What happens when government regulators fail to uphold coal mining laws, in a state of constant violations?
No one knows better than residents in Illinois: Today marks the March 25th anniversary of the tragic Centralia, Illinois coal disaster, when government inaction on a violation-ridden coal mine led to an explosion that needlessly took the lives of 111 miners.
Nor does anyone know better than residents in Clinton County, Illinois, where toxic coal slurry from a nearby mine contaminated the watersheds of unwitting farmers more than a decade ago.
Now, with state mining regulatory agencies mired in scandal, violations and public outcry, and on the heels of the West Virginia and North Carolina coal ash and slurry disasters, Illinois residents embroiled in one of the nation’s most notorious coal slurry cases are appealing for the federal government to revoke approval of the state’s rogue coal mining agencies and allow citizens to lawfully seek environmental compliance in the courts.
Citing a number of violations of the federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the Citizens Opposing Pollution filed a 60-day intent to sue notice on March 17th with the Department of the Interior, unless it takes over the state’s abysmal enforcement program.
Writing to Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on behalf of the citizens groups, Illinois-based attorney Penni Livingstone noted:
“The citizens of Illinois are without adequate means to fulfill the intent of the law and to bring about compliance through enforcement as intended by the law. IDNR, IEPA, the Illinois Attorney General, OMM, and coal mining companies have all turned a blind eye to known reclamation violations that impact our health, safety, and welfare and that breed a disrespect for the law and the government. The situation is so pitiful that our state actually subsidizes the violations! Forbidden site conditions that poison our drinking water and allow violators to save millions of dollars not complying with long-standing environmental requirements are not consistent with the purpose or meaning of the applicable law and such conditions constitute injustice to our citizens, our system, and our planet. The coal mining industry and the government agencies lack integrity in this respect.”
Last December, after a similar petition by the West Virginia Citizen Action for Real Enforcement Campaign, the DOI’s Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) agreed to investigate various SMCRA violations and regulatory failure by West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection.
For the rest of this column, click here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeff-biggers/illinois-residents-file-i_b_5026732.html