Conflict of interest: Bruce Rauner appointee to Illinois Department of Natural Resources took campaign cash from coal companies

Republican Illinois State Representative Wayne Rosenthal of Morrisonville has been appointed by fellow Republican and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to head the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), which, in addition to maintaining state parks and recreation areas and regulating hunting and fishing, is responsible for regulating coal mining and other forms of mining in Illinois.

This is a major conflict of interest in the Rauner Administration, since, as a candidate for state representative, Rosenthal has taken $13,000 in campaign donations from Foresight Energy and Hillsboro Energy, two coal mining companies owned by billionaire mining magnate Chris Cline:

Nearly two years ago, the Wisconsin newspaper Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that one of Cline’s coal mining companies here in Illinois, Macoupin Energy, was violating state environmental regulations designed to prevent groundwater from becoming contaminated by refusing to adequately clean up groundwater contamination at the Shay 1 mine, which is located in Macoupin County either in or near Carlinville:

An Illinois coal mine owned by the same investor who is trying to develop an iron ore mine in Wisconsin has come under fire by Illinois’ pollution control agency for failing to adequately address long-standing groundwater problems.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency formally notified Macoupin Energy in December that it believes the company is dragging its feet with the cleanup at the Shay 1 mine in Carlinville, Ill., according to government documents.

The agency said it plans to refer the case to the Illinois attorney general.

Macoupin is one of four mines owned in Illinois by billionaire Christopher Cline, who is proposing to build a $1.5 billion iron ore mine in Ashland and Iron counties if the Wisconsin Legislature rewrites mining laws to the company’s satisfaction.

To use a Sesame Street analogy, putting Wayne Rosenthal, who is a shill for coal barons, in charge of regulating the mining industry here in Illinois is like putting Cookie Monster in charge of protecting cookies. For Governor Rauner to appoint someone like Rosenthal to IDNR is a flagrant conflict of interest, and, while I’m not completely opposed to mining for coal and other minerals by any stretch of the imagination, I’m very afraid that Rosenthal’s IDNR will allow mining companies to get away with polluting Illinois groundwater and waterways.

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