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    Recent Chapter 11 filings by industry behemoths Arch Coal and Peabody Energy show that coal is no longer king, but it’s nowhere near death, both industry experts and environmental activists agree. They differ, though, on whether these bankruptcy proceedings are a temporary restructuring process or part of a long-term decline.
    Illinois Coal Association President Phil Gonnet lays the troubles of the industry squarely at the feet of federal regulations. He said that he’s been fighting the U.S. EPA’s MATS rule (Mercury and Air Toxic Standards) for more than two years. Multiple lawsuits were filed against the government, and the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately stayed its enforcement but not before the loss of about 20 percent of the coal generation in the country.
    “The power companies need certainty on whether they should operate in the future and how they should operate and they have to make decisions,” Gonnet said. “They can’t wait for the lawsuits to play out, so the Supreme Court did a stay on the clean power plan, which was totally unprecedented, but it was necessary, I think, for the industry to survive. We’ll see where that takes us but that at least takes the clean power plan off of the stove for at least a couple more years.”  
    With the boom of the fracking industry, more and more energy producers have been switching to natural gas and that’s eaten into coal’s share of the business.
    “I think what’s hurt us, too,” Gonnet said, “is that power plant operators try to look into the future and they’re thinking that it looks like these carbon emission standards were written so that coal couldn’t meet them but natural gas could. I think that’s what tipped their decision that way.”
    But natural gas has its limits, according to Gonnet. One of the obstacles to using more natural gas is the lack of infrastructure — the pipelines to move the natural gas to the power plants.  Building that infrastructure, Gonnet says, is both difficult and expensive. He also has a problem with the very concept of using natural gas to produce electricity.

p01 retirementMark Pettyjohn teaches a recent retirement class.

    How many hard-working Americans don’t look forward to retirement? Perhaps a better question is: How many can comfortably do it?
    Mark Pettyjohn says many seniors step off that cliff without knowing how far they’ll fall.

    Economic development will take a meandering path in Madison County the next 25 years, one that could best be appreciated by a bird.
    Land maps of proposed activity show enclaves here, pockets there, larger blocks elsewhere — all part of the expected growth that will accompany three newly approved enterprise zones in the county.
    The zones were authorized in legislation that took effect the first of the year, and a number of meetings are being held to acquaint people with the specifics.
    For places like the Tri Cities region and the Greater Alton corridor, there will be a continuation of what’s been in place for many years.
    But for southern and eastern Madison County, much of the growth will be new, all part of a plan by leaders in six local governments to take advantage of their wide open spaces. That potential is represented by the newest enterprise zone, called the Discovery Zone, and it includes portions of Collinsville, Glen Carbon, Maryville, Troy, Highland,  St. Jacob and unincorporated Madison County.
    The others include the previously existing Riverbend, Southwestern Madison County and Gateway Commerce zones. Madison County Community Development administers the zones and coordinated a joint enterprise zone application packet that was approved by the state. That effort took the bulk of last year to complete.
    Riverbend and Southwestern have been renewed for up to 25 years, while Gateway, which was formed in 1997, isn’t due to expire until 2027.
    “We had to develop a package that everybody could live with,” said Frank Miles, Community Development administrator. A lot of the zone areas overlap with tax increment financing districts, and a TIF takes precedence in terms of incentives. Communities had to come to an agreement on what kind of property tax abatements they wanted.
    An enterprise zone can also include sales tax abatement on building materials, investment tax credits, utility tax exemption and additional business assistance.
    Depending on where builders are buying their materials, the sales tax exemption could range anywhere from 6.5 percent to almost 12 percent. The deal is good anywhere in the state.

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    EDWARDSVILLE  – Four years after the tragic loss of two Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) students in an off-campus apartment fire, the victims’ families and attorneys are releasing a fire safety video to more than 200 universities nationwide. Lauren Petersen and Lacy Siddall lost their lives in an off-campus apartment fire on April 22, 2012.
    The Petersen and Siddall families and their attorneys, Ted Gianaris, of Simmons Hanly Conroy, and Thomas Long, of Sandberg Phoenix & Von Gontard P.C., set out to honor the memories of Lauren and Lacy and create awareness to protect students and prevent future incidents by funding and producing the video. The families and attorneys partnered with SIUE University Housing, Residence Life Cinema and Switch to produce the first-of-its-kind video.
    “If this video can prevent other families from experiencing the unspeakable grief of losing cherished loved ones to a preventable danger like an off-campus apartment fire, then that will allow some good to come from tragedy. We hope Lacy and Lauren’s story will educate landlords, students and even parents about fire prevention for college students living in both on- and off-campus housing,” the families said in a joint statement.
    The video features the girls’ mutual friend Taylor Scott talking about how much she misses them. The video underscores the dangers of campus fires by capturing slow-motion footage shot at 2,000 frames per second using the Phantom Flex4K camera. It also includes footage from the aftermath of the fire that claimed the women’s lives. The families hope including the real-life footage will underscore the importance of fire safety for thousands of student viewers.
    “We set out to speak specifically to college students, and I believe the video accomplishes that in a dramatic and hard-hitting way,” said Mike Schultz, director of University Housing at SIUE.
    Lauren Petersen was a 19-year-old student in the SIUE College of Arts and Sciences. Lacy Siddall was 21 years old and studying speech-language pathology in the SIUE School of Education, Health and Human Behavior. The two girls were childhood friends who grew up in Bethalto, Ill., and were inseparable. No matter if they were going to church, playing tennis or attending college.
    “Growing up, they did everything together,” Rex Petersen, Lauren’s father remembered. “They lived together and they died together.”
    This April marks the 4-year anniversary of the fire. For the two years afterward, the families and attorneys fought a large insurance company. The lawsuit centered on improperly placed smoke and fire alarms. Investigation during litigation ruled out the initial theory the fire was caused by a laptop. The families and their attorneys believe hard fought lawsuits can result in making children and families safer. The families and the attorneys decided to use a portion of the settlement to spread awareness of the need to educate college students and parents about fire safety.
    “As each young person views this critical safety video the tragedy that befell Lacy and Lauren will transform itself into a life-saving awareness opportunity for others. The Long Family was honored to assist with the production of this touching informational video," said Long.
    “I always hope my work in the courtroom can bring some peace of mind to the families I represent and help make things safer for everyone,” Gianaris said. “I hope the memory of Lauren and Lacy, through this video, will go on to make a significant impact and save lives.”
    Approximately 126 students from 2000 to 2014 have perished from fires that occurred on a college campus, in Greek housing or in off-campus housing within three miles of campus, according to the Center for Campus Fire Safety (The Center). Of the 89 fatal fires that occurred during that time, over 85 percent occurred in off-campus housing. The Center is a non-profit, membership based, organization devoted to reducing the loss of life from fire at our nation's campuses. “This tragedy should encourage schools, landlords, parents and students to learn more about fire safety to make educated decisions,” said The Center’s President Michael J. Swain. “We encourage schools and those managing off-campus student housing to upgrade and maintain their fire protection systems to provide a balanced approach to fire safety.”
    Available through Residence Life Cinema, a division of Swank Motion Pictures, this content will join the company’s educational programming library which services more than 200 public and private universities throughout the country. In addition, college officials will have the option to require students to watch the video in a commercial-like format before a self-selected movie or TV show episode appears through the university’s closed-circuit streaming service.
    “Residence Life Cinema is honored to share Lauren and Lacy’s story across our member network to potentially reach thousands of college students and remind them of the importance of fire safety on and off campus,” stated Residence Life Cinema executive Colin Crane.
    Copies of the video will also be available to local high school officials interested in showing the content to seniors as part of their college preparations. Schools and other organizations like fraternities and sororities interested in using the video as part of their programming should contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to learn more.
    To see the video, go to:  http://www.simmonsfirm.com/fire-safety-video/
    SIMMONS HANLY CONROY is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms and has recovered more than $5 billion in verdicts and settlements for plaintiffs. Primary areas of litigation include asbestos and mesothelioma, pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental and personal injury. The firm’s attorneys have been appointed to leadership in numerous national multidistrict litigations, including Vioxx, Yaz and Toyota Unintended Acceleration. The firm also represents small and mid-size corporations, inventors and entrepreneurs in matters involving business litigation. Offices are located in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Alton, Illinois.
    Residence Life Cinema provides campuses nationwide with entertainment, student development content and communication tools through campus channels and streaming technology. Their services act as a recruitment and retention tool as well as, encourage student success by addressing critical issues such as campus safety, binge drinking and sexual assault through various programming materials.