Coal industry draining state dry?

Published 07/14 2013 10:08PM

Updated 07/15 2013 02:25PM

SPRINGFIELD -- A new report shows the state's coal industry is sucking millions of dollars out of the state budget every year. Critics say there's more to the story. WCIA-3's Ashley Michels explains.

Illinois is one of the country's largest coal producing states. The industry brings in billions of dollars each year and gives jobs to hundreds of people.

"Most of the coal mines are in Central and Southern Illinois in towns that would be generally economically-depressed were it not for that industry."

But environmental groups are questioning why such a profitable business is getting more than $20 million a year in state aid. The report points out the coal industry does make a lot of money, but not a lot of it goes directly to the state.

So, Illinois taxpayers are actually spending more than what comes back in return. But, Phil Gonet of the Illinois Coal Association says the report doesn't tell the whole story.

"The ripple effect that it has for the economy in the local communities where these coal mines are is just incredibly large and none of those figures were counted in this."

He says, without the state's incentives, the coal industry would still exist in Illinois, but it would make it harder for new mines to start up and existing ones might have to slim down, making life harder for all of us.

"What are they going to do when there's no electricity?"

That's why Gonet says the $20 million is really a small price to pay.

"When you look at it in totality, it makes sense and the payback to the state is excellent."

The subsidies have helped coal mines in the area expand and put people back to work including Springfield, Carlinville and Meredosia.

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