Southern Illinois Says No to Peabody Coal at Historic Hearing
Outnumbering Peabody Energy supporters more than four to one among those willing to make public comments, outraged residents, farmers and former miners expertly broke down the inconsistencies and errors in the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency's (IEPA) tentative determination to issue a water quality permit at a packed strip mine hearing on Tuesday in the heart of Illinois' coal country.
It was a historic evening in Harrisburg, Illinois—only a few miles from where Peabody Coal sank its first coal mine in 1895—and for first time in decades, southern Illinois residents brought the spotlight to issues of civil rights and the state's spiraling crisis from a poorly regulated coal mining rush.
After tolerating the reckless fallout of nearby blasting, toxic coal dust and threatened waterways of the adjoining Cottage Grove strip mine—which has left only a cemetery in the ruins of a once thriving rural community—residents and their supporters drew the line in the sand for Peabody's request to expand its strip mine and effectively wipe out the close-knit farm community of Rocky Branch.
"They are ringing the bell for the death of Rocky Branch," said Rita Karns, whose family has farmed and lived in the famed Shawnee Forest area for generations, "and we've got to stop it."
"We the people of Rocky Branch," declared resident Jennifer Dumberis, "we will decide what happens to us and our civil rights--not Peabody."
Among the long line of residents speaking out against the strip mine expansion, compared to a handful of Peabody employees, Karns held up a jar of discolored tap water already affected by mine discharges, which would effectively expand into area drinking water sources and tributaries leading to the Saline River under the present permit plan.
Ranging more than 1,000 acres, the mine would destroy more than 35,000 feet of natural streams, and discharge waste into area waterways.
But on the heels of a disappointing Department of Natural Resources (DNR) hearing in December, where residents say Illinois agency officials refused to accept documentation and photographs of blasting and pollution violations, Tuesday's hearing revealed unanswered questions and troubling errors in the EPA permitting process, including incorrectly labeled streams. Only one of the the five-member IEPA panel admitted to having visited the nearby strip mine location.
And IEPA official Dean Studer repeated an earlier comment on the record that his agency had never rejected such a permit for a coal company in recent memory.
Last month, due to the Department of Natural Resources inaction, federal official were called in to make sure state officials halted illegal logging by Peabody in the proposed mining area.
At the Illinois DNR hearing in December, residents also questioned whether Peabody had already built a haulage road exit onto Rocky Branch, without proper Illinois Department of Transportation permits.
"These hearings seem to be a farce," said Judy Keller, who sits on the Cottage Grove town council. "When there are this many questions, without any answers, it makes you wonder what's going on behind closed doors. We call on Governor Quinn and Attorney General Madigan to come to Saline County for themselves, to see the price we are paying for this mine."
Given the mounting administrative inconsistencies, residents now wonder if the time has come for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and her investigators to intervene in the Saline County strip mine, just as she did three years ago for the failed Banner strip mine proposal in Fulton County.
“The facts indicate that a strip mine at this location will be harmful to the local environment and the people that live nearby,” Madigan said in a statement in 2009 on the Banner mine proposal. “I am asking the court to hear the many voices from the Banner area who have expressed their concern and to reevaluate the facts regarding this permit.”
Will Madigan bring a similar justice to Rocky Branch?
Besieged residents reminded Peabody officials that their "good neighbor" policy was lacking, and challenged the company's claims of reclamation yields on their land, water quality plans, as well as the mine's economic impact. A study released last year actually found that the state's antiquated tax policies, subsidies and maintenance racked up a $20 million annual deficit to support the coal industry.
Peabody, in fact, laid off 400 coal miners at the nearby Willow Lake mine in the fall of 2012, after the death of a coal miner and an MSHA ruling on safety problems. Last year, retired coal miners descended on Peabody headquarters in St. Louis to protest the loss of health benefits from a bankruptcy scheme.
That same sense of outrage dominated the hearing in Harrisburg on Tuesday.
Rocky Branch resident Rhonda Dillard distributed photos of 2011 flooding in the area designated for mining, and questioned feasible emergency road arrangements.
"The IEPA no longer has the luxury of pleading ignorance," third-generation miner and Shawnee Forest resident Sam Stearns said.
Recalling past damages by strip mining, Steve Karns challenged the discharge allowances, and asked—without any answer—if the state or Peabody had prepared any emergency contingency in "case of acts similar to what happened in West Virginia."
In an area historically rich in indigenous artifacts, dating back to nearby prehistoric mounds and settlements, Shawnee Vinyard Indian Settlement spokesperson Barney Bush questioned why the state was allowing mining in probable Native village sites. It was unclear if Peabody had properly carried out an archaeological survey,
"Before we totally destroy the whole thing," said Rocky Branch farmer Allan Porter, calling on the state and federal officials to recognizing the community's civil rights, "if we don't consider the human side of this, we're going to miss the whole thing. The greatest environment we need to protect is human life. Let's consider there's more to it than water down a stream."
Visit EcoWatch’s COAL page for more related news on this topic.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A study from a hospital in Milan, Italy has uncovered another complication to the process of recovering from the new coronavirus. More than half of patients surveyed one month after their treatment had developed a psychiatric disorder.
- Anxiety Medication Prescriptions up 34% Since Coronavirus ... ›
- 75,000 American Deaths Predicted From Overdose and Suicide ... ›
- Should 'Eco-Anxiety' Be Classified as a Mental Illness? - EcoWatch ›
Coronavirus Shines Light on Zoos as Danger Zones for Deadly Disease Transmission Between Humans and Animals
By Marilyn Kroplick
The term "zoonotic disease" wasn't a hot topic of conversation before the novel coronavirus started spreading across the globe and upending lives. Now, people are discovering how devastating viruses that transfer from animals to humans can be. But the threat can go both ways — animals can also get sick from humans. There is no better time to reconsider the repercussions of keeping animals captive at zoos, for the sake of everyone's health.
- Can Your Pets Get and Transmit Coronavirus? - EcoWatch ›
- Jane Goodall: COVID-19 Is Result of Our Unhealthy Relationship ... ›
- North Carolina Pug Tests Positive for Coronavirus, Could Be First ... ›
<div id="14b13" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3dabcc399c214226e768937f555a5ebc"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1289943962405318657" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Tropical Storm #Isaias no longer expected to restrengthen into a hurricane. 🌀 The vertical wind shear shredder has… https://t.co/kqBsJOS3Tj</div> — Ryan Maue (@Ryan Maue)<a href="https://twitter.com/RyanMaue/statuses/1289943962405318657">1596381581.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="dea35" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="132c2812ba753aaaf415ad33fb7ff2c0"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1290213982947737600" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Here are the 5 am EDT Monday, August 3 Key Messages for Tropical Storm #Isaias. For the full advisory on #Isaias, v… https://t.co/5MbSBJmEhI</div> — National Hurricane Center (@National Hurricane Center)<a href="https://twitter.com/NHC_Atlantic/statuses/1290213982947737600">1596445959.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="80487" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dcd38a3bef604d3ff7ef47552482cbe4"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1290216672976986113" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">There is a moderate risk of flash flooding across portions of the eastern Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic states from… https://t.co/C5Ys46ZetX</div> — National Hurricane Center (@National Hurricane Center)<a href="https://twitter.com/NHC_Atlantic/statuses/1290216672976986113">1596446600.0</a></blockquote></div>
- Atlantic Faces Fifth 'Above-Normal' Hurricane Season in a Row ... ›
- Isaias Menaces Bahamas and Florida as 2020 Season's Second ... ›
- Mass-Market Electric Pickup Trucks and SUVs Are on the Way ... ›
- SUVs and Trucks Nullify Car Efficiency Gains - EcoWatch ›
By Kate Whiting
Bernice Dapaah calls bamboo "a miracle plant," because it grows so fast and absorbs carbon. But it can also work wonders for children's education and women's employment – as she's discovered.
These are the world's most bicycle-friendly cities. Statista<p>"The reason we use bamboo to manufacture bicycles is because it's found abundantly in Ghana and this is not a material we're going to import," says Dapaah, one of the World Economic Forum's Young Global Leaders.</p><p>"It's a new innovation. There were no existing bamboo bike builders in our country, so we were the first people trying to see how best we could utilize the abundant bamboo in Ghana."</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a335b5dffdd806bd6bb4debea90c2045"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dxsb9c4HMn0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Supporting Students<p>Besides encouraging Ghanaians to swap vehicles for affordable bikes, Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative is helping students save time on walking to school so they have more time to learn.</p><p>Each time they sell a bike, they donate a bike to a schoolchild in a rural community, who might otherwise have to walk for hours to get to school.</p><p>Dapaah knows how transformative a shorter journey to school can be to academic performance. She grew up living with her <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sb3joGYmx9A&feature=emb_logo" target="_blank">grandpa, a forester in a rural part of the country</a>.</p><p>"We had to walk three and a half hours every day before I could go to school. He later bought me a bike, so I finished senior high and wanted to go to university."</p><p>The experience inspired her to launch Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative with two other students at college.</p><p>"When we started this initiative, I looked back and said, when I was young, I had to walk miles before I could get to school, and sometimes if I was late, I was punished.</p><p>"Why don't we donate bikes for students to encourage them to study and so they can have enough time to be on books."</p><p>To date, they have sold more than 3,000 road, mountain and children's bikes – and Dapaah says they plan to donate <a href="https://www.entrepreneur.com/video/350343" target="_blank">10,000 bikes to schoolchildren over five years</a>.</p>
Empowering Women<p>The enterprise is also providing local jobs. It teaches young people to build bikes, particularly women and those in rural communities, where jobs can be scarce. More than 50% of people they have trained are women.</p><p>Dapaah says they want to boost the number of people they employ to 250 over the next five years and they are looking to partner with NGOs to build a childcare facility so mothers can continue to work.</p>
Reducing Emissions<p>By promoting a cycling culture in Ghana, Dapaah says they're also committed to reducing emissions in the transport sector and contributing to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.</p><p>"I love the idea of reusing bamboo to promote sustainable cycling. People want to go green, low-carbon, lean-energy efficient," she says.</p>
- 7 Non-Toxic Yoga Mats - EcoWatch ›
- Floating Bicyclist Sweeps Plastic From London Waterways - EcoWatch ›
Deforestation coupled with the rampant destruction of natural resources will soon have devastating effects on the future of society as we know it, according to two theoretical physicists who study complex systems and have concluded that greed has put us on a path to irreversible collapse within the next two to four decades, as VICE reported.
- Human Activity Is Making Forests Shorter and Younger, Study Finds ... ›
- Fighting Poverty Can Also Fight Deforestation, New Study Finds ... ›
- Coronavirus Pandemic Linked to Destruction of Wildlife and World's ... ›
- To Stop Amazon Deforestation, Brazilian Groups Take Bolsonaro to ... ›
By Kristen Pope
Melting and crumbling glaciers are largely responsible for rising sea levels, so learning more about how glaciers shrink is vital to those who hope to save coastal cities and preserve wildlife.