Justice for Rocky Branch Continues Fight Against Mine

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By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Randy Livingston

SALINE COUNTY -- Some people in Saline County aren't happy with their neighbor. Peabody Energy is currently moving through the permit process, hoping expand work to about 800 acres south of their Cottage Grove mine.

 
Peabody has bought up the land surrounding many of the homes in Rocky Branch, a small community just east of Harrisburg. 
 
The Justice for Rocky Branch is planning to once again bringing their concerns to the county board. They'll present a letter to the board Thursday night. 
 
The Porter Family built their home in the Rocky Branch community back in the 1980s.
     
"My property is not a god," said Allan Porter. "I've never made it that way. But I bought, cleared it, paid for it, and paid taxes in that county all these years."
 
The lot isn't far from Peabody's Cottage Grove surface mine. While Allan Porter couldn't always see the work there, he could definitely feel it.
 
"That blast produces a yellow real fine dust," said Porter. 
     
Peabody is now looking to expand the mine south. It's a move that has Porter taking a stand. 
 
"We're in trouble," said Porter. "Because they're going to be about 500 feet from my house."
 
He's one of several neighbors who formed the group Justice for Rocky Branch. They're voicing concerns over the blasting, the impact on roads, and the loss of property value.
 
"Who else would want to buy your home at that time when you're in the middle of a mining zone?" said resident Rhonda Dillard. 
 
Dillard has lived in the area for 37 years. Her property would be a half mile from this new activity. A nearby road would also be closed and later rebuilt by Peabody.
 
"The road that they are taking is the shortest route into our community," said Dillard. 
 
Dillard is worried the closure would impact fire calls and bus routes. The land surrounding it is also known for flooding in the spring.
 
"They're going to elevate a road that floods up to the tree tops," said Dillard. "When they do that, that water is going to have to go somewhere, and it will back up onto my home and flood my home."
 
She's watched as land is purchased, people move out, and the houses are torn down. It's a trend Dillard feels is destroying the county's tax base.
 
"What is my neighborhood sacrificing for?" said Dillard.
 
A Peabody Energy spokesperson released this statement Wednesday about their plans:
 
"Cottage Grove has 200 employees, and we are your neighbors. We are committed to ensuring this is a thriving and safe community. In fact, our greatest priority is the safety of those who live and work here. We pride ourselves on good neighbor practices and our long-term commitment to work in good faith and comply with all permitting requirements. We will continue our diligence in this area -- all while creating jobs and growth in Saline County."
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