Community members urge rejection of Shay mine renewal
By JORDAN GRUCZA
Coal Country Times Reporter
The latest public hearing regarding the renewal of permits for the Shay No. 1 Mine was held in the Macoupin County Courthouse Dec. 12.
Amy Wolff Oakes, legal counsel for the Land Reclamation Division of Illinois Department of Natural Resources, opened the hearing with the statement that the IDNR “very much appreciates the passion” of the public on this issue.
The four people who volunteered to comment were the usual guests of the series of hearings, but their comments turned more toward a tone of urgency than ever before, in regard to their request that there be no renewal of the permits.
Carl Behme was the first to speak.
“We are concerned how the state has the authority to relieve the mine of responsibility of subsidence mitigation on private property,” Behme said. “In the Illinois Surface Coal Mining Land Conservation and Reclamation Act of 1980, it says Illinois is ‘to strike a balance between protection of the environment and agricultural productivity.’ It also says it is the ‘policy of the state of Illinois to provide for conservation and reclamation of the lands affected by surface and underground coal mining in order to restore them to optimum future productive use and to provide for their return to productive use.’
“As an agricultural producer whose crop land has been adversely affected by this mine’s subsidence over the last 40 years and with children and grandchildren whose home is being affected by this mine’s subsidence, I would formally request a denial of these proposed permit renewals,” Behme said. “Reducing productivity to our property every year while the state issues a permit is not just.
“These soil types do not lend themselves to tiling for drainage,” Behme said. “Risers help with some surface drainage, but do not repair water issues caused by subsidence. The land has been irreparably damaged and much of the damage is in perpetuity.
“These mining operations have created dangerous situations such as my son’s house subsiding with two small children living there,” Behme said. “If IDNR (the Illinois Department of Natural Resources) grants the renewal of these permits they are saying the safety and yes, maybe even the lives of its citizens do not matter.”
Robert Johnson, usually extensive in his commentary, was brief with his time at this hearing.
“Given my recently provided public comments, can you explain why the permanently retained coal mine waste dam impoundment at the Shay 1 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act permit area requires an emergency plan for a post-mining land use of wildlife habitat?” Johnson said.
After providing the panel his question, Johnson promptly walked out.
Mary Ellen DeClue warned that, with Refuse Disposal Areas 5 and 6 classified forever as high-hazard dams, the community will be faced with permanent contamination and that death and major property damage is likely.
“The safety of the community is not a consideration,” DeClue said.
Joyce Blumenshine voiced concerns about the staffing and budget cuts of the IDNR and the decline of enforcement of compliance.
“What assurance or comfort do we have as citizens that any regulations will be enforced in a timely manner?” Blumenshine said. “The safety of the groundwater for present and future generations should not be squandered in the one-time taking of coal.”
With the high-hazard dam classifications, Blumenshine questioned the panel about the future of monitoring these dams and covering the costs of inspections.
The IDNR’s written public comment period was open until Dec. 23.