Environmental groups say the state has been helping coal companies at the expense of the safety of those living around the mines. One example given was the Springfield Coal Co. mine in Industry in McDonough County, which was cited for 624 violations by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. The state’s Department of Natural Resources, however, treated it as one violation because all 624 were included in a single notice, and has allowed the company to apply for new permits to build new mines.
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“If you or I broke a law in our car over 600 times, I don’t think the state would let us drive anymore,” Sierra Club Illinois Chapter Director Jack Darin said. “But here we’ve got situations where these companies are violating the law hundreds of times, and yet they’re allowed to keep on doing it, and actually encouraged to do it at more sites.”
Darin says the DNR has made a “good first step” by agreeing to increase transparency in the permitting process for coal mining by posting permit materials online, and requiring applicants to participate in public hearings.