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Tuesday night's viewing of Burning the Future in Illinois coal country was a powerful reminder that there's just no such thing as clean coal.  Whether its mountaintop removal in West Virginia or longwall mining of farmland in Montgomery County Illinois, rural landscapes and people will suffer as long as we remain over-reliant on coal.

We watched the film in John Shimkus' Congressional district and most of the attendees are his constituents.  Shimkus sits on the House Energy Committee, which is considering a major, comprehensive bill this week to reduce global warming emissions.  

He's one of the most outspoken, and most ridiculous, opponents of any serious action to confront the climate change crisis.  Congressional Republicans present him as a leader on energy issues but the rest of Congress should know that Shimkus doesn't speak for many people in his district.  

I invited everyone to sign two open letters.  The first one asks Shimkus to support serious efforts to reduce global warming emissions and create green jobs.  The second asks top state Democratic leaders not to draw another gerrymandered incumbent-protection district that makes it impossible to unseat Shimkus.  Even two former coal miners in the audience added their names. The text of each letter...

Dear Representative Shimkus,

As Central Illinois residents, we’re concerned about job creation and the climate change crisis.  We’re shocked by your statements denying the scientific consensus behind global warming and calling legislation to address the problem "the largest assault on democracy and freedom in this country that I’ve ever experienced."  Our regional economy can best be recharged by green jobs through renewable energy and efficiency projects.  Please support tough legislation to combat global warming and diversify our energy economy.  Your extreme statements don’t represent us.

Dear Governor Pat Quinn, Senator John Cullerton, and Representative Michael Madigan,

Residents of the Illinois 19th Congressional district are repeatedly disappointed as Congressman John Shimkus has been the center of embarrassing national stories, including his failure to disclose the sexual harassment of Congressional pages, suggesting a dictatorship
for Iraq, and calling legislation to combat global warming a greater assault on democracy than the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  Residents feel disenfranchised by a district drawn to guarantee that Shimkus can’t lose, regardless of his performance.  Please give Central and Southern Illinois a fair chance to choose our own Congressman by not supporting an incumbent protection district for Shimkus after the 2010 census.

I left a space for people to add their own comments and got some strong ones like these:  "Accountability!"  "It's not junk science!" "You are an embarrassment."  "CO2 can kill. It's a matter of degree. Ask Apollo 13."

The letter won't be an ongoing petition but you can still contact your member of Congress, even if it's Shimkus, to support making the Waxman-Markey ACES bill stronger and oppose efforts to water it down.

Cross-posted from my blog.

Originally posted to Willinois on Wed May 20, 2009 at 02:30 PM PDT.

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