Newsflash:
Campaigns Stop Global Warming Illinois Residents File Intent to Sue for Federal Takeover of Rogue Coal Mining Agencies
Tuesday, 25 March 2014 15:41

Illinois Residents File Intent to Sue for Federal Takeover of Rogue Coal Mining Agencies

Written by  Jeff Biggers | Huffington Post

What happens when government regulators fail to uphold coal mining laws, in a state of constant violations?

No one knows better than residents in Illinois: Today marks the March 25th anniversary of the tragic Centralia, Illinois coal disaster, when government inaction on a violation-ridden coal mine led to an explosion that needlessly took the lives of 111 miners.

Nor does anyone know better than residents in Clinton County, Illinois, where toxic coal slurry from a nearby mine contaminated the watersheds of unwitting farmers more than a decade ago.

Now, with state mining regulatory agencies mired in scandal, violations and public outcry, and on the heels of the West Virginia and North Carolina coal ash and slurry disasters, Illinois residents embroiled in one of the nation's most notorious coal slurry cases are appealing for the federal government to revoke approval of the state's rogue coal mining agencies and allow citizens to lawfully seek environmental compliance in the courts.

Citing a number of violations of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the Citizens Opposing Pollution filed a 60-day intent to sue notice on March 17th with the Department of the Interior, unless it takes over the state's abysmal enforcement program.

Writing to Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on behalf of the citizens groups, Illinois-based attorney Penni Livingstone noted:

The citizens of Illinois are without adequate means to fulfill the intent of the law and to bring about compliance through enforcement as intended by the law. IDNR, IEPA, the Illinois Attorney General, OMM, and coal mining companies have all turned a blind eye to known reclamation violations that impact our health, safety, and welfare and that breed a disrespect for the law and the government. The situation is so pitiful that our state actually subsidizes the violations! Forbidden site conditions that poison our drinking water and allow violators to save millions of dollars not complying with long-standing environmental requirements are not consistent with the purpose or meaning of the applicable law and such conditions constitute injustice to our citizens, our system, and our planet. The coal mining industry and the government agencies lack integrity in this respect.

 
 

Last December, after a similar petition by the West Virginia Citizen Action for Real Enforcement Campaign, the DOI's Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) agreed to investigate various SMCRA violations and regulatory failure by West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection.

Livingston added:

These illegal site conditions that Illinois citizens have no right to enforce under the Illinois law as interpreted by our Supreme Court include the presence of forbidden permanent impoundments of hazardous slurry materials that do not meet the standard of being called "clean water" and that are impounded with high hazard dams made up of acid producing waste known as gob, failure to restore the land to a condition capable of supporting uses which it was capable of supporting prior to mining, failure to return­ the land to the approximate original contours, failure to prevent contamination of ground or surface waters, and posing an actual or probable threat of water diminution or pollution including the poisoning of drinking water aquifers and the changing of the hydrologic balance of such water bodies.

 
 

Outraged by a similar type of political machinations in the Department of Mines and Minerals in 1946, four United Mine workers in Centralia wrote a letter calling on the Illinois governor to take action on clearly dangerous buildups of coal dust. The letter described the mine's situation, and made a desperate request for immediate intervention:

In fact, Governor Green, this is a plea to you, to please save our lives, to please make the Department of Mines and Minerals enforce the laws at No. 5 mine of the Centralia Coal Company at Centralia, Illinois, at which mine we are employed, before we have a dust explosion at this mine like just happened in Kentucky and West WV.

 
 

On March 25, 1947, an explosion ripped through the Centralia mine and killed 111 miners. Half of them died from carbon monoxide poisoning. Three of the four men who had written the governor also died in the explosion.

The coal slurry situation in Clinton County remains dire.

"Please revoke approval of the Illinois coal mining program in the next 60 days," the Illinois Citizens Against Pollution appeal concluded, "so we can bring suit in Federal Court to bring site conditions into compliance in the Albers Germantown community before a failure of the Exxon high hazard dam (made of toxic waste) occurs. A breach of the 60 foot tall dam walls (that have required repairs in the past), could release the gob walls and the 422 acres of hazardous slurry onto the homes and farmland in the area. This illegally impounded slurry material at the Exxon facility is more hazardous than the material released in the highly publicized TVA breached dam. Exxon's waste is not just coal ash, allowed to be used for reclamation instead of clay; its coal production waste. The dangers to life and homes is, however, quite similar. Think Buffalo Creek and help us."

Original article on Huffington Post (permission granted to publish by Jeff Biggers)

Read 5530 times Last modified on Tuesday, 25 March 2014 16:37

Join our Twitter Storm

If you have a Twitter account you can help stop Fast Track on the TPP. Sign-in to your Twitter account and copy and paste the Tweets from our Twitter storm. Or you can copy your favorite Tweet and then click on the map and Tweet your legislator.

Twitter Storm Tweets for Tuesday, January 28th @ 9pm Eastern

Tweets for the special State of the Union Twitter Storm will be posted on January 28th at 8pm EST. Check back for the new Tweets.

Find Your Member of Congress

Click here to quickly find your member of Congress by putting in your home address. This site also features a one-click link to the same information in Spanish

ButtonFindElectedOfficials

Then call and ask them to oppose Fast Track on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Sample script is below.

Script

“I'm a constituent, and I am strongly opposed to my representative giving away Congress’ constitutional authority to control our trade policy. We send people to Congress to stand up for us, not give away their power to stop more American job offshoring and protect us from dangerous imported food that doesn’t meet our safety standards. This latest so-called trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), would not only do that - but also ban Buy American and increase our medicine prices. That’s why it’s crucial that Congress not give away its authority to make sure every provision of TPP is in our interest before this massive deal can be signed. Good trade deals don’t need to be railroaded through Congress using Fast Track. I hope my representative will commit to opposing this outrageous legislation.”

Email Your Senators and Rep - Say No On Fast Track and TPP

Send an email directly to your Senators and Representatives courtesy of our partners at CWA. Enter your zip code and your members are automatically selected.

Button-EmailYourRep2

Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

Button-SandersPetition

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

Progressive Roundtable with Reps. Ellison and Pocan and Lori Wallach on TPP

TPP: The Biggest Threat to the Internet You've Probably Never Heard Of

Flush the TPP

Congress only has one more week in session this year, the week of December 9. So far our pressure to stop the TPP has been working. Visit Flush the TPP for calling scripts and links to Members of the Ways and Means Committee.

Flush the TPP