Peabody Defies Mine Appeal Process in Rocky Branch Controversy
Despite an appeal over the controversial Rocky Branch strip mine permit still pending with an Illinois Department of Natural Resources administrative judge, Peabody Energy defiantly closed down public roads and moved massive mining equipment in Saline County yesterday, in preparation to carry out its already violation-ridden and state-subsidized mine operation.
Rocky Branch, Illinois. Photo credit: Jeff Lucas / Gutting the Heartland
Calling out clear violations of the state's mine permitting process, civil rights and environmental justice policies, besieged farm residents facing toxic mine blasting and water contamination within yards of their homes and wells have appealed to Gov. Pat Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan to halt the state's flawed mine permit process.
"I feel the Attorney General has abandoned us by dragging her feet and letting Peabody destroy a community," Rocky Branch resident Jennifer Dumbris said. "She has the power to stop what is going on until investigations are through but seems to rather look the other way, while Peabody is conducting business as usual."
Last spring, thousands of Illinois residents appealed to Madigan to investigate the numerous inconsistencies and permit violations in the Rocky Branch mine process. Where does the AG stand now?
On behalf of civil rights and environmental justice in Rocky Branch?
Or with Peabody Energy CEO Greg Boyce, who declared in Australia last week that "coal always wins."
In truth, Peabody was named as a party subject to discovery in a recent law suit over the Prairie State coal-fired plant, “a scheme by Peabody," according to Illinois state residents, "to create a market for its high-sulfur, high-ash coal reserves in Southern Illinois.” A UK judge also ruled this week that Peabody's "clean coal" ad campaign is misleading.
Photo credit: Shawnee Hills and Hollers
If Gov. Quinn and Attorney General Madigan can step in and halt the proposed Banner strip mine, why can't they step in and halt the violation-ridden permits of the proposed Rocky Branch strip mine?
If Gov. Quinn and Attorney General Madigan can step in and halt petcoke coal dust, a "serious public health threat facing the residents," why can't they step in and halt the admitted unprotected health threat of toxic coal dust in Rocky Branch?
According to the IDNR permit for Rocky Branch, released earlier this spring, toxic coal dust from blasting, which will occur only a few hundred feet from resident homes, farms and wells, is not even considered:
If Quinn and Madigan can campaign to reduce carbon emissions from coal-fired plants, why can't they stop the unnecessary and CO2-exploding Peabody mine in Saline County from being loaded onto barges and shipped for dirty coal-fired plants overseas?
"Why is it that electric cigarettes are more important to make a decision on than the health and well being of a community of 70 and 80-year-olds that are law-abiding, tax-paying citizens," Dumbris added. "It is nothing but profit over people."
Yesterday, as equipment trundled across the state highway and down public roads in Saline County, Rocky Branch residents protested and held signs, "God Save Rocky Branch."
That it—until Gov. Quinn, Attorney General Madigan and the courts uphold regulatory laws and fair mining practices, as well as civil rights and environmental justice.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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