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Groups Want Coal Mine Rules Enforced

Groups such as the Sierra Club of Illinois feel the state has plenty of regulations for coal mining, but enforcement of rules has been lax.

Sue Smith, a biologist and self-proclaimed farm wife, said coal companies are putting nearby land and waterways in jeopardy -- especially productive farms and rivers used for recreation.

“Why would we want to jeopardize that with loose interpretations of state and federal mining rules and broken public process?” she asked.

But proponents of coal mining say the industry is regulated enough in Illinois, and that additional enforcements could cause companies to flee to neighboring states.

DNR Making Changes

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources said it's agreed to reform the way the agency handles coal mining permits.

DNR Director Marc Miller and Attorney General Lisa Madigan said they've agreed on steps to strengthen regulations and improve transparency in the permitting process.

The DNR will notify the public when it first receives permit applications, require early environmental review, and require applicants to participate in public hearings.

The agency also must remain neutral and post permit materials online.

The changes settle a lawsuit that Madigan filed against the DNR in 2007 after it approved a surface mine near the Fulton County village of Banner despite complaints from residents about potential threats to their water supply.

Environmentalists also challenged the permit, and the DNR ultimately rejected it in 2012.