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May 2013 Archives

Fracking bill in Illinois still on track

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A protester against fracking attends a rally after a House Committee hearing at the Illinois State Capitol on May 21. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

Word was going around over the Memorial Day weekend that a bill to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Illinois was in trouble because it had lost the support of key environmental groups.

Fracking opponents were saying the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council in Illinois were switching their support from the regulatory bill to a two-year moratorium.


Gov. Pat Quinn (John White~Sun-Times)

A concealed carry bill that would wipe out all Chicago and Cook County gun laws sailed through the Democrat-controlled Illinois House today by an 85-30 vote, even though it was opposed by many of the state's top Democrats.

Here's what Gov. Pat Quinn said after the vote:

"This legislation is wrong for Illinois.

"It was wrong yesterday in committee, it's wrong today, and it's wrong for the future of public safety in our state.

"The principle of home rule is an important one. As written, this legislation is a massive overreach that would repeal critical gun safety ordinances in Chicago, Cook County, and across Illinois.

"We need strong gun safety laws that protect the people of our state. Instead, this measure puts public safety at risk.

"I will not support this bill and I will work with members of the Illinois Senate to stop it in its tracks."

Keep going, Chicago bd of ed members

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Knocking off four of the 54 schools on CPS' closing list is a sign of progress.

But it's only a start.

It's now up to the Chicago Board of Education's six members -- who vote Wednesday on the remaining 50 closures -- to keep whittling down that list.

Late Tuesday, a source told the Sun-Times that Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is dropping four elementary schools from her closure list: Garvey in Washington Heights, Manierre in Old Town, Ericson in East Garfield Park and M. Jackson in Auburn Gresham. She also decided to delay for one year the closure of Canter Middle School in Kenwood and against subjecting Barton School in Auburn Gresham to a reform measure called a turnaround.

The Sun-Times editorial page had highlighted all four of the spared schools, including lengthy editorials on Manierre and Garvey. Those reprieves are well-deserved and encouraging.

But more schools are worth saving.

Quinn discusses Springfield's concealed carry bills

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QUINN.JPGGov. Pat Quinn talks with the news media after an address to the City Club of Chicago at Maggiano's Banquets, Monday. l John H. White~Chicago Sun-Times.

Could there be a version of the concealed carry bill so bad Gov. Pat Quinn just won't sign it?

Quinn ducked that question Monday in a meeting with the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, saying, "I would much rather see both houses [of the Legislature] debate the issue."

But the question won't go away, now that an effort led by state Sen. Kwame Raoul came up short of the needed 30 votes Friday (it wasn't even called). The House speaker's staff is drawing up an alternative said to be much closer to the NRA's position, which would allow concealed carry around the state with no provision for limits set by local governments.

Nuclear waste plan poses risks for Illinois

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A man in a protective suit works next to a locomotive Monday in Wetteren, Belgium, where hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes after a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed and exploded last week. Some environmentalists worry about a similar scene in Illinois involving radioactive waste. (Virginie Lefour/AFP/Getty Images)

Back in the 1970s, then-Illinois Attorney General William J. Scott kept vowing he would not let Illinois become the "nuclear dumping ground of the nation."

But a proposal in the U.S. Senate that would create "centralized interim storage" sites for nuclear waste has some environmentalists worried that Illinois could become home to much more radioactive waste and also vulnerable to spilled waste if freights carrying it through the state derail. A discussion draft is open until May 24.

Critics have said the plan would make Illinois the "bulls-eye" for nuclear waste.

Why fracking pact is stalled in the Legislature

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FRACKING-1.JPGOutdoor enthusiasts, tourists, climbers and backpackers at Garden of the Gods Wilderness Area near Herod, Ill. Southern Illinoisans have hopes and fears surrounding the high-volume oil and gas drilling that may be starting in the Shawnee National Forest. (Seth Perlman~AP)

UPDATE 11:15 AM MAY 21, 2013: The Illinois House Executive Committee unanimously passed the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulation Act (Senate Bill 1715).

After a year of negotiations over hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Illinois, a compromise that could be a model for the nation is snagged over a simple question.

What exactly is fracking, anyway?

Burge torture investigations take a step forward

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Former Chicago Police Cmdr. Jon Burge departs the federal building in Chicago on May 24, 2010, (Charles Rex Arbogast~AP)

No one wanted to handle the alleged Jon Burge torture cases. Not Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Not the state appellate prosecutor. Not the state's attorneys of 12 counties.

So on Tuesday, Cook County Criminal Courts Chief Judge Paul Biebel Jr., back to Square One, appointed retired Judge Stuart A. Nudelman as special prosecutor to handle the state's side of the cases. If there is a sense of deja vu here, it's because Biebel previously - back in 2009 - also had appointed Nudelman as a special prosecutor in different Burge-related torture cases. (A number of those cases have been disposed of since then.)

But more than 100 men still claim they've been languishing in prison because of statements extracted through torture by former Chicago Police Cmdr. Burge and his Midnight Crew in the 1970s and 1980s. The process of investigating these men's claims, though, had ground to a halt.

Tuesday's ruling will get things moving forward again in two ways.

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