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Friday, 16 May 2014 01:34

Death by a Thousand Cuts: Illinois Coal Tragedies Continue

Written by  Jeff Biggers | Huffington Post
Death by a Thousand Cuts: Illinois Coal Tragedies Continue Credit Peabody Energy

With the death toll still mounting at a coal mine in Turkey, another southern Illinois coal miner lost his life this week, along with two West Virginia miners. The state of Illinois, meanwhile -- called out at public hearings for a brewing coal ash catastrophe -- handed out a controversial National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for a Peabody Energy strip mine in southern Illinois, placing the community of Rocky Branch one step closer to destruction.

Bottom line: Death by a thousand cuts policy in Illinois coal country.

And all the more reason for the growing sense of urgency in southern Illinois for acoalfields regeneration plan to transition to clean energy jobs.

"The death of individual miners is indeed tragic and unnecessary," said Sam Stearns, a former coal miner in Saline County, and long-time Shawnee Forest activist. "Also unnecessary are the thousands of deaths each year which are attributable to burning coal, as well as the displacement of entire communities for the sake of a few short-term jobs. This will be a focus of the Heartwood Forest Council in Ozark, Illinois, on Memorial Day Weekend. We have a unique program of experts ready to discuss how to stop mining deaths and how to keep communities alive through a just transition to sustainable energy jobs."

Last year, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources was singled out in an audit for its lack of mine inspectors, as required by state law.

This week's miner's death was the second fatality in the last seven months at the Sugar Camp MC I mine in southern Illinois. The SNL news reported today:

According to MSHA's Pattern of Violations Monthly Monitoring Tool, the mine met two of the four elements under one set of criteria for pattern violator status. The mine recorded 171 significant and substantial violations in the most recent 12-month period, over three times the criteria threshold of 50, and reported an injury severity measure of 2,197.8 -- more than five times the criteria's five-year average of mines of similar type and classification.

The abuse of the miner always goes hand-in-hand with the abuse of the land, as folks in southern Illinois know too well.

Case in point: While Gov. Pat Quinn hailed the state's clean water initiatives, the Illinois EPA released its "Responsiveness Summary" yesterday, as part of the approval of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the Rocky Branch strip mine. The "Summary" includes standard bureaucratic replies to still unanswered community concerns about inevitable mining pollution and contamination of the Rocky Branch watershed and area waterways, as well as flooding and other unresolved problems.

Here are some typically cringe-worthy I-EPA replies: For question #16, on the cumulative impact of nearby mines, the I-EPA responded:

In the instance of the proposed mine, the nearest downstream water body that has been assessed by the Agency is Segment AT-05 of the Saline River. The existing water quality of this river contains the cumulative impacts of pollution from Will Scarlet mine and other NPDES dischargers in the upstream watershed.The pollutants typically associated with mining in Illinois (chloride, iron, manganese, and sulfate) have not been found to be contributing to impairment of this stream segment.

When asked in question #19, "why doesn't the Illinois EPA list the detriments of the proposed mining to the community in this section," the I-EPA essentially cut and paste from Peabody Energy public relations material:

This continue mining operation in Saline County would bring in tens of millions of dollars to the area by increasing the wealth of the region, generating additional value to manufacturing companies, generating additional revenue to wholesale trade companies, increasing the value of the health care sector, regional finance and insurance companies.


Health care sector? As in black lung disease, accidents and water contamination, perhaps.

In fact, the I-EPA admits at one point that it has failed to do any actual fact-finding research and relies primarily on Peabody data: For question #21:

21. Does IEPA fact check the analysis of the alternative treatment technologies listed here or are these answers just provided by Peabody mining?

The alternative treatment technologies summarized in the Antidegradation Assessment for this proposed permit were provided by Peabody. The onus of researching and assessing alternatives is on the Applicant, as this information is required in the permit application for any proposed increase in pollutant loading that necessitates a new, renewed, or modified NPDES permit. As required by 35 I ll. Adm. Code 302.105(c)(2)(C), the Agency uses all information, data, or reports from the Applicant as well as its own sources, and also relies on Agency experience with factually similar permitting scenarios. The Agency may "fact check" the alternatives information provided by the Applicant. In this case, this was not needed given the familiarity and working knowledge of Agency technical staff with projects of this nature.

One last nugget: Despite the fact that four out of the five members of the I-EPA public hearing committee publicly admitted in February, at the NPDES hearing in Harrisburg, that they had NOT bothered to visit the proposed mining area, the "Summary" blatantly contradicts their testimonies and states: "It is noted that a site reconnaissance visit was performed prior to the public hearing in order for the hearing panel members to become familiar with the local area, topography and relative location of proposed facilities and mining areas."

What's true, what's false? The confusion is part of the death by a thousand cuts policy.

Here are some more facts -- and cuts: According to the Illinois DNR website, "the Coal Mining Act stipulates that state mine inspectors must conduct inspections at least once a month at every coal mine in the state." However, a 2011 survey by the Prairie Rivers organization, assessing data from EPA's Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) based on reports ("discharge monitoring reports") submitted by the mine personnel, came to these conclusions:

Of the 72 coal mines operating with water pollution discharge/effluent (or NPDES) permits in Illinois, 

- Only 12 have had inspections conducted by the Illinois EPA in the last five years.

- Over 35 have self-reported non compliance with their permits.

- In the last three years, 34 of these facilities (47%) have been out of compliance with their permit for 2 quarters (6 months) or more.

- In the last three years, 21 of these facilities (29%) have been out of compliance with their permit for 4 quarters (12 months) or more.

- In the last three years, 9 of these facilities (13%)have been out of compliance with their permit for 8 quarters (24 months) or more.

- In the last three years, 4 of these facilities (6%) have been out of compliance with their permit for 12 quarters - that means out of compliance for every month of the last three years.

- In the last three years, 12 of these facilities (17%) have had > 10 effluent exceedances.

- In the last three years, 3 of these facilities (4%) have had > 50 effluent exceedances.

- 17 of the 35 mines (49%) not in compliance had more than half of their effluents exceedances greater than 50% of the permitted limit

(i.e. Permit limit for total suspended solids = 70 mg/L, effluent violation ≥ 105 mg/L)

- 15 of the 35 mines (43%) not in compliance had more than half of their effluent exceedances greater than 100% of the permitted limit

(i.e. Permit limit for total suspended solids = 70 mg/L, effluent violation ≥ 140 mg/L)

- 15 of the 35 mines (43%) not in compliance had instances of permit violations in exceedances of 1000% of their permitted limit

(i.e. Permit limit for total suspended solids = 70 mg/L, effluent violation ≥ 700 mg/L)

- 14 of the 35 mines (40%) not in compliance had instances of permit violations in exceedances of 19900% of their permitted limit

(i.e. Permit limit for total suspended solids = 70 mg/L, effluent violation ≥ 13,930 mg/L)

- 8 of the 35 mines (23%) not in compliance had instances of permit violations in exceedances of 29900% of their permitted limit

(i.e. Permit limit for total suspended solids = 70 mg/L, effluent violation ≥ 20,930 mg/L)

- 6 of the 35 mines (17%) not in compliance had instances of permit violations in exceedances of 39900% of their permitted limit

(i.e. Permit limit for total suspended solids = 70 mg/L, effluent violation ≥ 27,930 mg/L)

- 2 of the 35 mines not in compliance had instances of permit violations in exceedances of 59900% of their permitted limit

(i.e. Permit limit for total suspended solids = 70 mg/L, effluent violation ≥ 41,930 mg/L)

- Another 25 have been in violation with their permit for not reporting whether their pollution discharges were in compliance with their permits. So, the Agency and the public do not know how these sites are operating.

- Only 12 have both submitted their reports AND shown they were in compliance with their pollution limits.

- Informal enforcement actions have been issued at 12 of the mine sites. Example of this is a letter to the permittee called a "Notice of Violation".

- No formal enforcement actions have been undertaken at any of the sites.

- No penalties for noncompliance have been assessed.

- Nineteen of these mines discharge pollution into streams that are already considered "impaired" by the Illinois EPA. That means that the streams are not clean enough to support their designated uses of either drinking water, support for aquatic life, or recreation. Of these, IEPA has evaluated that 17 of the coal mine operations may be a potential contributor to the cause of impairment.

Original article on Huffington Post

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Trans Pacific Partnership Fast Track - Where Does Your Legislator Stand

Click your state to see your Senators and Representatives

Green = Most Legislators Oppose Fast Track, Yellow = Some Opposition, Orange = Oppose TPP, Gray = Unknown
DeLauro 13 - Signed 2013 DeLauro/Miller letter
Pocan - Signed Freshman Letter Opposing Fast Track
W/M - Signed Ways and Means Letter opposing TPP
Gibson - Signed Rep. Chris Gibson letter opposing TPP
SOPA - Oppose Stop Online Piracy Act - voted against
Currency - Oppose Currency Manipulation (Signed Michaud Letter)
Textile - Oppose changes to "First Yarn" (Signed Textile Industry Letter)

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    Written on Thursday, 24 October 2013 15:45 Read more...
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    Written on Monday, 21 October 2013 00:00 Read more...
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    Written on Thursday, 17 October 2013 20:25 Read more...
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  • A Corporate Coup in Disguise
    A Corporate Coup in Disguise

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership would create a virtually permanent corporate rule over the people. What if our national leaders told us that communities across America had to eliminate such local programs as Buy Local, Buy American, Buy Green, etc. to allow foreign corporations to have the right to make the sale on any products purchased with our tax dollars?

    Written on Thursday, 03 October 2013 03:17 Read more...
  • 'Flush the TPP!': Protesters Scale Trade Building in Protest of Secretive Deal
    'Flush the TPP!': Protesters Scale Trade Building in Protest of Secretive Deal

    Protesters scaled the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on Monday and dropped banners calling for greater transparency and an end to "corporatocracy" over the ongoing and secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement currently in the works between the United States and several Pacific nations.

    Written on Tuesday, 24 September 2013 03:31 Read more...
  • Secretive Free Trade Agreement Puts Climate, Public Health at Risk
    Secretive Free Trade Agreement Puts Climate, Public Health at Risk

    New warnings on TPP, free trade 'regime' fostering 'global emergency situation'

    As secretive talks over the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)—the pending free trade agreement slammed as "NAFTA on steroids" and "a quiet coup for the investor class"—continue, new warnings highlight the corporate winners and global losers at stake.

    Written on Monday, 16 September 2013 02:45 Read more...
  • Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership Fast Track
    Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership Fast Track

    President Obama has asked Congress to provide “Fast Track” authorization for consideration of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) a new “free trade” deal.

    The negotiations for this new “free trade” agreement have been conducted in secret. Members of Congress as well as the public have no factual information about the contents of this deal.

    Written on Sunday, 15 September 2013 17:36 Read more...
  • TPP Talking Points

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a proposed agreement between the U.S. and 12 nations that do business throughout the Pacific Rim. TPP and its European cousin the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (aka TAFTA), are "free trade" agreements that do much more than the term implies.

    Written on Monday, 02 September 2013 00:00 Read more...
  • Obama's secret trade deal threatens prescription drug prices on global scale
    Obama's secret trade deal threatens prescription drug prices on global scale

    The US pharmaceutical industry has been shaping elements of the Obama administration’s secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement to favor their own profits. But the deal could also could cause the price of prescription drugs and some medical devices to soar on a global scale.

    Written on Saturday, 27 July 2013 00:00 Read more...
  • Pocan Calls for Increased Transparency on Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement to Protect American Jobs
    Pocan Calls for Increased Transparency on Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement to Protect American Jobs

    Pocan urges Congress not to give up its constitutional authority to oversee foreign trade agreements

    Written on Friday, 14 June 2013 00:00 Read more...
  • Alan Grayson On Trans-Pacific Partnership: Obama Secrecy Hides 'Assault On Democratic Government'
    Alan Grayson On Trans-Pacific Partnership: Obama Secrecy Hides 'Assault On Democratic Government'

    Progressive Democrats in Congress are ramping up pressure on the Obama administration to release the text of Trans-Pacific Partnership, a secretive free trade agreement with 10 other nations, amid intensifying controversy over the administration's transparency record and its treatment of classified information.

    Written on Thursday, 13 June 2013 00:00 Read more...

Join "Countdown to Coverage" Share TPP with your Daily Newspaper

CWA devised a simple plan for which they were uniquely suited: drag TPP out of the shadows and into the light - one city at a time - using a medium they understand intimately: Daily Newspapers!

Two CWA members - Dave Felice in Denver, CO and Madelyn Elder in Portland, OR have started the ball rolling. We just need to keep up the momentum leading up to a big day of petition deliveries.

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Step 1 is to send an Op-Ed to your Daily Newspaper.

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

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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.

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Sign the ERA Petition

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On Friday, September 12th more than 150 activists will go to DC and Demand that their Senators and Representatives support removing the ratification deadline from the ERA (SJ Res 15 and HJ Res 113)

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

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Report on your TPP Contact

Please let us know your legislator's stance on Fast Track Authorization for the Trans Pacific Partnership as well as their stance on the TPP in General. Click here to report the response.

The Trans Pacific Partnership: Corporate Global Domination

Lori Wallach on the TPP from PDA Progressive Roundtable

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

Lori Wallach Leaked TPP Documents (Democracy NOW)

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

Lori Wallach on Thom Hartmann (Great Minds) - The TPP

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

TPP Downloads

The following documents are available from the Oppose TPP Downloads Folder

June 29th TPP Powerpoint

CWA TPP Jobs Report