Vote is a stunning victory for local residents, farmers, and clean water advocates
Homer, IL – After nearly one year of deliberation, resident organizing, and public meetings, the Homer Village Board voted to reject a contract to provide treated water and sewer services to Sunrise Coal LLC’s proposed Bulldog coal mine.
Residents seeking to protect themselves and their homes from wasteful and polluting coal mining activities banded together and pressured their local government to defend the area’s most valuable resources, namely water and farmland. The board ultimately heard the concerns of their constituents and voted accordingly.
Charles Goodall, seventh generation Vermilion County farmer from Sidell commended the result, saying, “Perhaps the events since 2010—information gathering, action by farmers to protect the land they love, the growing awareness by Homer residents that they must speak out to protect their village and quality of life, and finally the vote last night—constitute, in a rough but adequate way, the definition of democracy.”
The vote is a significant defeat to the expansion of coal in Illinois, and is emblematic of a broader sea change in Midwestern communities—valuing water and the long-term health of land over dirty energy which pollutes and threatens human health at every stage of its production, including extraction, burning, and disposal.
Sue Smith, longtime resident of rural Homer and an avid advocate of the Salt Fork of the Vermilion River, saw the vote as an indication of a cleaner, better future.
“It is my hope that this effort, tied with others throughout the state, is a turning point in Illinois’ relationship with coal,” said Smith. “By working together to inform ourselves, followed by dialogues with local citizens and government representatives about the broader issues surrounding coal, we have been able to get past the short-term enticements to see the destructive, long-term impacts of coal mining and see our communities with renewed appreciation and value.”
Smith thanked and credited the village board for their commitment to the democratic process.
“I am deeply grateful to the Homer village board for all their time and effort over the past months as they listened to the issues, educated themselves, and did their best to thoroughly review the pros and cons before they cast their vote on a contract to sell potable water and sewer to Sunrise Coal. Their ‘no’ vote is a step toward the community values we have and desire to protect including clean and plentiful water for our local residents, our community neighbors, and for the Salt Fork River,” said Smith, also a long-time member of Prairie Rivers Network, a non profit clean water organization which has worked to organize and inform residents for the protection of local water supplies.
Jonathan Ashbrook, Homer resident and member of Stand Up to Coal, indicated that, while the process might be ongoing, residents would maintain a unified front against the coal mine.
“Clearly, a majority of the Homer Village Board members understood that this vote was not just about selling water,” said Ashbrook. “This vote is a key step in preventing Sunrise Coal from bringing an unwanted coal mine to our community.”
Traci Barkley of Prairie Rivers Network noted that Sunrise Coal may look elsewhere for water to take and use in its mining operation. “Nevertheless, we can be sure that, wherever Sunrise might go, local residents will be ready to protect their resources and Prairie Rivers Network will be there to help.”
- Traci Barkley, Prairie Rivers Network, firstname.lastname@example.org, (217) 344-2371
- Sue Smith, farmer and resident, Salt Fork landowner, email@example.com, (217) 896-2698
- Charles Goodall, farmer and resident, firstname.lastname@example.org, (217) 474-9285
- Jonathan Ashbrook, Homer resident, Stand Up to Coal, email@example.com