Coal mining and coal ash pollution is a threat to Illinois rich farmland, clean water, and communities throughout the state.

The Problem: Big Coal Economy is a Threat to our Land, Water, and Communities

The big coal industry in Illinois is no only a treat to the health of our land and water, the Illinois coal basin economy is in trouble as well. By most measures, coal companies are in poor financial
shape. Stocks have stumbled during a period of otherwise moderate, sustained economic growth. Shares of Peabody Energy alone have lost more than 90 percent of their value in the last year.

Coal prices have continued to drop through 2014 and 2015, forcing companies to reconcile with tight – or negative – margins. Meanwhile, aging coal plants continue to retire throughout the U.S, while global coal consumption is down in 2015. The near future likely holds a shrinking market for coal, where old corporate mantras of expansion and growth are no longer viable business  options.

It would seem that Big Coal is on the ropes, with nowhere to go but down… but what about Illinois? In the near-term, we seem to face a different story. Nationwide installation of modern pollution controls at power plants has opened a market for Illinois’ cheap, high-sulfur coal. Since 2008, production from the Illinois Basin has increased by 17.2 million tons, while Central Appalachia and the Powder River Basin have fallen 49.4 and 31.7 million tons, respectively.

Today, Illinois communities are facing a critical question: Are we willing to bet our economy and its workers on an industry that can’t last the long-haul?

The Solution: Building a Grassroots Movement

Because we know it takes a network to save a river and even more to protect clean air, land and communities, Prairie Rivers Network has led the formation of the Heartland Coalfield Alliance, a collaborative movement that brings together advocacy and community groups in order to fight for a just transition from a coal economy to a sustainable, clean-energy economy in the Illinois Coal Basin. We also work on the ground in coalfield communities with groups like these to help protect clean water from coal pollution: Canton Area Citizens for Environmental Issues, Citizens Against Longwall Mining, Stand Up To Coal.

Staff Contacts:

  • Andrew Rehn, Water Resources Engineer, arehn @
  • Kim Erndt-Pitcher, Water Resources Specialist, kerndt-pitcher @


(1) Toolkit for Developing and Managing Partnerships in Coal-Impacted Watersheds (2) Illinois Coal Country Teams Volunteer Handbook for Monitoring Mine-Impacted Streams ### Please support our coal work with your membership.

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