Environmental groups lobbying state for two-year fracking ban

2013-03-10T06:30:00Z Environmental groups lobbying state for two-year fracking banBy L.E. Hlavach | laura.hlavach@lee.net pantagraph.com

SPRINGFIELD — When sponsors three weeks ago unveiled a proposal to regulate hydraulic fracturing in Illinois, they were surrounded by supporters from both industry and environmental groups.

Legislative sponsors said the measure for regulating the technique for oil and natural gas drilling, if passed, would be the strictest in the nation — a model for other states to follow.

About a dozen environmental and citizens groups in Central and Southern Illinois disagree — and they plan to come to Springfield on Tuesday to lobby the General Assembly for a two-year ban on this type of drilling. Among them are Illinois People’s Action and Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment (SAFE).

Hydraulic fracturing — “fracking” — is a process that uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack rock formations to release oil and natural gas.

These proposals also would establish a 28-member hydraulic fracturing task force made up of representatives from government, industry, environmental and health groups. The task force would have two years in which to hold public hearings, conduct research, draft findings and make recommendations to the General Assembly.

The groups coming to Springfield on Tuesday also will lobby against the proposal introduced Feb. 21 by state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, and others — a proposal Bradley called a “historic, significant and comprehensive agreement” to regulate high-volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing in Illinois.

Among the proponents of Bradley’s proposal were representatives of the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Law & Policy Center.

Spokeswomen for two of these environmental groups expressed reservations about fracking generally. “But we recognize that it is coming here. Leases are being bought, and for that reason, it is critical that we have protections in place, to protect the public,” said Ann Alexander, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But Illinois People’s Action spokesman Bill Rau called Bradley’s proposal a “deregulation” of fracking, not regulation.

“This bill will be a disaster for Illinois,” he said, calling it “fatally flawed” in part because it did not take into sufficient account the special characteristics of southeastern Illinois’ New Albany shale deposits where drilling is likely to start.

Rau, a retired professor of industrial sociology at Illinois State University, said he has been interested in energy policy since he was in graduate school.

“The evidence is coming out very quickly now that this is a really dangerous process,” Rau said, citing publications in the National Academy of Sciences.

Rau outlined some of his specific concerns about fracking in Illinois shale in a 10-page, footnoted letter he sent Jan. 30 to all members of the General Assembly.

But Rau admitted Tuesday’s lobbying effort won’t be easy.

As of Friday, at least 53 Illinois state representatives had signed on as sponsors of Bradley’s hydraulic fracturing proposal — Democrats and Republicans from all over the state. Only 60 votes are needed to endorse a measure in the House.

But Annette McMichael, IPA member and SAFE spokeswoman, said no matter what happens with Bradley’s proposal, “we will continue to push for the moratorium,” which she called a commonsense approach until scientific research moves forward.

McMichael is particularly concerned about water scarcity and quality, toxic waste and health challenges fracking may cause.

She also noted a federal judge’s decision Wednesday to lift a 17-year-old order that blocked oil and gas drilling in the Illinois Shawnee National Forest.

“Southern Illinoisans are being manipulated into believing that leasing their property is good for the country,” McMichael said. “It couldn’t be further from the truth.”

McMichael lives in Monticello but owns property in Johnson County, where her family plans to move soon.

She said she understands that horrible economic conditions in Southern Illinois are pressuring landowners to agree to leases that would permit drilling.

“But when we are talking about your own health being at risk, really nothing is more important than that,” she said. “We do not want Southern Illinois to become an industrial wasteland.”

Bradley’s measure is House Bill 2615. The two-year fracking ban proposals are Senate Bill 1418 and House Bill 3086.

Copyright 2015 pantagraph.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(6) Comments

  1. 9 miles of bad road
    Report Abuse
    9 miles of bad road - March 11, 2013 8:45 am
    Read the voices in the article and think about their self-interests. Rau and McMichael don't get anything out of protecting our water supply and land. They're just trying to give to their grandkids the same environment they got from their's. Now look at Rep. Bradley. His biggest campaign contributors are oil and gas (Exxon-Mobil). Ann Armstrong (NRDC) is a little more complicated, but they get a sense of power that comes with being at the negotiation table. Now ask yourself, whose interests are more like yours? Those who oppose fracking to protect the environment or those who want it for their personal gain?
  2. vox populi
    Report Abuse
    vox populi - March 11, 2013 7:11 am
    I hope everyone has watched "Frack Nation" to get the truth on fracking.
  3. BC
    Report Abuse
    BC - March 11, 2013 6:06 am
    The public needs to weigh the subject as to who supports the process and who opposes it. Those on the opposition side have less personal monetary interest while those who argue for approval have personal gain in mind. Somewhere between is the actual facts. Some of the environmentalists are too cautious but the corporate crowd leans too far toward profit over public good. There are plausible arguments on both sides. The energy source is important no one disagrees, the preservation of our water sources are vital. The fact that this area is also very close to a major fault line is a consideration. These resources need to be tapped in a manner than preserves other vital resources and doesn't create a major catastrophic event. Average Joe doesn't have enough real facts to form an opinion or take sides. Is the process the only way to recover natural gas or is it just the easiest and quickest means to maximize profit for those involved?
  4. exrepub
    Report Abuse
    exrepub - March 11, 2013 5:58 am
    I am just so tired of paid lobbyists for any reason. The people making decisions just need to use common sense, not try to make the most money. Otherwise it is the people with the most money making the decisions while not using common sense at all.
  5. Ted Kennedy's Swim Instructor
    Report Abuse
    Ted Kennedy's Swim Instructor - March 10, 2013 6:37 pm
    Nuclear power is the future, not fossil fuels.
  6. ronwagn
    Report Abuse
    ronwagn - March 10, 2013 11:50 am
    Producing and using natural gas is the best solution for base power, in conjunction with solar, wind, geothermal etc. There is plenty of natural gas all around the world, and it can be accessed with new and future technology.
    http://www.worldwatch.org/sy The main concern for environmentalists worldwide should be to cut the use of coal, especially in antiquated plants. Here are the top ten coal burners: http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/ what-are-the-top-10-coal-burning-countries-on-the-planet-whos-1.html

    It is possible for the whole world to drastically cut coal burning and benefit the health of all. Coal pollution travels around the world. http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/c02c.html

    stem/files/184_natural_gas_FINAL.pdf
    http://green.autoblog.com/2013/01/23/scientists-sound-alarm-on-soots-effect-on-global-warming/

    http://www.naturalgasamericas.com/study-natural-gas-is-much-needed-tool-to-slow-global-warming-7383

    Natural gas is the future of energy. It is replacing dirty old coal plants, and dangerous expensive nuclear plants. It will fuel cars, trucks, vans, buses, locomotives, aircraft, ships, tractors, engines of all kinds. It costs far less. It will help keep us out of more useless wars, where we shed our blood and money. It is used to make many products. It will bring jobs and boost our economy. It lowers CO2 emissions, and pollution. Over 5,400 select natural gas story links on my free blog. An annotated and illustrated bibliography of live links, updated daily. The worldwide picture of natural gas. Read in 75 nations. ronwagnersrants . blogspot . com




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