Lawmakers talk coal concerns with local coal producers - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Lawmakers talk coal concerns with local coal producers

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MURPHYSBORO -- Southern Illinois lawmakers insist they are taking coal industry concerns to Washington D.C. and Springfield.

On Monday morning, they held a forum in Murphysboro to talk with coal producers and advocates about their struggles. 

Lawmakers and advocates talked about what they called "too many" regulations being placed on the coal industry. Lawmakers said the government spends money and time to pass regulations, and the coal industry suffers to keep up with them.

Many Southern Illinoisans like coal miner Bob Sandidge are passionate about keeping the region's coal industry alive. He voiced his concerns to lawmakers, saying the struggling industry has major effects and not just on coal miners.

Sandidge said the support for coal is all around and Southern Illinois is filled with resources for it to thrive, like surrounding rivers and railways, but he believes overlapping rules and regulations are what is killing the industry. 

"It was a strangulation by regulation sort of thing," Sandidge said. 

Congressman Mike Bost agreed, saying multiple agencies "unnecessarily" regulate the exact same processes.

"Government, whether its federal or state, has to quit throwing a weighted collar around the neck of those who produce jobs and use that energy wisely," Bost said. 

Another concern brought up at Mondays forum: skilled workers leaving Illinois.

Senator Dale Fowler said his district alone lost 1,900 people to other states in 2016. He blames what he called the "war on coal."

"We have the resources we need that don't exist in other parts of the nation, with the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio," Fowler said. "That doesn't exist anywhere in the entire nation, and we are not taking advantage of that and it's time that we do."

The lawmakers said they are committed to coal and will do their best to help get the industry back on its feet. Meanwhile, Sandidge said he'll do anything he can to help them and Southern Illinois.

"A lot of people are skeptical of coming back into coal, but stick with us, we're gonna pull it out," Sandidge said. 

Bost said he believes coal can make a comeback as far as production goes, but he thinks employment will likely never be the same because what used to take three coal miners to do a job, technology has allowed to take only one. 

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