Community meetings with Stand Up to Coal (SUTC) members and local residents were held on November 25th in Sidell and December 4th in Catlin regarding Sunrise Coal’s proposed coal mine in Vermilion County. The group reviewed the obstacles that have prevented Sunrise Coal from meeting their targeted 2014 opening date due to widespread and successful strategic community opposition. The mine permitting process and timeline were explained and SUTC members discussed how to involve concerned residents in the public process. On display was a map showing how over four years, Sunrise Coal has not secured all of the mineral leases they plan to mine, nor have they secured easements for a railroad spur or water and sewer pipelines.
A couple in attendance shared that when Sunrise Coal was soliciting a mineral lease for their land and they asked what would happen if their water was impacted, the coal company did not have a concrete plan for how they would deal with that issue. Further, the right for Sunrise Coal to extract coal bed methane was signed away in mineral leases for no additional compensation which many landowners were not aware.
One woman also expressed concern about prevailing winds that would blow coal dust off the proposed surface facility to Jamaica School located only 5 miles due east of where it would be located. Another potential hazard is if Sunrise Coal were able to establish a railroad spur to the Norfolk Southern line at Homer, coal trains could move through Catlin on a regular basis bringing toxic coal dust into the community.
The temporary nature of the jobs from the coal mine was a further concern, as well as the likelihood that they would be given to experienced miners from out of town. Residents were concerned that these jobs are very unsafe and hazardous to the miners’ health. One woman shared a personal story of watching a loved one battle black lung disease.