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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.

But that hasn't happened. The major environmental groups still support the fracking bill, which is a compromise worked out between industry and environmentalists, and which Gov. Pat Quinn says would provide the strongest environmental protections in the nation. (Not that other states have set a particularly high bar.)

The confusion appears to stem from the Sierra Club's recent affirmation of its longtime position that it would prefer a two-year moratorium on fracking, a new combination of technologies that permits extraction of previously inaccessible oil and natural gas. Two major studies will be completed next year that will tell us more about the effects of fracking. One is a large-scale study of health effects in Pennsylvania. The other is a U.S. EPA national assessment of the fracking technology. A moratorium would provide a chance to evaluate the results of those studies before setting Illinois policy.

The problem is that a bill providing for a moratorium is stuck in committee and appears to be going nowhere. Without a moratorium -- and with no regulatory bill -- Illinois could become the home of unregulated fracking. Environmentalists say acecdotal evidence indicates that's already happening.

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If the industry sweetheart bill SB 1715 is voted down, then Madigan will be forced to move on the moratorium (because both address the state's tax aspect of fracking). But if this sham "regulatory" bill SB 1715 goes through, then the moratorium will be killed. The moratorium is NOT a lost hope, but it's only going to pass if we kill SB 1715. Grassroots groups and communities to be affected by fracking are telling Sierra Club, NRDC and Illinois Environmental Council: you don't represent us in supporting SB 1715, you are making a mockery of the statewide movement to keep Illinois SAFE from fracking. FIVE southern counties have voted in favor of the moratorium, and more to come. If the big green organizations are going to keep negotiating our land and water away with industry without consulting with community groups, they are making a huge mistake and compromising everything we are all fighting for.

Can you believe it? I'm asking the Illinois State Legislature to take a good look at the existing data to see that fracking cannot be regulated. Trillions of gallons of fresh water will be left with toxic chemicals, radiation and heavy metal - lost to communities and people of Illinois - never to be reused.

We're asking Illinois to wait one year before fracking - wait until the huge data reports and studies will become public: The Geisinger Report of hundreds of thousands of people living near fracking sites and the EPA Report addressing the question if fracking is safe and if not, can it be made safe?

Is it too much to ask? The regulatory bill is full of holes that cannot be mended because fracking is too dangerous a process to regulate - what will we do with trillions of gallons of essentially hazardous waste water from fracking and how will we ever recover our once fresh water? How will we clean our contaminated soil and our air from benzene and silicon?

90% of the earth's crust is silicon. It is 2nd only to oxygen in abundance. I am concerned that blocking fracking in Illinois is just allowing time for small land/mineral rights owners to suffer some tragedy that forces them to sell out to big money interests perhaps located in Chicago, and their concern that lowly down state will gain enough economic importance to challenge Chicago for influence. Those claiming new unusual risks resulting from fracking need to present better evidence, or any evidence. That is what they are hoping for from future reports.

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Frisbie published on May 28, 2013 11:40 AM.

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