ILLINOIS (KFVS) - Keeping the coal mining industry alive is a future some would like to see, like coal miner Bob Sandidge.
"I've done it for 40 years, wouldn't do anything else," Sandididge said. "He was in attendance today at the 2017 Coal Forum not only advocating for coal, but also for his family. "It's my livelihood. It's my livelihood. I've raised three kids. It's it. It's all I know."
Sandidge is the co-founder of a social media movement called Coal Miners Movement on Facebook where there are over 31,000 followers. He is also a business owner in the industry for a labor services company called S&L Industries, which led him to a seat at the table today in front four lawmakers Illinois lawmakers.
"I think the goal was two-fold – for the legislators to hear from the stakeholder side, what's going on, how things happen. And it was a forum to inform us what's been happening," Sandidge explained.
The lawmakers in attendance were 12th District Congressman Mike Bost, 15th District Congressman John Shimkus, 58th State Senator Paul Schimpf, and 59th State Senator Dale Fowler.
With the stakeholders in the room, lawmakers were able to hear their insight and some of their biggest concerns like the permitting process in the state of Illinois and even duplication.
"Permitting is one of the issues. It takes three times longer in the state of IL as it does in some of our neighboring states for the permitting process, "Illinois Senator Dale Fowler said. "It has a lot to do with the red tape. It has a lot to do with, as some of the stakeholders mentioned, some of the staffing issues, the economy in the state of IL. The fact we don't have a budget and we don't have as many employees in the state of IL to be able to process the permitting."
"Government, whether it is federal or state, has to quit throwing a weighted collar around the neck of those who produce jobs and use that energy wisely," Congressman Mike Bost said.
Despite some of issues that arose today, the stakeholders, producers and even lawmakers were still optimistic.
"Maybe it's a far stretch to say we will be back how we used to be but I'm going to hold on the hopes that yeah we can get there if there's methods to get there, we will be there," Sandidge said.
"Opportunity right here in southern Illinois and we have the resources that we need that does not exist in the other parts of the nation. With the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio as an example that doesn't exist anywhere in the entire nation and we are not taking advantage of that and it's time that we do," Senator Fowler explained.
According to the Illinois Coal Association, the number of mine employees was 5,663 in 1995, twenty years later in 2015 there were 3,728.
President Trump recently signed legislation designed to help the coal mining industry. It ends a key Obama administration rule that had blocked coal mining debris from being dumped into nearby streams.