Letter To The Editor: COVID, Coal Dust, And County Board Decisions

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The COVID-19 pandemic has brought home health and safety responsibilities as never before.  In this regard, the Montgomery County Board has even more issues to handle for its residents.  

Among these, the Board is aware that Deer Run Mine has started mining coal with coal trains leaving the area.  Coal miners are back to work, even though the workers cannot do their work while social distancing and avoiding coal dust.  The community is also exposed to coal dust and other particles when Deer Run Mine is active.

Hillsboro Energy LLC  has asked the county board to lower the two percent royalty rate, which is about 1.5 percent after deducted mine expenses.  The county is already financially stressed and should deny the request to lower the royalty by a half percent for tonnage sold. 

I hope the county board considers these overriding circumstances.  Hillsboro Energy has been blessed with support from Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Office of Mines and Minerals, Land Reclamation Division to establish Deer Run Mine as conveniently and cheaply as possible for the mine.  

The community, however, was left with little protection from air, land and water contamination and damage. The community now has two permanent high hazard coal slurry impoundments, subsided farmland, and unpaid mine debts. Many concerns arise about the future of Deer Run Mine with present and future financial obligations. Will Route 185 be appropriately repaired after it is subsided?  The amount of bonds to cover reconstruction of 185 seem inadequate, as well as other amounts for reclamation.

Hopefully, the county board will not ignore its responsibilities to residents and enforce Hillsboro Energy’s obligation to its host community.

Mary Ellen DeClue

Litchfield

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