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To the Editor:

I wish to express my opposition to Pond Creek Mine’s request to discharge waste water into the Big Muddy River. Foresight Energy (the owner of Pond Creek Mine) says in its Illinois Department of Natural Resources permit application that they wish to discharge between 2.5 to 3.5 million gallons of water per day into the Big Muddy River in order to alleviate underground flooding issues in the mine. They would do this by constructing a 12-mile long pipeline from their mining operation in Williamson County to a point north of Murphysboro.

As the son, grandson and great-grandson of coal miners, I am keenly aware of mine worker safety issues. I want Pond Creek Mine to be able to operate in a way that provides jobs, powers our communities, and provides a safe environment for the workers.

At the same time, I have a responsibility as mayor to raise my voice when a proposal has the potential to harm my community. As I observe a Big Muddy River that has remained above flood stage for many weeks, why would I want even the cleanest additional water added to the Big Muddy? Knowing this water would contain elevated concentrations of sulfates and chlorides, can anyone tell me why I should support this plan?

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Additionally, a review of the permit file shows that IDNR has requested 24 modifications be made to Foresight Energy’s initial permit application. I would assert that any business or organization that has to redo it’s homework in 24 different aspects wasn’t operating in good faith when submitting its initial application. At minimum, it seems that when preparing their application Foresight Energy lacked foresight.

As mayor, I have typically taken a very pro-business stance. I tend to side with those proposals that create jobs, and help to create a friendly business environment in Southern Illinois. In this case, I have to stand in opposition, because I believe as Teddy Roosevelt did that “the Nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased; and not impaired in value.”

Will Stephens

Mayor of Murphysboro

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