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Bennett: Let’s prevent more toxic coal ash crises in Illinois

Sen. Scott BennettSPRINGFIELD – State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) joined legislators, environmental groups and community leaders from across Illinois Tuesday to call on the General Assembly to be proactive about the hazardous coal ash pollution threatening Illinois lakes, rivers and streams.

“Coal ash pollution is not a partisan issue,” Bennet said. “There are coal ash pits in essentially every legislative district, so it’s important to recognize that it’s not a problem for one part of the state or one political party. It’s a problem for the state of Illinois.”

Bennett championed the Coal Ash Pollution Prevention Act to address this issue. Senate Bill 9 would direct the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to begin a rule-making process to require power plant operators to safely dispose of coal ash or ensure that pits are properly enclosed, impose fees on coal ash pits to pay the costs of hiring IEPA staff to oversee enforcement, and require power plant operators to set aside money to pay for cleaning up pits in the event a plant is shut down or a company goes bankrupt.

Portions of Bennett’s district include Vermillion County, where coal ash ponds from the retired Vermilion Power Station threaten to contaminate groundwater and the nearby Middle Fork of the Vermillion River. The IEPA has issued two violation notices to Dynegy Midwest Generation for pollution of groundwater and surface water from its three coal ash ponds near the plant.

Bennett said action is needed now because a United States EPA rule gives Illinois power companies until October 31, 2020, to close ash disposal areas that fail groundwater protection requirements, and the proposed measure would provide a framework for safe clean-up and closure.

“Historically, Illinois is addicted to crisis. It cares after the problem occurs but it doesn’t do anything to get in front of the problem and avoid it,” Bennett said. “It is time to change that trend with bills like Senate Bill 9. This is a good, proactive legislation that provides us with the protections, regulations and financial assurances that we need to prevent more coal ash crises in Illinois.”

Sen. Scott Bennett

Senator Scott Bennett

52nd Senate District

Years served: 2015 - Present

Committee assignments: Agriculture (Chairperson); Appropriations II; Criminal Law (Vice-Chairperson); Higher Education; Labor; State Government; Subcommittee on Capital.

Biography: Bennett grew up in Gibson City, where four generations of his family worked on their family farm. He moved to Champaign-Urbana to attend law school at the University of Illinois after graduating from Illinois State University.

Associated Representatives:
Carol Ammons
Michael T. Marron