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Peabody Defies Mine Appeal Process in Rocky Branch Controversy

Energy

Update: Rocky Branch residents are reporting that decorated Vietnam War-veteran Glen Kellen, a Rocky Branch resident, has been arrested this morning, as he attempted to move his cross and protest sign closer to the public road.

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.

Peabody coal equipment on Rt. 13, Saline County, IL.

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."

Rocky Branch, Illinois. Photo credit: Shawnee Hills and Hollers

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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Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.

Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.

Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.

SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0​

"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.

It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.

Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.

In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.

The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).

"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.

The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.

"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.

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