monforton, who writes for the Pump Handle, a public health and environment blog, wrote about the claims Bob Murray made about violations at his Illinois Galatia Mine shortly after his Crandall Canyon Mine disaster, where nine men died. At that time, the Galatia Mine had 975 violations in 2006 alone, many serious enough to endanger the lives of miners:
- More than 190 violations for having an accumulation of combustible material (i.e., piles of coal and coal dust).
- Nearly 70 for electrical-system problems.
- More than 50 for inadequate roof or rib control (i.e., to prevent cave-ins).
- Nearly 50 violations for problems with the mine’s ventilation system.
- Nearly 40 for inadequate pre-shift, on-shift or weekly examinations of the underground mine.
- A few dozen for violating rules concerning the type of equipment allowed at the mining face (i.e., where methane gas is most prevalent).
- Ten citations for inadequate rockdusting (which is critically important for preventing coal dust explosions.
- 19 violations of regulations on escapeways and an evacuation plan.
At the time Ms. Monforton’s article was written, Bob Murray was contesting the majority of the alleged violations.