Back in June of 2013, we reported on the passage of fracking legislation here in the Prairie State, a legislative action which has divided the Illinois environmental community on this contentious and controversial gas/oil extraction method. And last month, we noted documentation of fracking-related groundwater contamination in Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s most active fracking states.
Here in the Land of Lincoln, we are at an important turning point in the fracking debate. The IL Dept of Natural Resources yesterday released its draft Rules and Regulations for fracking in the state, thus starting a brief period of public scrutiny and input via public meetings and written comments. As noted by the IL Environmental Council policy/advocacy organization:
The rules published today are not final and are presented to the public for consideration and comment as part of First Notice before they will be considered by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). First Notice lasts for a minimum of 45 days. During first notice, IDNR accepts and must respond to public comments.
These comments are important, because they may sway the IDNR to revised its proposed rules and regs before releasing for a second review by both the public the JCAR. As writer, scientist, IL native, and anti-fracking activist Dr. Sandra Steingraber noted in her keynote address at the Great Lakes Bioneers conference hosted by Roosevelt, this public commenting period is a chance for concerned citizens to “bury the DNR” in comments that will slow the process of fast-tracking the rules into law, thus buying additional time to explore a potential moratorium on fracking with the IL legislature. This process has been effective in New York State up to this point.
No fracking is yet underway in Illinois — for the moment. But if the general public sleepwalks through the commenting period on the DNR’s proposed regulations just released, fracking operations will begin in Southern Illinois in a matter of months — perhaps as early as the fall of 2014. As powerfully noted in the panel presentation “Voices from the Frontlines: Extreme Energy Expansion and Alternatives to Hydraulic Fracturing & Silica Sand Mining in Illinois” at the Great Lakes Bioneers conference at RU, the consequences of fracking on the landscape, water quality, and rural communities are not just real, but potentially devastating — and all for a highly limited and short-lived economic benefit to energy companies. The benefits to actual rural communities where fracking will completely reshape the physical landscape, both on and under the ground? Dubious, at best.
When will fracking begin in the Land of Lincoln? Can it be stopped? Time will tell if citizens and grassroots activist groups like SAFE can turn the legislative tide in the state to place a moratorium on fracking and inspire Illinois’ leaders to invest in clean alternative energy sources, rather than proceed with the systematic “extreme energy extraction” of limited fossil fuels in some of the most beautiful and wild areas of our state.
Learn about the IDNR’s regulations and how to comment on them here.