CARBONDALE — Some state representatives and a state coal association are calling for brakes on a government agency that is trying to update its rules governing the impact of mining on surface and ground waters, wildlife and the environment.
State Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, and Sen. Sam McCann, R-Carlinville, and the president of the Illinois Coal Association want the U.S. Department of the Interior to slow movement on its Draft Stream Protection Rule.
According to the Federal Register, "The primary purpose of the proposed stream protection rule is to update our regulations and provide regulatory certainty to industry using these advances in scientific knowledge to minimize the adverse impacts of surface coal mining operations on surface water, groundwater, fish, wildlife, and related environmental values, with particular emphasis on protecting or restoring streams and aquatic ecosystems."
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Though the government entity has proposed taking comments on that change for another month — until Sept. 25, 2015 — opponents are asking that the comment period be extended for at least 180 days, or six months.
The Illinois Coal Association issued a statement Thursday, in which state representatives called the rule "unclear" and asked for more time to study what it might mean for the state's $2.5 billion coal industry..
In an Aug. 14 letter to Sally Jewell, the secretary of the Interior, Illinois Coal Association president Phillip Gonet asked for the period to "be extended fairly for to at least one month for every year OSM [Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement] spent working on it in secret."
Gonet said the proposed rule, which is more than 2,000 pages, "would add entirely new definitions, substantive and procedural requirements, and prohibitions affecting surface mines, underground mines, and ancillary facilities."
This past Thursday, the state Senate adopted Senate Resolution 852, which asks the U.S. Department of the Interior to expand the time for the public to comment on the rule.