The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

March 12, 2013

Group challenges plan for coal mine in county


Commercial-News

SIDELL — At its Feb. 11 meeting, the Homer Village Board voted on an ordinance that would have approved a contract to sell potable water to Sunrise Coal. The ordinance failed to pass with only two votes.

The vote of the trustees on this issue affects residents and landowners outside Homer and into the future.

The challenge was to exercise the duty of trust to care for these wider and future interests.

Throughout the preceding weeks and months, the public has developed a growing skepticism about whether ties to Sunrise would be desirable. This view became apparent weeks ago when Homer residents were systematically canvassed.

During the time village officials and Sunrise were talking about a water deal, evidence surfaced that transparency was lacking and public involvement was being skirted.

Secrecy has long been an essential ingredient the coal mining industry employs to advance its goals. Sunrise Coal used secrecy first when it began trying to lease coal rights in late 2009. In 2012, information obtained under the Freedom Of Information Act revealed that Sunrise’s communications director, Suzanne Jaworowski, had attempted to manipulate Homer Mayor David Lucas, telling him, “It’s important that we do not discuss any aspect of the project in pubic before our permit is secure. I’m sure you understand the challenges it can bring up.”

The events since 2010; information gathering, action by farmers to protect the land they love, the growing awareness by Homer residents that they must speak out to protect their village and quality of life and, finally, the vote by trustees, constitutes, in a rough but adequate way, the definition of democracy.

We are at the tail end of the coal era trying to shake off a dirty technology lingering from the 1800s.

Sunrise Coal, its owner Hallador, and its owner in New York are still willing to damage our land and communities for their private profit, so we’ll be called to protect ourselves a bit longer.

Meanwhile, we’ll collectively get smarter in several ways: the efficiency with which we use electricity will improve — lights that shut themselves off when not needed — for example.

Second, we’ve already begun to source energy from direct-gain solar. Huge gains are available from smart and simple building design — south-facing windows, functional window overhangs and optimal materials as we repair, upgrade and replace our houses as described by Edward Mazria in “It’s the Architecture, Stupid!”

Finally, the use of residential photovoltaic systems is growing.

Updated information is always available at our website: http://www.standuptocoal.org.

Charles Goodall of Sidell is a member of Stand Up to Coal.