Stand Up To Coal Salt Fork Float

On June 21st, 22 paddlers enjoyed a lazy afternoon floating on the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River, celebrating the beauty and natural history of this local, Midwestern stream,.  After the float, the group rendezvoused with nearly 20 additional people to enjoy a potluck at Homer Lake Forest Preserve.  This event was sponsored by Stand Up To Coal and Prairie Rivers Network in an effort to protect the Salt Fork from a proposed coal mine in Southwest Vermilion County by Sunrise Coal (a subsidiary of Hallador Energy).  Potential surface runoff from snow melt and rainwater compounded by proposed discharge waters through pipes from the processing facility could contaminate the Salt Fork river, impacting natural biological communities as well as recreational and drinking water supplies. 

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Sunrise Coal Faces More Hurdles to Open Mine

Here’s the text of a commentary that appeared in the News-Gazette on June 29.  It was written by Tyler Roche, a water policy specialist with Prairie Rivers Network.  The original article is here.

Stakeholders in Champaign and Vermilion County have worked to inform their neighbors about the impacts of Sunrise Coal’s proposed Bulldog coal mine. Now they are reaching out to update a more distant group: Sunrise Coal’s investors.

The proposed 23,000-acre underground mine would compromise the clean drinking water supplies of surrounding towns, take prime farmland out of production forever, and disrupt communities with health-threatening coal dust and the constant roar of coal trucks.

Residents concerned with the impact of the mine have seen Sunrise Coal’s proposal drive a wedge in the traditionally self-reliant communities across Vermilion and Champaign County. Since 2009, the company has been urging landowners and local governments to surrender the standards they have maintained for their land in order to make way for a mine that would break ground in 2014. But as it stands, the company has yet to even receive their permit to mine.

Local landowners have felt misinformed by Sunrise Coal — that the company has portrayed the mine as a “done deal,” when in fact, much remains to be accomplished. Residents suspect that the same miscommunication may be occurring between Sunrise Coal and investors in their parent company, Colorado-based Hallador Energy Co.

A letter supported by grassroots group Stand Up to Coal and Prairie Rivers Network provides investors with a list of the many tasks remaining before mining can effectively begin:

(1) Mineral Rights. Sunrise Coal has been working to collect mineral leases for years, yet huge swaths of land remain out of reach. Several local residents, who have been caretakers of their land for generations, are standing firm in denying access to the minerals beneath their family farms.

(2) Water. After losing a lengthy and contentious battle in Homer, Sunrise Coal turned to Georgetown to acquire up to 500,000 gallons of treated water per day to wash the coal onsite. The company not only needs to construct and maintain new infrastructure needed to pump the water to the mine site, they also need the easements to build the infrastructure. Sunrise Coal could search for existing rights-of-way, negotiate with dozens of individual landowners, or attempt the act of eminent domain. The last two options will pit Sunrise Coal in another battle against local residents.

(3) Shipping. Rail spurs remain to be built connecting the coal processing facilities to the regional distribution network. While some railroad easements have been negotiated, other landowners with large and necessary property holdings are protecting their assets and will continue to do so.

(4) Permits. Sunrise Coal has yet to be given two necessary permits: a mining permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and a water pollution discharge permit from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Sunrise Coal first submitted the application for a mining permit in 2012 — it was returned as “incomplete” with far more errors than a typical application. Some errors were complex and some as careless as “inadvertently” marking “no” instead of “yes” on a question of whether operations will be conducted within 100 feet of the right-of-way line of a public road … of which there are three. (See number 39 in completeness review: http://prairierivers.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Bulldog-Mine-Permit-resubmit_Oct2013.pdf). An application for the water pollution discharge permit has not yet been submitted and may take as long as 18 months to process.

The proposal for a coal mine has proven to be a lengthy process that has done more to divide the community than improve it. It seems common sense that investors and our local decision-makers could find a better project to support. One with local benefits, local jobs, and without a boom-and-bust cycle that leaves our community with collateral damage.

For more information on the investor letter and the proposed mine, visit prairierivers.org/bulldog-mine-investors/ and standuptocoal.org.

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Salt Fork River Paddle and Potluck

WHAT: Saturday, June 21st, please join us at Homer Lake for an afternoon together as we spend time celebrating Illinois River Appreciation month by paddling down the Salt Fork River followed by a potluck. Weather permitting, this is a wonderful opportunity to be on the river and if you have never canoed or kayaked, a great chance to learn! If the river is high we will enjoy some time paddling around Homer Lake.  And remember, the Playscape is available for those young and young at heart and there are many trails for those who enjoy to hike. Later we will gather for a potluck meal and take time to update everyone on the proposed Bulldog Mine. Come for part of the day or just for the meal and updates, but either way, hope you can join us!

WHERE: The Homer Lake Forest Preserve Walnut Hill open air pavilion (at the spillway) is rented from 3:00 to dark, so come out, set up your chairs, and enjoy being outside at this lovely forest preserve.

WHEN: Saturday, June 21st!

Paddlers: By 12:30, meet at the Collins Pond bridge (the SW corner of Homer Lake accessed by driving on 2500E to the river), unload any gear you have at the bridge, and park in the Collins Pond parking area. Our goal is to have everyone on the river by ~1:00. Carrie Otto and Sue Smith are coordinating this float so let either of us know if you plan to attend and indicate if you are bringing your own gear, extras to share, or need equipment for the paddle.

Potluck: We are aiming for 5:30PM to enjoy a potluck together at the Walnut Hill pavilion. There are a few outlets for anyone who brings a warm dish. Hamburgers, hot dogs and brats will be provided, but please bring something to share. Lemonade and iced tea will be provided but feel free to bring other drinks. If you have reusable dishes and tableware that is great, but we will have some paper plates, napkins, and tableware on hand for those in need.

Hope to see you Saturday!

Questions?

Contact Sue Smith at 217-621-7528

Carrie Otto, Prairie Rivers Network, at cotto@prairierivers.org / 217-344-2371 x 208.

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Appalachian Voices event – Thurs May 29, 7pm

Mark your calendar for a neat event coming up!

“Breaking Clean” Tour by Appalachian Voices
Thursday, May 29th
7:00 pm
Urbana Library (210 W. Green St)
Free, Light refreshments provided

Nick & Rusti Mullins, along with their 2 kids, are under-taking a cross country tour called “Breaking Clean” as part of Appalachian Voices.Their presentation takes audiences on a journey from their families’ long history in the heart of Appalachia, to the tradition of underground coal mining and labor unions, up to the present-day destruction of America’s oldest mountains and privation of communities.

Come learn more about the destructiveness of mountaintop removal mining and hear updates from Stand Up to Coal on the proposed Bulldog Mine.

Hope to see you there!

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True Cost of Coal Exhibit

Hi everyone,

Wanted to invite you to a great event coming up in both Urbana & Peoria, IL!

The Beehive Collective will be kicking off their spring cross-country tour with a stop in Urbana showcasing their “True Cost of Coal” exhibit & stopping back in Illinois in Peoria a few weeks later. Their innovative and detailed graphic is a visual exploration of the life cycle of coal as an energy source. Artists will give a short lecture on the piece, and tie artwork to local energy issues in Central Illinois.

Sunday, Feb. 16th, 4:00 p.m.
Urbana Civic Center
108 E. Water St. Urbana
Hosted by: Heartland Coalfield Alliance, Prairie Rivers Network, Sierra Club Prairie Group, Stand Up to Coal
Facebook event

Friday, Feb. 28th, 7:00 p.m.
The Sunbeam Building
935 N. Sheridan, Peoria
Hosted by: Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues, Central Illinois Healthy Community Alliance, Heartland Coalfield AlliancePrairie Rivers Network, Sierra Club Heart of Illinois Group
Facebook event

Both events are free and light refreshments will be served – hope to see you there!

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