THE BLOG
09/12/2014 02:24 pm ET Updated Nov 12, 2014

Illinois Green Groups Push to Stop Fracking With All Eyes on JCAR

The second draft of Illinois' controversial fracking regulation has been presented to JCAR, the state legislature's Joint Committee for Administrative Rules. The powerful group of twelve legislators will give final approval, or rejection, of the updated rules.

If JCAR takes no vote then the rules won't be finalized and fracking will be further delayed. It might be nice to see the legislature do nothing, for once, They can also prohibit the rules as a "threat to the public interest, safety or welfare." What all environmental leaders agree on is that letting fracking come to Illinois is a major threat to public health and safety.

The universal response from environmental groups is that Illinois must ban fracking because these rules won't protect the public. Even groups who supported the regulatory law that's designed to open the state to large scale fracking are now pushing for a ban or moratorium.

Sierra Club responded to the revised rules by reaffirming that, "fracking is a very dangerous practice that threatens the health, water supply, and air quality of residents, and Sierra Club is opposed to its use in Illinois."

This summer, oil & gas industry lobbyists used the support Sierra Club and three other environmental groups gave the fracking law to claim the practice will be safe and has broad support. But in the past year more evidence is in that fracking can't reliably be regulated well enough to protect public health and the environment. Sierra Club now hopes the state "heard the voices of the overwhelming majority of Illinois' citizens who oppose fracking, and demanded that the state go back to the drawing board."

An action alert from Food & Water Watch bluntly warns the rules, "are grossly inadequate and practically guarantee that our groundwater will be contaminated once fracking starts in Illinois."

The Natural Resources Defense Council, which helped write the law along with industry lobbyists, now urges the General Assembly to "re-think the direction we're going" and "impose a moratorium on fracking until we have the science we need to make informed decisions about how to guard against its formidable risks."

SAFE and Illinois People's Action believe "the revised IDNR rules cannot and will not protect Illinoisans from the dangers of fracking." They oppose approval of the rules and reaffirm that "the wisest course of action would be to have a ban on fracking in the state of Illinois."

A recent Frack Free Illinois call to action asks JCAR legislators to reject the rules because the Department of Natural Resources admits they're "not ready to take on the daunting task of regulating this dangerous industry."

Grassroots activists in southern Illinois started the first wave of phone calls and tweets to legislators to reject and prohibit the rules. Environmental groups are finally uniting behind the grassroots in front line communities who are determined to stop fracking in Illinois.

Even the Southern Illinoisan, known as one of the most pro-fossil fuel newspapers in the state, made a surprising reversal of its editorial for rushing the process. In response to strong pushback from many of their readers, they now urge Illinois to "move cautiously." A top concern is that much oil fracking may be done with a low enough volume of liquids and chemicals to not be subject to the law. That would mean none of the regulation will apply to those wells and the state won't collect tax revenue.

The Illinois General Assembly rushed passage of the fracking law last year with less than an hour of public debate after some members openly admitted they know very little about the issue. Now the ball is back in their court and one legislative committee has the chance to slow down and do the right thing.

IDNR Director Marc Miller is on a greenwashing press tour to assure the public his rules will make fracking environmentally responsible. He bragged that fines for violations were increased to be in line with other states.

How have fines at these levels worked in other states?

Did fines in North Dakota prevent contaminated wastewater from ruining farmland?

Did fines prevent earthquakes in Oklahoma and Ohio?

Have they stopped people being forced to flee fracking areas of Colorado to escape air contaminated with toxins associated with increased rates of birth defects and miscarriages?

Did penalties prevent contamination of waterways in Pennsylvania? Or major health impacts on people living nearby?

How about oil fracking workers exposed to dangerous levels of benzine, a chemical that "can be acutely toxic to the nervous system, liver, and kidneys."

Clearly, the fines in other states aren't working. Why should any reasonable person believe they'll work in Illinois? Despite the best efforts of the Quinn administration to convince us otherwise, most people know fracking can't be made safe by regulation and definitely not by a weak law written with industry lobbyists.

These are the members of JCAR who can stop fracking from coming to Illinois.

Senator Don Harmon, Co-Chair, 708-848-2002, dharmon@senatedem.ilga.gov
Representative Timothy Schmitz, Co-Chair, 630-845-9590, infotimschmitz@gmail.com
Senator Pamela Althoff, 815-455-6330, pamela@pamelaalthoff.net
Senator Tony Munoz, 773-869-9050, amunoz@senatedem.ilga.gov
Senator Sue Rezin, 815-220-8720, senatorrezin@gmail.com
Senator Dale Righter, 217-235-6033, drighter@consolidated.net
Senator Ira Silverstein, 773-743-5015, isilverstein@senatedem.ilga.gov
Representative Greg Harris, 773-348-3434, greg@gregharris.org
Representative Lou Lang, 847-673-1131, langli@ilga.gov
Representative David Leitch, 309-690-7373, repdavidleitch@gmail.com
Representative Don Moffitt, 309-343-8000, moffitt@grics.net
Representative Andre Thapedi, 773-873-4444, rep32district@gmail.com