By Mark Wachtler
December 9, 2013. Effingham, IL. (ONN) Officials from the Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources announced they’ve rescheduled one of the traveling public hearings to discuss the issue of fracking in the state. The three remaining local public hearings will begin next week in Effingham, Decatur and Carbondale. Farmers and environmental groups are hoping the public attends the meetings to voice their opposition to fracking in Illinois.
Anti-fracking forces gathered at the state capitol earlier this year. Image courtesy of Progress Illinois.
The Illinois DNR scheduled five public hearings where citizens could ask questions or make comments regarding the state’s proposed Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act administrative rules. Two of the hearings, including the only one scheduled in Chicago, occurred in November. But the remaining three will take place beginning next week.
The Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources website lists the specific details for the remaining three public hearings. The site explains, ‘The purpose of the public hearings is to facilitate the submission of views and comments regarding specific aspects of the proposed administrative rules implementing the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act. The hearing will be conducted by a Hearing Officer. Staff from IDNR will be present to listen to comments, but staff probably will not be able to respond to each comment due to time limitations.’
The site says individuals will be limited to four minutes speaking time each. They also suggest that citizens wishing to make a comment or ask a question should sign in when they first get there and bring a written copy of their statement to submit to the hearing officer. The written comments will be entered into the hearing’s public record.
Hearing sites (from the IDNR website):
Monday, December 16, 2013 (rescheduled from Dec. 5)
6:30pm-8:30pm (Doors open at 5:30pm)
Holiday Inn Effingham, Hotel Ballroom
1301 Avenue of MidAmerica
Effingham, IL 62401
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
6:30pm-8:30pm (Doors open at 5:30pm)
Decatur Civic Center, Auditorium
#1 Gary K. Anderson Plaza
Decatur, IL 62523
Thursday, December 19, 2013
6:00pm-8:00pm (Doors open at 5:00pm)
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC)
Student Center, Ballroom B
1255 Lincoln Drive
Carbondale, IL 62901
Mail and online form
Keep in mind, the cut-off for public comments and questions regarding fracking in Illinois is January 3, 2014. For those that wish to attend a hearing but can’t make it in person, the state is accepting comments and questions via regular mail until the cut-off date. There is also an online submission form.
Click here for the online IDNR fracking submission form
Or mail your comments to:
Robert G. Mool
Office of Legal Counsel, Department of Natural Resources
One Natural Resources Way
Springfield, IL 62702-1271
Illinois anti-fracking activists fighting back
As the state passes the mid point of its 60-day review period, anti-fracking activists are finding more reasons every day not to like the state’s fracking law. One group, Protect IL from Fracking, recently announced, ‘We wish we could tell you that we've run out of things that are wrong with the Rules, but as we work our way through them, we are sadly finding many things that pose risks to public health and safety.’
The group says there is a gigantic loophole in the rules that allows fracking corporations to withhold information and deny the people of Illinois the legally required details. The activists point out that the rules require fracking companies to swear their applications are complete. But the law doesn’t actually require those applications to be complete. The state is also required to return incomplete applications to the corporations and allow them to resubmit the missing information.
The problem, the Illinois grassroots organization explains, is that the 60-day public review period begins when the corporation submits the application, not when it’s finally complete. Therefore, the law allows unethical fracking companies to purposely withhold damaging information from their application until the public review period is over.
‘This is important because the 60-day review period runs parallel to the period of time the public has to prepare for a public hearing,’ Protect IL from Fracking argues, ‘The rules, as written, invite abuse by unscrupulous applicants who could submit incomplete applications and withhold permit information until late in the process, thereby cheating the public out of valuable time needed to review the application and prepare for a hearing.’
Another local organization that is planning to attend the public hearings is ‘Fight Fracking in Southern Illinois – Protect the Shawnee.’ The group says it is, “Dedicated to preserving and protecting our region from the devastation which hydraulic fracturing has caused in other communities around the US.” Their primary concern is the protection of Shawnee National Park in southern Illinois. The organization is also holding a meeting just prior to the hearing in Decatur on December 17th. The public is encouraged to attend and take part.
Another local group fighting against fracking in Illinois is Food and Water Watch. Just in the past few days they’ve been warning farmers about the devastation that hydraulic fracking does to farmland. They’re no longer alone either. Farmers from fracking states are coming forward with horror stories about what fracking has done to their lives. With Illinois being the largest corn producer in America, farmers and the corporate agri-businesses that back them wield incredible power in the state.
As far as we at the Illinois Herald are concerned, Illinois was blessed with the most valuable natural resource of all – extremely fertile farmland. Our state’s treasure is yellow, but it’s not gold. It’s corn. Places with barren wastelands like South Dakota have finally found their own valuable resource – fracking. But for Illinois to throw away the jackpot it already enjoys in a greedy attempt to try and combine two natural resources into one by mining for oil and gas on farmland is a tragic mistake.
For more information on the upcoming public hearings on fracking, visit the Illinois DNR website.
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