To All Supporters of Stand Up to Coal,
It’s a new year, but our fight to stop the Bulldog Mine continues. In preparing to write this update, we, the leaders of Stand Up to Coal, focused on two things: First, conveying our gratitude for all that you have done to help accomplish our joint mission of protecting our land, water, and air by opposing the Bulldog Mine and second, conveying the need for additional funds to continue the fight.
Your contributions of time and treasure have been generous and profound; they are the reason Sunrise failed to achieve its goal to have the Bulldog Mine up and running next door to Homer in 2014. Seven years later, they still have not broken ground on a mine. This is just one example of how our membership has helped thwart the corporate timeline that Sunrise would like to impose on the Allerton-Fairmount-Homer-Sidell area. As the fight has progressed, so too have the costs to mount a successful opposition. Our last chance to stop their mining permit is a permit challenge (called an “Administrative Review”, see below). For this process, we have hired consulting expert witnesses to argue our case for clean water and air. We are also consulting with an attorney to guide us through the legal maneuvers advanced by Sunrise’s corporate attorneys. We estimate the total cost of the Administrative Review to be $60,000. As these fees mount up, so do our hopes that you can continue to support the work we all believe in. We have enclosed a self-addressed envelope for this purpose.
Much has happened since 2009 when Sunrise Coal went farm to rural home selling promises and securing signatures. Recounting all the challenges is not possible to do in this letter but among the most daunting were the public hearings before the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. It was in these forums that all our efforts to inform IDNR, IEPA and the public on the threats of the mine paid off. Dozens of people shared legitimate questions and concerns for how this mine would affect their ground water, their streams, the clean fresh air, their cherished farms and fields, their well-being and more. These expressed views were noted by the IDNR and resulted in Sunrise Coal having to resubmit their mining permit request multiple times. That they did not receive a permit until 2019 (10 years!) is a testament to the vigilance and hard work shared by so many caring people.
Where We Are Now: Administrative Review
The mining permit was granted, but impacted individuals and organizations have a chance to challenge a granted permit in a process called an Administrative Review. This process tests if the mining permit meets the letter of the law and could result in the permit being rejected. Stand Up To Coal and a number of individual petitioners began this process last year. We have hired consulting experts to review the mining permit and found reason to challenge it. In summer 2020, the IDNR held a hearing to determine if Stand Up To Coal and a number of the individual petitioners had “standing” to challenge the permit. We are still awaiting the result of that hearing.
The Reason to Keep Fighting
Perhaps the greatest source of strength in this fight is our shared belief that Illinois farmland, farmsteads and the rural/semi-rural lifestyle we have chosen are worth preserving…even treasuring. To these highly valued treasures, we add our good health and the knowledge that coal mining presents many potential obstacles to it. When something that dear is threatened, those who value it must step up in its defense.
Coal Economics and the Future
Sunrise Coal itself has helped to unveil the truth through their actions in Carlisle, Indiana, when in January 2020, they laid off 90 mine workers and permanently closed the coal mine there. Prior to that 175 workers had been let go due to the waning coal market. This should lay to rest permanently Sunrise’s claim of providing 300 well-paying long term jobs for Vermilion County. Instead of embracing that myth, let’s embrace the reality that the future promises to be one of reduced fossil fuel consumption and carbon pollution.
In closing, we thank you in advance for your on-going support and donations to help fund these efforts. We make this request knowing that it comes at an extraordinary time when a global pandemic and social justice issues are challenging our priorities, our lifestyles, and our world view. We do not take it lightly that we are asking for your support during this stressful and uncertain time, but it is in these very times that we are ever mindful of the need to persevere for the welfare of those whose homes, lives, and resources would be compromised. We will stay the course through this public process and hope that you are able to join us in whatever way is possible for you now.
With that in mind, please accept our deep gratitude and know that we are pledged to our communities for the long term. Stand Up to Coal is a 501(c)(3) group; however, donations are not tax deductible. New members are welcome!
Suzanne Smith, President
Jonathan Ashbrook, Vice-President
Nancy Goodall, Secretary