62 questions

62 questions

SIDELL — Sunrise Coal officials described the state's 62-pronged request for more information about plans to develop their Bulldog mine in southwestern Vermilion County "as a benchmark that brings us one step closer to approval."

But the 20-page letter sent last week by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to the Terre Haute, Ind., coal company isn't so optimistic, with follow-up question after follow-up question, about everything from public and private drinking water to threatened and endangered species.

"The modifications requested by IDNR are a perfect example of the scrutiny our environmental permits go through by the state of Illinois to produce a permit that is both engineering and environmentally sound," Sunrise Property Manager Jamalyn Sarver said in a statement released Monday.

"We feel the requested modifications and updates can be readily handled by our engineers."

Sunrise is trying to secure a state permit for an underground coal mine here and has up to a year to answer the IDNR's questions. Once that happens, the state will determine whether to issue a permit to mine coal.

Highlights of the IDNR's request:

— An updated map showing the company's most current mineral leases. The state's letter says "Sunrise Coal appears to no longer retain leases on some areas previously indicated" in the map.

— More information about the presence of natural springs within or near the proposed mining area and "a discussion" on the fact that the village of Oakwood (downstream from the proposed mine) gets its water supply from the Salt Fork River and the mine will be discharging into the Olive Branch,a tributary of the Salt Fork. The state's letter says the applicant indicated there were no known springs or other water resources in the mining area, which is not accurate.

— An overview of each major step in the mine reclamation process and consideration of a cap on leftover refuse piles, which would further protect groundwater resources. The state's letter calls Sunrise's description of its reclamation process "vague and quite general."

— More information regarding protection of endangered or threatened species, including the Indiana bat, northern long-eared bat, northern riffleshell mussel and clubshell mussel.

— Clear documentation assuring the company has a legal right to pull water from two existing drainage tile mains in the area. And, if so, more information about where and how this water will be extracted and transported to the coal mine's water storage ponds.

— More documentation, assuring the company has a legal right and ability to use existing drain tiles as a primary discharge point for its coal mine ponds. Public comments at hearings in late 2014 questioned the company's right to do this, the IDNR writes.

The proposed Bulldog mine would have a surface operation near Sidell and provide up to 300 long-term jobs, more than 300 indirect jobs in supporting industries and $10.9 million a year in state and local tax revenue, according to the company.