May 3, 2012
For Immediate Release
Statewide Alliance Calls for End to Subsidies and Misinformation
Springfield – Supporters of the Heartland Coalfield Alliance, a statewide coalition of community and environmental organizations, held a rally outside the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) today, calling on the Department to stop what the group calls a waste of taxpayer funds and a publicly financed marketing campaign for the coal industry that targets children.
The DCEO currently produces and distributes a school curriculum for elementary and high school students entitled “From the Coal Mines to the Power Lines,” with the expressed purpose of providing students with a “sound and meaningful understanding of coal in Illinois.” Opponents of the program point out that the curriculum makes little mention of coal’s liabilities, of the environmental damage caused by its mining, burning or waste disposal, nor of its documented effects on public health.
“In hundreds of pages, DCEO’s curriculum fails to mention coal’s devastating impacts on clean water in Illinois, including massive habitat destruction from coal mines, harmful pollution in mine wastewater, and leaking coal ash dumps at power plants that is polluting rivers, streams and groundwater across the state ” said Brian Perbix, Grassroots Organizer with Prairie Rivers Network. “Illinois’ communities have borne the burden of coal pollution for far too long – our kids deserve to hear the truth.”
“Climate change disasters represent a major threat to the future safety and livelihoods of today’s young generation. Coal power plants are the number one source of man made pollutants that cause climate change. They emit pollutants linked to learning disabilities in newborns and asthma. Asthma is the number-one illness that causes kids to miss school,” said Will Reynolds, Springfield resident and Sierra Club Beyond Coal Organizer.”
“As both a science educator and a resident whose community’s drinking water supply is threatened by coal mining, I was appalled to learn that with DCEO’s help, the coal industry’s bad science is working its way into our children’s classrooms,” explained Carla Murray, Biology Professor at Carl Sandburg Community College in Galesburg, and Secretary of Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues.
Within the curriculum, children are encouraged to make ads for coal and taught that the evidence is not clear that the combustion of fossil fuels has led to warming climate. “If our young people are to be taught about coal, then let’s tell them the whole truth, not a one-sided, biased and self-serving story contrived for the benefit of the coal industry” said Lan Richart, Co-Director of the Eco-Justice Collaborative.
Last year educational publisher Scholastic came under fire from parents and educators for distributing a similar curriculum funded by the American Coal Foundation. Scholastic later withdrew the curriculum after receiving 60,000 comments.
A Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Heartland Coalfield Alliance revealed that since 2005 the DCEO has distributed nearly 700 copies of the curriculum to teachers, organizations and individuals interested in the coal education program. In that same time period, records show that the State has spent nearly $175,000 to fund an annual three-day teachers’ retreat to Rend Lake Resort in southern Illinois to provide instruction on the use of the curriculum. The DCEO curriculum is funded through the Electricity Excise Tax Law and is part of a much larger complement of subsidies to the coal industry. In 2011 the DCEO spent approximately $18 million on their Coal Education and Marketing Program.
Following Thursday’s rally, representatives of the Heartland Coalfield Alliance delivered a letter signed by over 35 environmental and educational organizations asking the DCEO to stop distributing the curriculum, recall those that have been distributed and postpone the 2012 teachers retreat until the curriculum is revised to reflect an honest evaluation of coal as a fuel source.
Prairie Rivers Network is a member of the Heartland Coalfield Alliance, which is a statewide coalition working to highlight coal’s devastating impacts in the Illinois Coal Basin and promote the adoption of clean, safe and renewable sources of energy. Sign the petition asking Governor Quinn to tell our kids the truth about coal.