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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Decision on IDNR Permit Expected This Week

According to this Elkhart Truth article, the IDNR is expected to announce a decision regarding the Bulldog Mine permit #429 by this Friday (3/6).  At that time, they could decide to approve it or reject it.  They could also send the application back to Sunrise Coal for modification.  In the latter case, Sunrise Coal would have 1 year to make the requested modifications.

Regardless of the decision on the IDNR permit, Sunrise Coal will also have to receive a water discharge permit from the Illinois EPA.

The IDNR permit is just the first step in a lengthy process.

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Bulldog Mine Update … Still No Permits

What’s next for the proposed Bulldog Mine?

The Bulldog Mine has just recently completed its public hearing stage for the mining permit application. Over the course of two hearings (October 7 and December 17), hundreds of concerned residents voiced their concerns about Sunrise Coal’s proposed Bulldog Mine.

These recent hearings were part of a permitting process administered through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Before mining can begin, however, Sunrise Coal must receive two permits: one through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and another through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA).

What’s next for the permit application with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources?

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act in the state of Illinois. Through several state laws, IDNR reviews permits for coal mining and reclamation operations.

The permit application for the proposed Bulldog Mine has now gone through its public hearing and public comment stage. Now review of the permit is back in the hands of IDNR, where agency staff will consider all comments and information submitted at the two public hearings and in written comments. IDNR will also review additional research related to the permit application.

By February 27th, a decision must be made to issue, deny, or require modifications of the application.

If modifications are necessary, Sunrise Coal will have 1 year to submit modifications or the application will be denied. If the modifications are approved, Sunrise Coal will need to submit a required bond and fee to receive the permit.

What’s next for the permit application with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency?

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for a separate permit under the Clean Water Act. 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.

Like the IDNR mining and reclamation permit, at some point the Illinois EPA will issue a public notice for the draft permit.

When it is posted, the permit will look similar to this draft permit:

http://www.epa.illinois.gov/Assets/iepa/public-notices/2015/knight-hawk/public-notice.pdf

The public will then have the opportunity (over 30 days) to submit written comments or request a public hearing. If a public hearing is requested, the Agency will give 30 days’ notice.

Concerned residents can use the public comment periods to submit information on water quality, the recreational values/uses of the waterway receiving pollutant discharges, and other studies and surveys that would be relevant — like those related to stream biology and the presence of endangered species. It will also be a chance to point out any mistakes or improper pollution limits in the draft permit.

The Agency will consider these written and oral comments in their evaluation of the permit.

What can concerned residents do to protect our land and water?

  • Continue to advocate for the productive farmland, clean air and water, safe roads, and way of life that we cherish in east-central Illinois.
  • Sunrise Coal is now years behind schedule. The company has 0 of 2 permits necessary to begin mining and is still missing a number of crucial resources – including mineral rights necessary to even carry out YEAR 1 of their mining plan.
  • Keep a lookout for the NPDES public notice
  • When the NPDES permit is available for public review, Stand Up to Coal will send a notification and be available to help with draft comments, questions, and concerns.
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