SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich announced today that Illinois’ coal mine industry achieved a record fourth consecutive year without a fatality, a milestone never before achieved in Illinois. This achievement is a testament to increased safety measures over the last several years and the diligence of mine workers in Illinois to follow safety procedures. The Governor also proclaimed April 15, 2007 as Mine Safety Day in Illinois.
“Our investment in mine safety measures has and will continue to protect the men and women who put their lives on the line everyday in Illinois coal mines,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “I’m proud of what we have done here to make the industry safer as a whole and applaud the efforts of the Illinois coal industry to be able to mark this unprecedented milestone.”
Governor Blagojevich signed critical mine safety legislation last July that will provide Illinois miners and rescuers with additional safety measures in the event of an emergency. The Governor originally proposed the legislation in January 2006 following the tragic West Virginia mine accidents that killed 12 miners.
Illinois coal miner safety is the top priority of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ (IDNR) Office of Mines and Minerals. State law requires a mine be inspected once a month; however, state mine inspectors often visit mining operations with more frequency to ensure compliance. Routine inspections of coal mines include checking for compliance with state mining laws, proper ventilation, hazardous conditions, and ensuring roof and rib control procedures are being followed and making sure miners are working safely and properly.
“This is a great day for Illinois and the coal industry it supports. I applaud the Governor for his continued commitment to Illinois coal and increased safety measures to protect our miners,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Acting Director Sam Flood.
“As the coal industry continues to make a comeback here in Illinois, this milestone serves as testament to the hard work of so many people to make an otherwise dangerous job as safe as it can be,” said Illinois Office of Mines and Minerals Director Joe Angleton. “On the job injuries and accidents not only can lead to a loss of life, but also a loss of production for the industry as a whole. While the job remains dangerous, this milestone is proof that mine safety continues to be a priority in Illinois.”
In 2006, three new underground coal mines opened in the state – further evidence that the coal industry is making a comeback in Illinois. The industry began to decline in the 1990s, after tougher federal sulfur emission standards were put in place. Since then, advances in clean-coal technology have made it possible to burn Illinois coal and still meet the strictest air-quality standards in the nation.
Illinois now has the most aggressive package of incentives in the nation to spur clean coal fueled power plant development and provide other support for the Illinois coal industry. In July 2003, Governor Blagojevich signed a law that added $300 million in revenue bonds to the Coal Revival Program, which provides major tax and financing incentives to large clean coal fueled projects.
Since 2003, the state has invested $64.7 million in coal development projects, including the Peabody Energy Electric Prairie State project in Washington County, and the Taylorville Energy Center, a coal gasification project in Christian County. Also included is more than $45 million in grants to Illinois coal operators who upgrade their facilities to make their product more competitive, as well as more than $11 million for advanced research through the Illinois Clean Coal Institute.
Governor Blagojevich also has led an effort with the Illinois Congressional delegation to tout Illinois’ advantages as a site for the US Department of Energy’s proposed FutureGen Project, which will demonstrate making electric power and hydrogen fuel from coal with near zero harmful emissions. The project site is expected to be chosen within the next year.
In 1980, Illinois employed over 18,000 coal miners and produced 62.5 million tons of coal. Today, despite a 77 percent reduction in workforce and a 66 percent reduction in operating mines, Illinois coal companies still produce 33 million tons of coal annually.
Over 50 percent of all electricity used in the United States comes from coal, and Illinois’ supply is among the most abundant in the world.
Illinois has the largest reported bituminous coal resources of any state in the United States. In terms of energy value, Illinois coal has more BTU’s or British thermal units, than the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined.
Text of the Governor’s Proclamation is below:
WHEREAS, over 50 percent of all electricity used in the United States comes from coal, and Illinois’ coal supply is among the most abundant on the planet. Currently, Illinois coal companies produce 33 million tons of coal annually; and
WHEREAS, since the beginning of this administration, Illinois has invested $64.7 million in coal development projects, including more than $45 million in grants to Illinois coal operators who upgrade their facilities to make their product more competitive, as well as more than $11 million for advanced research through the Illinois Clean Coal Institute. Additionally, in 2003 I signed a law adding $300 million in revenue bonds to the Coal Revival Program, which provides tax and financing incentives to large clean coal fueled projects; and
WHEREAS, with the coal industry being an integral part of our State’s economy and workforce, we must constantly remind ourselves of the dangers of mining, and the need to take every necessary precaution to ensure the safety of all mine workers. Unfortunately, tragic accidents do sometimes occur, such as the Virginia mine disaster that killed 12 miners in January 2006; and
WHEREAS, following this tragedy, I signed critical mine safety legislation into law, providing Illinois miners and rescuers additional safety measures in the event of an emergency; and
WHEREAS, April 15 of this year marks the fourth consecutive year Illinois coal mines have gone without a fatality – a feat never before achieved in this state. This impressive milestone is a testament to the success of recent increases in safety measures, and greater awareness and caution among mine workers; and
WHEREAS, the State of Illinois salutes the Department of Natural Resources for all their hard work in contributing to the safety of miners over the past four years, and all the miners themselves for their attention to critical safety measures and precautions:
THEREFORE, I, Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim April 15, 2007 as MINE SAFETY DAY in Illinois in recognition of four consecutive years of safe and fatality-free mining in this state.