Illinois attorney general and IDNR
announce reforms in coal mine permitting process
Reforms to improve transparency of
regulation stem from Banner Mine case settlement
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[April 05, 2014]
SPRINGFIELD — Illinois Attorney
General Lisa Madigan and Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Director Marc Miller have announced major reforms to improve
transparency and strengthen regulations in IDNR's Office of Mines
The reforms are the result of a legal settlement regarding a surface
coal mining and reclamation permit in Banner Township, Fulton
County, that was ultimately denied by the IDNR. The mining operator
sought to mine near the village of Banner in central Illinois'
Fulton County and would have operated within the Illinois River
Local residents raised significant concerns about the
mining operation's impact on surrounding natural areas inhabited by
endangered or threatened species, the impact on water quality and
supply, and residential safety.
Madigan challenged IDNR's initial approval of the permit in 2007.
The related reforms are part of a settlement that officially ends
legal actions brought by the attorney general.
"These measures reflect years of effort to instill a more
transparent process that is responsive to community concerns,"
Madigan said. "By agreeing to implement these changes, DNR is
committing to ensure that anyone who has a stake in mining
operations will be heard before a permit application is decided
"The reforms being announced (April 1) are major steps to improve
transparency for our permitting decisions and provide stronger
environmental protections within our regulatory programs," Miller
said. "DNR will continue to enforce mining laws and regulations for
which we are responsible, including those that promote workplace
safety, and seek public involvement to ensure we are doing our jobs
As a result of the settlement, the department will take steps to
improve transparency and public participation in the coal permitting
process. These reform initiatives and proposed amendments to the
department's administrative rules include:
public notification – The department will require public
notification when the mining permit applications are first
received, which will provide notice to interested individuals
and stakeholders of pending applications well in advance of any
formal environmental reviews earlier in the permitting process —
The department will conduct a full consultation with its
Division of Ecosystems and Environment to determine the
potential impacts to natural areas and endangered species from
the mining proposal.
will be initiated earlier in the application process and will be
completed before a mining permit application can proceed.
Additionally, the department will post the results of the
environmental review for the public in advance of a requested
hearing on the permit application.
Banning pre-hearing conferences — The
department will no longer request pre-hearing conferences, a
procedural step that has typically created significant delays in
the public hearing process. The department will schedule
hearings to review a final permit action in a timely fashion.
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permit applicants to participate at hearings — The department
will require that the permit applicants appear at public
hearings and be prepared to answer questions from interested
members of the public about the pending application, the
proposed mining operation and its impacts, increasing
transparency and accountability.
Requiring that the
department remain neutral during hearings — As part of these
reforms, the department's role in the hearings to review mining
permit decisions will be focused on providing testimony or
evidence to develop a clear and complete record. The department
will remain neutral and avoid taking an adversarial position or
seeking a case dismissal on technical grounds.
Posting all permit
materials on the IDNR website — The department will make
application materials and hearing transcripts available for free
on its website to increase access to information about the
mining permit application and the review process and to allow
the public more opportunities to provide meaningful comment.
payment of permit fees — The department will require permit fees
to be paid at the time a permit application is submitted, as
required by law, rather than when the application is approved.
This will fulfill the goal of the law and create more stable
funding for the department's permit review procedures.
accountability — The department director will make the ultimate
These reforms continue the effort to rebuild and renew the
Illinois Department of Natural Resources, a process that the
administration of Gov. Pat Quinn began with the appointment of
Miller as IDNR director in 2009.
Illinois Department of
file received from
Illinois Office of
Communication and Information]
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