Coal production and consumption was on the minds of panelists and community members who attended an April 24 Southern Illinois coal forum, hosted by State Senators Dale Fowler (R-Harrisburg) and Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo).
Watch now: Lawmakers tackle concerns from IL coal miners to keep industry alive. (KFVS 12)
Watch now: Lawmakers talk coal concerns with local coal producers. (WSIL 3)
"Illinois coal is a very marketable resource and we are committed to working with our regional partners to make sure that our coal reaches the market," Fowler added. "I am optimistic that our coal miners will be able to return to work. We are optimistic that some duplicative regulations can be phased out and permits can be issued in a more timely manner so the state is not an obstacle to coal production. "
"We have to maintain an 'all of the above' approach to energy production, and we are fortunate to have some of the nation's best coal reserves right here in Southern Illinois," Schimpf said. "It is difficult for us to imagine a future without Illinois coal as one of our economic engines. Our priority is to ensure that we embrace traditional energy resources, while trying to protect the environment."
The two freshman lawmakers were joined by U.S. Congressmen John Shimkus (R-IL 15) and Mike Bost (R-IL 12). Both Congressmen and Senators discussed different initiatives at the federal and state levels, which seek to make the Illinois coal industry more competitive and help return more miners back to the coal fields.
A series of panelists from coal producing companies like: Knight Hawk Coal, Eagle River Coal, Hamilton County Coal, and Foresight Energy talked about the impediments to getting their products to market.
Over-burdensome and duplicative regulations were the most oft-cited obstacles to making Illinois coal more exportable. The officials also heard from Dr. Tomasz Wiltowski of the SIUC Coal Research Center about how the state can be more effective in marketing Illinois coal.
Another panel featured representatives from coal generating facilities like the Baldwin Generation Station, Southern Illinois Power Company, and the Prairie State Energy Campus in rural Washington County. Lawmakers also heard from Mr. Bob Sandidge of the Coal Miner's Movement Facebook Group, which has over 30,000 "likes" and is an active pro-coal social networking site.