New Illinois Department of Natural Resources director addresses strip mining and fracking

Strip mining produces one of the country’s cheapest forms of energy, but some in our area continue to debate its merits.

Judy Kellen has called Rocky Branch home since 1976, and she says for the first 39 years the only noise she heard was from her guineas, but that’s changed.

“It’s just hard to take,” Kellen said.“Even if you were a young person it would be hard to endure the noise, the revving of motors, and like a big clump!”

That noise is coming from Peabody’s Rocky Branch mine, and Illinois State Rep. Brandon Phelps says it’s the sound of progress.

“It supplies a lot of jobs and brings in a lot of revenue that we need right here in southern Illinois,” Phelps said.

New Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Wayne Rosenthal says he tends to side with Phelps.

“I’m very aware and very supportive of the coal industry,” Rosenthal said.

However, Rosenthal admits that no two mines are exactly alike.

“It’s a balance, and I don’t know what the specifics were here,” Rosenthal said. “All of ours were underground mining, so we operate that way.”

“The manuals say they put the ground back, and it’s better than it was. But all they have to do is come look, and it’s not,” Kellen said. “Nothing that we have been told has come true.”

Both Phelps and Rosenthal said they support fracking in Illinois, though they feel that the cheap price of coal may have shifted the market to the point that it’s not profitable to invest resources in natural gas at this point.

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