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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.

In an emerging public relations nightmare for Washington University officials, the sit-in against Peabody Energy ties entered a historic third week, as students continued to press demands after a faltering statement released yesterday by Chancellor Mark Wrighton.

Few people understand the historical impact of coal mining like acclaimed poet Barney Bush in Shawnee hills of southern Illinois. The French, in fact, stumbled on coal outcroppings near the Shawnee in Illinois in the 17th century, launching the first coal industry on the American continent. 

Entering its second week, the inspiring Washington University sit-in against Peabody Energy has already gone beyond its goals to cut school ties with the St. Louis-based coal giant, and forced the rest of the nation to ask themselves an urgent question in an age of climate change and reckless strip mining ruin: Which side are you on?

While coal mining families in West Virginia and across the country mourned the fourth anniversary of the tragic Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster last week, hailed by US Attorney R. Booth Goodwin II as "a conspiracy to violate mine safety and health laws," the Illinois state legislature rolled out the red carpet for Big Coal and voted to keep a notorious "coal education program" for schools that has been widely denounced by former coal miners and educators as inaccurate industry propaganda.

Washington D.C., Apr 1 - For the first time, members of Congress today called upon EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy to “investigate and address the water contamination” in Dimock, Pennsylvania; Parker County, Texas; and Pavillion, Wyoming. In all three communities, EPA has previously withdrawn investigations into water contamination and stopped providing affected residents with clean drinking water. Eight Representatives, led by Representative Matt Cartwright (PA-17), made the request in a letter to Administrator McCarthy.

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.

UPDATE: Rocky Branch Road Peaceful Blockage Stops Peabody 11:30 am CST

Facing off with the world's largest coal company, which literally sank its first historic mine nearby in 1895, Rocky Branch farmers, residents and supporters fighting to protect their Shawnee Hills community against a violation-ridden and potentially devastating strip mine set up a road blockade this morning.

With mounting violations and administrative errors, will Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan finally intervene in the most controversial strip mine in southern Illinois?

Are you feeling frustrated by the lack of action in Washington on the biggest problems facing the nation, such as economic inequality and climate change? Are you tired of watching a moderate Democratic president stuck in stalemate with Republicans in Congress?

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