Kasiar outlines plan to promote coal industry
Jason Kasiar, the Republican candidate for the state House seat in District 118, said he wants to create jobs in Southern Illinois by revitalizing the region’s coal industry.
In a five-part plan released last month, Kasiar outlines how he’d take advantage of what he sees as the most immediate fix to the jobs problem plaguing Southern Illinois.
“The coal is there — the mines are there, " Kasiar told Southwest Illinois News. "There’s still plenty of coal to dig and we are turning our backs on it. All the candidates down here talk about coal. I'm the only one who has put together a plan of how to make it work.”
The plan was put together after conversations with stakeholders, including coal mine owners, coal miners and state legislators with knowledge of the industry and of how things work in Springfield, Kasiar said.
His plan includes increasing the use of Illinois coal in Illinois power plants; forming a coalition of miners, owners, researchers, local mayors and others to investigate non-government solutions to promote international markets for Southern Illinois coal; educating state leaders and lawmakers about the importance of the industry to the region; investing in coal research at Southern Illinois University and establishing a privately funded scholarship for students interested in studying and developing new coal-related technology; and promoting byproduct use in construction.
Less than 10 percent of coal mined in the state is used in Illinois, Kasiar’s plan noted. He said it’s because of regulations regarding sulfur dioxide — a colorless gas that’s released into the air during some manufacturing processes. Investing in technology to remove sulfur dioxide would help Illinois mines meet regulations, keep coal for use in the state, create jobs and lower energy costs.
“It costs hundreds of millions of dollars annually for companies to transport coal from western states to our coal-burning power plants," Kasiar said in the plan's outline. "That cost is then passed on to the consumer."
Kasiar said he would like to foster better understanding of the industry by hosting a summit that includes state and federal lawmakers. In addition to a tour of Southern Illinois mines, he proposed working together to find solutions at all governmental levels.
“This platform of multi-governmental cooperation will be key in protecting our vital coal industry,” Kasiar said.
Kasiar said SIU students should be encouraged to study better, more environmentally friendly ways to use coal.
“Budget cuts have hurt our students and the coal research at SIU," Kasiar's plan said "Investing in our students and those who are interested in specializing their scientific studies on the existing sustainable coal use practices and the development of new coal-related technology should be a priority."
Along those lines, Kasiar said he thinks more construction and repair projects should involve the use of coal ash, also known as fly ash, a byproduct of burning pulverized coal in electric power generating plants. The ash works like a bonding agent and can be used in cement.
“For every ton of fly ash used in place of Portland Cement [cement manufactured from limestone and clay], about a ton of carbon dioxide is prevented from entering the earth’s atmosphere," Kasiar said in the plan. "The use of fly ash is good for the environment and adds even more value to the coal industry."
Voters want lawmakers to bring more jobs to the region, Kasiar said. For many, it’s the most important issue in the election.
“We're sad to see Southern Illinois in the shape that it's in,” he said. “Our businesses suffer. Of course, our miners and their families suffer. They're moving out of the state because there's nowhere else to go.”
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