Beginning in 2008, representatives from Sunrise Coal went quietly door-to-door to residents to buy up mineral rights beneath 23,000 acres of prime farmland in east-central Illinois. Since then, Stand Up to Coal, a committed group of residents and farmers, has been working to stop the proposed mine. They are concerned about impacts the mine will have on their family, farms, and community. These impacts include:
- Subsidence of farmland because of the digging underground. This could cause expensive damage to buried drainage tiles that make farming possible in this table-flat area.
- High volumes of water required to wash coal each day that could draw down valuable groundwater aquifers or the scenic Salt Fork River, which flows nearby.
- Potential contamination from toxic chemicals, such as arsenic, mercury, and selenium that can lead from above-ground, slurry impoundments that hold the waste from the washed coal.
- Air pollution from coal dust generated through mining and transpiration by trucks.
- Impacts to local roads that were not designed to carry the weight or number of heavy trucks.
- Falling land values—and a diminished property tax base—for residents whose schools, fire department and other services are funded largely by property taxes from the valuable nearby farmland.
Unfortunately, in April of 2019, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) granted the mine permit. But Stand Up to Coal filed a petition for an administrative review, which may be Stand Up to Coal's opportunity to provide a final challenge to Bulldog Mine. The Administrative Review is the last chance to challenge the mining permit, a process in which the permit is evaluated to see if it meets the letter of the law.
In the meantime, Sunrise Coal has filed a motion to dismiss Stand Up To Coal and many of the other petitioners who are challenging the mine permit. If approved, the dismissal would prevent Stand Up To Coal and other petitioners from participating in the Administrative Review of the IDNR mining permit.
You can join Stand Up to Coal at this hearing in Springfield, which takes place on April 2. There will be a press conference at 11:00 am, followed by the hearing at 1:30pm. Watch this FB page for details as they develop, or contact Pam directly.
Watch this terrific informational video by Stand Up to Coal and Prairie Rivers Network
Dim Outlook for Illinois Coal
While Sunrise Coal continues to push forward with its coal mine, markets show that demand for Illinois basin coal is expected to decrease. This recent report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis shared a dim outlook for coal production in the Illinois Basin, predicting the industry will be gone in just 20 years. This is because coal plants in states that import coal from the Illinois Basin are retiring; wind, solar, and natural gas are more cost-completive power generating sources of energy; and export markets from Illinois are shrinking due to competition and competition from alternative energy sources. Ironically, Sunrise Coal recently halted production and laid off 90 workers at their mine in Carlisle, Indiana in January because of “weak market conditions and an over-supply of domestic coal”,
Also, Illinois' proposed new energy legislation, the Clean Energy Jobs Act would phase out coal power by 2030, while substantially boosting clean energy in Illinois. Governor Pritzker is on board, and has called for action on clean energy this legislative session, putting climate first. Illinois cannot fight climate change and lead on clean energy if it continues to support dirty energy, and opening a new coal mine does just that.
What Can You Do?
You can support Stand Up to Coal by signing this petition to stop Bulldog Mine. But these residents and farmers also need your financial support, as they continue their legal battle to challenge the mine permit. These have been out-of-pocket expenses, and they would appreciate your help. You can donate here, via PayPal, accessible from their website.
You also can join us, and attend the press conference and the hearing in April. Unfortunately, there will not be an opportunity for public comment. Watch this page for details on time and location for the press conference in hearing.