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Community Choice:  Investing in the Heartland

The first of a series of listening sessions with communities impacted by coal extraction throughout southern Illinois begins this week on December 17th at the Harrisburg District Library at 6pm to 7:30pm in the evening.  These sessions will begin with a presentation that states facts and supports the assertion that coal extraction is not sustainable for communities, nor affordable for our state and taxpayers. From that base of knowledge, the conversation will begin in an informed way towards answering. “What’s next for southern Illinois communities?” and “How do we get there?”

Southern Illinois has been economically dependent on the coal industry bearing a high cost to its community’s economic and socio-economic development. Recent news from the regions of Central Appalachia about the abandonment of the coal industry, leaving communities jobless, impoverished and underdeveloped, raises concerns for coal communities in southern Illinois.

“We have many times experienced similar coal “booms and busts”, said Georgia de la Garza, organizer for Rocky Branch, a Saline County community fighting Peabody Arclar Mining from strip mining their back yards. “As we are preparing for another coal boom, we know all too well, it only brings in salaries and not a long-term source for economic growth. Our coal leaves our state right along with its profits.”

Allan Porter, newly elected Saline County Board Member, said, “The thing I see right now, a lot of what’s happening with the mining industry is we are losing all the taxes. Our county is suffering high real estate taxes. Residents pay $6 to $14 per acre where coal companies pay $1 to a few per acre. We are losing our population and classroom size is down.” Porter continued, “As a farmer the productivity of the land will never be back the way it used to be before the mines got a hold of it.”

Pam and Lan Richart of Eco Justice Collaborative will be giving a 30 minute presentation on the significant social costs left to communities from the coal industry and long-term liabilities communities have from damages to prime farmland, local infrastructure, public health, land, water, and air.

“Over 88% of Illinois coal leaves the state, while residents are left with the costs of diminished health, polluted water, lost cropland and infrastructure repair.”, said Lan Richart of Eco Justice Collaborative, “Communities are beginning to realize that relying on the boom and bust cycle of coal is not a sound long-term economic plan, nor a healthy one.”

A Q&A will follow the presentation opening up for a discussion on what other coal mining communities are doing to build on their history and resources to create jobs and prosperity. A fact sheet will be available to take home and it is encouraged for communities to bring and share ideas for diversifying the economy in their town.

Click here for a printable flyer.
Questions?  Contact  Pam Richart, 773-556-3418 or Georgia de la Garza, 618-579-4343

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