By Mark Wachtler
September 17, 2014. Springfield. (ONN) When the state of Illinois released its revised rules regulating fracking in the state two weeks ago, environmental groups and anti-fracking activists said they felt betrayed by Governor Quinn and his fellow Democrats. They hold a super-majority in Illinois and had promised various watchdog groups that their second draft of the rules would close dangerous and corporate-friendly loopholes. Apparently, the grassroots activists were double-crossed. Now, they’re united in their effort to stop fracking in Illinois.
IL draft rules would allow fracking 500 feet, or less than 2 football fields, away from schools and hospitals. Image courtesy of NoFracking.com.
Illinois fracking - 2nd draft
“For the second time this summer, Illinois lawmakers have tried to slide fracking under your radar,” Illinois Food and Water Watch’s Jessica Fujan announced to supporters immediately after the rules were made public, “Just before Labor Day weekend, Illinois released rules that will allow frackers to begin drilling in Southern Illinois, and the rules are unbelievably awful.”
The Illinois lead organizer for Food and Water Watch went on to direct her outrage and frustration at Governor Pat Quinn. “In my last email, I mentioned that Governor Quinn promised to fix thirty major problems with the draft regulations before approving permits,” she explained, “Not only did he fail to keep his promise, he failed to respond to the thousands of Southern Illinoisans who demand a ban on this dangerous industrial drilling practice.”
Fujan went on to warn Illinois residents that it’s not only environmentalists that are “horrified” by the gaping loopholes in the state’s revised fracking rules. Parents, teachers and healthcare workers should be especially outraged. The new rules allow oil and gas drilling just 500 feet from schools and hospitals. The next time readers are by their neighborhood grade school, they should stop and picture just how near 500 feet really is. And then picture a giant drilling rig in full operation right there.
Food and Water Watch closed their recent appeal by accusing Illinois Democrats of being in bed with Wall Street big oil and gas corporations. “The anti-fracking community knows that these rules can never be made strong enough to protect us from fracking, and attempts up until now demonstrate that Illinois lawmakers have more interest in Big Oil money than they do in the future of Illinoisans,” Jessica Fujan said, “As our state government moves closer and closer to fracking its people, we need more people to join the fight.” The organization has put together an online petition that Illinois residents can use to tell their elected officials to fix the state’s fracking rules or ban fracking all together.
Entire environmental movement enters the fight in Illinois
As soon as the state released the second draft of its fracking law, environmental groups across Illinois joined Food and Water Watch in voicing their outrage and contempt for the revised rules. The Huffington Post briefly listed a sampling of grassroots organizations that put out statements, each one seemingly more critical than the next.
One well known organization that released a statement was Sierra Club. They announced, “Fracking is a very dangerous practice that threatens the health, water supply, and air quality of residents. Sierra Club is opposed to its use in Illinois.” The group’s statement went on to say it hopes Illinois lawmakers heard, “the voices of the overwhelming majority of Illinois' citizens who oppose fracking, and demanded that the state go back to the drawing board.”
The Natural Resources Defense Council is credited with helping to write the state’s law, along with corporate energy lobbyists, but is now calling on Illinois to, “impose a moratorium on fracking until we have the science we need to make informed decisions about how to guard against its formidable risks.” The Huff Post article also quoted SAFE and Illinois People’s Action warning, “The revised IDNR rules cannot and will not protect Illinoisans from the dangers of fracking.” They insist, “The wisest course of action would be to have a ban on fracking in the state of Illinois.”
State officials have responded, assuring Illinois residents that the new rules increased the fines to be levied against energy corporations when they violate the law. But grassroots activists are insisting that fines haven’t worked in other states and they won’t work here. They remind residents that fines didn’t stop farms from being destroyed in North Dakota by contaminated chemical run-off. Fines didn’t stop the epidemic of earthquakes admittedly caused by fracking in Oklahoma and Ohio. And fines didn’t stop residents in Colorado from being forced from their homes due to toxic air from near-by mines.
As far as we at the Illinois Herald are concerned, and as we’ve said from the beginning, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with fracturing rock to get oil and gas out. It’s the methods drilling companies are using, and more importantly, the chemicals and waste left-over that are the main problem. Regardless, Illinois is the top producer of corn in the entire country. We’re a farm state that shouldn’t gamble the economic powerhouse of farming for the quickly exhausted and comparatively small influx of profits from fracking. But the biggest reason to ban or severely limit fracking in the state is because Illinois has the most untrustworthy elected officials in the country. Crony capitalism, fracking and farming just don’t mix.
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