IEPA NPDES Hearing Follow-Up

Take Action

The comment period for the NPDES draft permit is open until September 11.  You may mail or e-mail comments for inclusion in the public record until then.  It is very important to highlight any area of concern during this time.  If the public wishes to appeal the permit at a later time, it may only do so on the grounds of issues raised during this comment period.

Directions to file comments are in the public hearing notice.

Meeting Summary

Last Wednesday, 60-70 people showed up for the IEPA’s NPDES hearing for the proposed Bulldog Mine.  Most of the crowd was similar to that for the IDNR hearings last fall.  Notably, Sunrise Coal did not have a large group of miners present for the hearing, despite supposed offers of free rides and free dinner.  Perhaps this was related to recent layoffs at Sunrise’s other facilities.

Approximately 30 people made comments or asked questions of the IEPA staff members on hand.  Proponents of the mine mostly made vague statements about the economic benefits of the mine and all the supposed good deeds Sunrise Coal would perform in the community.  Except for one, these speakers all overlooked the recent layoffs.

Opponents of the mine, mostly representing Stand Up To Coal, Prairie Rivers NetworkSierra Club, Illinois Environmental Council, CALM, and other local environmental groups, asked pointed questions or made detailed comments about the draft permit.  Some of the topics raised included:

  • Legality of using existing field tile system for site discharge
  • Repercussions to local drainage of using existing field tiles
  • Deficiencies of biological study performed for permit
  • Lack of acknowledgement of, research into, or planning for the local limestone aquifer
  • Concern for Oakwood which gets its drinking water from the Salt Fork, downstream from the proposed mine
  • Concern for ability of local ditches and the Olive Branch to handle volume of water from the mine in case of major rain event

Media Links

 

 

 

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NPDES Permit Public Hearing Notice

The IEPA has announced the date for the NPDES permit public hearing for the proposed Bulldog Mine.

The hearing has been scheduled for Wednesday, August 12, 2015 at 5:30 in the Salt Fork Junior High School Building in Sidell.  This is the former Jamaica High School building where the second IDNR hearing was held.

In addition to the public hearing, the IEPA will accept written comments until September 11, 2015.

Just a reminder that for the NPDES permit, the IEPA has already created the draft permit, and the public hearing is a forum for comments on the permit.

Please consider printing out the hearing announcement below and posting nearby.

NPDES Hearing Permit

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Illinois EPA Permit Available for Review

On the feet of IDNR’s asking for 62 modifications to the Bulldog Mine permit application, Illinois EPA has announced that the NPDES permit for Sunrise Coal, LLC is available for public review.  The notice can be found here:http://www.epa.illinois.gov/Assets/iepa/public-notices/2015/sunrise-coal-llc/public-notice.pdf.

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits outline the type and amount of pollution that Sunrise Coal can discharge, where it will be discharged, and how often discharges will be monitored.

The three discharge points (“outfalls”) proposed will all drain into the unnamed tributary to the Olive Branch.

What’s next: the next 30 days (until April 27) provides an opportunity to review the permit, gather initial concerns, and prepare for the public hearing (likely a couple months out).

Throughout the public comment period (which will extend 10 days past the public hearing), we can submit information on water quality, the recreational values/uses of the waterway(s) receiving pollutant discharges, and other studies and surveys that would be relevant.

It is also worth recognizing how many water-related questions are still up in the air with the IDNR permit. For example, the modification letter included questions about the company’s legal right and ability to use existing tile drains as a primary discharge points, as well as concerns about poor documentation of springs and other water resources. –these are some concerns we might raise, as this is important information (that has not yet been submitted) that IEPA should be using in their consideration of the permit.

How is this different from the IDNR process: in this case, there will only be one hearing (where IDNR had an informal conference and a public hearing). It will be very similar in terms of the “panel” format, and resemble the IDNR’s public hearing in that way, but IEPA will have already done a thorough review of permit materials, and should be prepared to answer questions.

The other difference is that the IEPA will provide responses to written and oral comments in a “Responsiveness Summary” if the final permit is issued — this resembles a much more direct “Q & A”-type document, as compared to IDNR’s process.

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Permit Application #429 Modification Letter – 62 Questions

On March 20, 2015, IDNR sent a letter to Sunrise Coal, LLC to request modifications to their permit application for the proposed Bulldog Mine.

The News-Gazette published a copy of the letter today.  A copy of the letter is also available here on our website.

Sunrise Coal will now have one year to modify and resubmit the permit application.  If they fail to submit the modifications, the permit will be denied.

Once the IDNR receives the responses, they will review the submission, then either grant or deny the application.

The IDNR considered and incorporated a number of the concerns citizens raised throughout the public hearings.

The letter and other documents that have been added by the Department are available for online viewing and download here: https://dnr.state.il.us/mines/lrd/applications.htm.  Look for Permit #429 about half-way down the page.

As this process keeps dragging on, Sunrise Coal is facing domestic markets that continue to decline, weak exports, and continued projections for down markets. The Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis has said that “the industry is shrinking with little upside potential.” More striking, Goldman Sachs has said that “Just as a worker celebrating their 65th birthday can settle into a more sedate lifestyle while they look back on past achievements, we argue that thermal coal has reached its retirement age.”

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More Questions for Sunrise Coal

On Thursday, IDNR announced that it has neither approved nor denied the permit application for Sunrise Coal’s proposed Bulldog Mine.  Instead, they have sent a letter to Sunrise Coal requesting several modifications to the permit application.  Sunrise Coal will have one year to respond.

As we learn more about the specific modifications that have been requested, we will post them here.

In the Media:

News-Gazette

WCIA

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