State House candidate Kasiar stands up for coal industry
Eldorado's Jason Kasiar, the Republican candidate for state House in District 118, released his plan to re-energize the downstate coal industry last week, adding a few words about his opponent, state Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg), before presenting his plan.
"Career politicians like incumbent Phelps have continued to make excuses and fail us on these important issues for years," Kasiar said. "As a Southern Illinois businessman, I’m not interested in playing party politics or making excuses; I’m interested in results. That’s why I have a plan to fight the Democrat War on Coal and get our hard-working miners back to work."
Kasiar's plan incorporates five main objectives in rebuilding the coal industry. First, he plans to work with all governmental departments and agencies to create incentives that will encourage coal-fired power plants to install sulfur dioxide scrubbers.
Illinois coal is higher in sulfur than coal found in other locations. This affected the downstate coal mining industry after President George H.W. Bush signed the 1990 Clean Air Act. Between 1990 and 2003, Illinois coal mine production dropped by half and its workforce dropped from approximately 10,000 to 3,500. Adding sulfur dioxide scrubbers will help coal-burning power plants meet clean air regulations while using locally sourced Illinois coal rather than western coal, which must be trucked across the country.
Kasiar's plan also encourages the formation of a coalition made up of miners, owners, researchers and local officials to promote and grow domestic and international markets. He said that state leaders and lawmakers must be educated about the coal industry and its importance to Southern Illinois. By taking a proactive stance in organizing the industry and educating lawmakers, Southern Illinois can protect its coal industry.
“Coal is a vital part of the economy here in Southern Illinois,” Kasiar said. “It’s important for the people we send to Springfield to do more than just give lip service to the coal industry. They must take a proactive role in promoting coal and helping coal make a comeback in Southern Illinois.”
The fourth step of Kasiar's plan focuses on encouraging scientific research and studies on sustainable coal use practices as well as developing new technologies. Privately funded, science-based scholarships for Southern Illinois University students would encourage efforts to find environmentally friendly ways to use coal.
Finally, the plan would promote and find new uses for coal byproducts, such as fly ash, which is produced in electric power generating plants when pulverized coal is burnt. One of the many uses for fly ash is in cement. Pound for pound, substituting fly ash for Portland cement reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere during construction projects. This green solution adds value to the coal industry.
While the Illinois coal industry output has increased since its lowest point in 2003, improved technology has resulted in fewer jobs for coal workers. The industry has lost 1,630 jobs in 2105 and 2016. Approximately 2,825 workers are still working in coal-mining jobs in Illinois.
“Incumbent Phelps has been in office during one of the steepest declines in the history of the coal industry in Southern Illinois," Kasiar said. "There is no excuse for his failure. We deserve better. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Right now. The reason I introduced this plan is to start the discussion now, and if elected I’ll do more than just show up and vote on legislation. I’ll be a proactive leader that stands up for and brings results to our communities on these important issues every single day.”
Kasiar and Phelps will face off in the November general election. In addition to his interest in the coal industry and job growth, Kasiar will work on reforms to increase the accessibility and affordability of health care in Southern Illinois.