Illinois DNR Releases Updated Fracking Regulations for Final Review

This past Friday, Aug. 29th, the Illinois DNR released its revised regulations for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, after receiving a record number of 30,000+ public comments on its initial draft rules back in the fall of 2013. Now the state’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, made up of several IL legislators (many of whom are from the Chicago region), will do a final review of these regulations within a 45-day period. If they are approved, oil and gas companies will be able to start applying for fracking permits in IL, a prospect they have been salivating over ever since Gov. Quinn signed IL’s hotly-contested fracking law back in the summer of 2013.

Packed house at the IDNR public hearing on fracking in Decatur, IL (photo: IL People's Action)

Packed house at the IDNR public hearing on fracking in Decatur, IL (photo: IL People’s Action)

As reported by the Chicago Tribune‘s Julie Wernau, the new fracking regulations are complex and will require detailed analysis over the new few days by environmental critics to see how much they’ve been strengthened compared to the original draft rules, which were criticized because they failed to live up to the intent of the law in many instances. As Wernau notes in this useful article, though, the regulations are extremely important in terms of how companies must protect natural resources, provide information to the public, regulate their pollution, etc.

Fracking diagramMeanwhile, fracking is playing an increasingly prominent role in the state’s gubernatorial politics. Republican candidate Bruce Rauner has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign money from oil and gas companies, who are frustrated at the long delay by the IDNR to revise its regulations. At the same time, Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn has touted fracking as an economic/job engine for the state, much to the chagrin of environmental progressives such as the IL People’s Action organization, who view the prospect of frac sand mining in northern IL and fracking in southern IL as a huge step backward for the state’s environmental protections, public health, and energy policy.

Stay tuned for more news from environmental advocates and policy groups as they assess the new IDNR rules; and check out the regulations here for yourself.

Posted in business, climate change, economics, energy, Illinois, news, policy, pollution, science, waste

Exploring Spatial Justice in Chicago on Oct. 7th at the Institute for Cultural Affairs

The Center for Humans and Nature, in partnership with The Chicago Sustainability Leaders Network and the Institute of Cultural Affairs, invites students, faculty, alumni, and friends of Roosevelt — as well as anyone interested in promoting urban sustainability and social equity — for a discussion about how justice is a critical component in how we create, maintain, and engage with and within space. SUST director and professor Mike Bryson is one of the participants in the forum.

Photo credit: Center for Humans and Nature

When/Where: Tuesday, Oct. 7th, 2014 | 5:30-7pm | Institute of Cultural Affairs, 4750 N. Sheridan Rd. (a short walk east from the Red Line’s Lawrence stop)

  • Through interactive activities, all participants will be encouraged to share stories and ideas about justice and space in Chicago.
  • Julian AgyemanA facilitated dialogue with four panelists—community activists Melanie Eckner (Uptown) and Orrin Williams (South Side), Sustainability Studies Professor Michael Bryson (Roosevelt University), and Professor of Urban + Environmental Policy + Planning and CHN Senior Scholar Julian Agyeman (Tufts University, at left, participating via Skype)—will reflect on key ideas surfaced by the full group about the relationship between justice and space.
  • The event will conclude with a full group discussion about implications for community action in Chicago.

Reception to follow the meeting. Space is limited and expected to fill quickly! Register to attend & join the online conversation today. The event is free, with a suggested donation of $5-10.

Posted in architecture, cities, community, ethics, events, faculty, humanities, parks and public land, planning, policy, social justice, transportation

Yonah Freemark, SUST faculty, on High-Speed Rail

Eurostar High Speed Rail trainsYonah Freemark, who is teaching SUST 320, Sprawl, Transportation, and Planning this Fall, recently published an important opinion piece on the failure of political will in the U.S. to build more High-Speed Rail. Freemark explains the federal government’s unwillingness to prioritize, and how other countries have successfully modernized their rail systems.  He argues the U.S. has the skill and resources – we built the Interstate Highway System, in the1950s, after all – but High-Speed rail takes leadership at the federal level that is sorely lacking.

The piece appeared in CityLab, the influential media outlet run by The Atlantic magazine on all things urban.  (I highly recommend subscribing for free at the bottom of this page).

Yonah FreemarkFreemark has published numerous pieces in CityLab as well as on his own highly-regarded website, The Transport Politic.  His work has also appeared in The New York Times.  And you can follow him on Twitter.  He currently works in Chicago for the Metropolitan Planning Council, the city’s oldest think-tank and advocacy group for better urbanism.  He comes to Chicago from Yale and MIT, where he earned a Masters of Science in Transportation and a Masters of City Planning. 

Congratulations to Professor Freemark on his important contributions to the national dialogue on high-speed rail and many other planning subjects.  We are fortunate to have him teaching in our Sustainability Studies Program at Roosevelt!

Brad Hunt, Dean, Evelyn T. Stone College of Professional Studies

Posted in uncategorized

Fall 2014 SUST Courses at Roosevelt: Still Time to Register!

Registration is ongoing for Fall 2014 classes in Sustainability Studies! Our fall line-up of courses features a mix of campus and online offerings, and this early in the registration period there are still plenty of seats in each course. On-campus courses begin next week (Aug 25) and online courses kick off the week of Sept 8. Of particular note are two of our Chicago-based courses that meet at really cool off-campus locations:

Colleen Dennis working in the Botany Department at the FMNH

Colleen Dennis working in the Botany Department at the FMNH

SUST 330 Biodiversity, taught by Prof. Julian Kerbis Peterhans, will meet on Thursdays from 9am to 1pm at the renowned Field Museum of Natural History. Students in this popular version of 330 experience lectures, discussions, and other activities as a group, but are also paired up individually with scientists working on biodiversity/conservation research projects throughout the museum’s science departments. Several RU students, such as Amanda Zeigler (BPS ’12) and Colleen Dennis, who took SUST 330 at the FMNH have gone on to earn internships and/or paid positions at the museum. (Enrollment capped at 20; see course preview here.)

Eden Place Nature Center co-founder Michael Howard (back row, center) with children, Chicago IL

Eden Place Nature Center co-founder Michael Howard (back row, center) with children, Chicago IL

SUST 350 Service & Sustainability, last offered in spring 2013, will be taught on Tuesdays from 12-3pm by Prof. Mike Bryson at the Eden Place Nature Center in the Fuller Park neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. This is a Transformational Service Learning class that will involve performing work at a leading Chicago urban farm / nature center; students will also collaborate on special “action research projects” to further the EPNC’s mission and community outreach. For more info, see Dr. Bryson’s 350 course preview here. (Enrollment capped at 15.)

Several other SUST courses are available as well, including SUST 210 Sustainable Future, 220 Water, 230 Food, 240 Waste, and 320 Sprawl/Transportation/Planning in Chicago; and 210 Sustainable Future, 230 Food, 310 Energy & Climate Change, and 330 Biodiversity online.

Current RU students should contact their advisor to discuss spring (and summer) course selections and sign up for classes while they are still available. This page from the RU Registrar provides a wealth of links and useful info.

Prospective students may learn about admissions and our many program options at RU, request information about a particular campus or academic program here, or visit the SUST homepage to explore our BA (120 semester hour) and BPS (adult student fast-track) bachelors degree options.

Posted in courses, education, field trips, Roosevelt, service, students

Beeka Quesnell Sums Up Her Environmental Justice Internship in Southwest VA , Summer 2014

Beeka Q cropThis guest post is by RU undergraduate student and SUST major Beeka Quesnell, who worked as an intern at the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) in the coal-mining mountain region of southwest Virginia this summer. Back in Chicago, Beeka is an environmental sustainability associate with the Physical Resources Department at Roosevelt, an intern in the bird division of Field Museum of Natural History, and a student activist for environmental and social justice.

This post recounts my activities and reflections on the last few weeks of my summer internship in Virginia. On Tuesday, July 15th, eight individuals involved with SAMS, as well as myself, went to a planning meeting of Wise County, VA, one meant to get public input on the planning for Wise County for the next 15 or so years. We were under the impression that the meeting was going to be in a “public hearing” format; however, we essentially sat through a 1 ½ hour lecture on “how to plan” and only then did attendees start to ask questions. To put it simply, the meeting was taken over by the community!

Photo: R. Quesnell, 2014

Photo: R. Quesnell

Those conducting the meeting stated, on several occasions, that they wanted public input but then kept putting that off until the very end of the meeting, when there would hardly be time to make comments or ask questions. Another downfall with the meeting included note-taking. The vice president of SAMS asked the community board if notes were being taken on input during the meeting and a man stated that he was; but after looking over several times during the meeting, we observed that he was not taking notes at all. On a brighter note, the best part of the meeting is that everyone who attended from the community seemed to be on the same page in demanding the same things be a part of the plan.

Later in the week, I attended an informal conference in Dunbar, a coal community in Wise County, VA. The informal conference was centered on a coal permit renewal in the community and it was open to the public. Six individuals from SAMS, including three interns, attended this informal conference, and three long-standing community members as well as three SAMS members spoke at the proceedings.

The three community members heavily emphasized the coal dust that settles upon their properties due to the mining operations and they also mentioned truck traffic and health impacts that their friends face. The SAMS members spoke a lot about how their personal lives would be affected if the permit were to be renewed. Aside from their recreational activities being affected, they also stressed the watershed impacts from mining, something that could lead to lasting damage to the area’s water resources. In contrast, the individual representing the coal company pursuing the coal mining permit renewal handed in a letter instead of speaking in front of us all. Whenever that happens, SAMS has to send in a Freedom of Information Act Request in order to get the documentation. Overall, the conference went well and it was great that members from the community came out and voiced their opinions on the permit and spoke out against it due to impacts they are directly feeling.

Later on Saturday, July 19th, SAMS held the second and final part of its annual strategic planning meeting. During this meeting — which was again, held at a neutral location with a facilitator — we went over past wins, discussed current campaigns and projects, and planned out the next eight months of those campaigns and projects. Planning out the campaigns and projects included writing out the goals, figuring out who was on the team, and discussing ongoing activities, upcoming events and deadlines up until February.

This meeting was very productive in getting a sense of where SAMS is as an organization, and where they are headed into the coming year. Current campaigns and projects include: the Water Campaign, Alliance Federal Strategy, Alliance for Economic Transition, Coalfields Expressway (CFX), Justice to Justice, AppalCEED, Wise Energy for Virginia, Doe Branch, RRENEW, and Mountain Justice. The tactics used in each campaign can vary. The Water Campaign uses water testing and the law to sue coal companies and hold organizations such as the Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy accountable. In a complimentary fashion, the Justice to Justice Campaign uses direct actions and a specific target to show the “True Cost of Coal” with the help of the Beehive Collective and other organizations, and build regional support against coal baron Jim Justice. Essentially, using different tactics, each campaign is able to accomplish a part of the SAMS mission.

Photo: R. Quesnell, 2014

Photo: R. Quesnell, 2014

The following week, I had my last AppalCEED meeting which involved eating out while also taking care of business. AppalCEED stands for Appalachian Communities Encouraging Economic Diversity, and the group works on building sustainable communities. I have been attending AppalCEED meetings all summer now, and I have really grown to appreciate what AppalCEED is working on accomplishing.

Right now, we are trying to get a community kitchen in Wise County, Virginia. This community kitchen would be open to everyone and for many purposes as well- people can use it to prepare and can foods for resale, and people could also use it as a communal space for cooking. This project will require partnership with another organization and will need support from the Wise County Board of Supervisors. Additionally, this project is more than likely going to be a five-year process, which is why AppalCEED wants a full time, paid staff person working on this, as well as partnership with another organization with greater capacity, and/ or the county’s support. Acquiring funds may be tough; it would be ideal for AppalCEED to find a grant that will provide half of the individual’s salary, while requiring funds from Americorps for the other half. We are optimistic that this is feasible.

Photo: R. Quesnell, 2014

Photo: R. Quesnell, 2014

To sum up my time in Virginia, I luckily had the pleasure to be present for the Ison Rock Ridge formal conference! This formal conference was held at the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy and it was a formal appeal in denying A & G Coal’s permit application for mining operations on the ridge. SAMS has been fighting this coal mining permit application since 2007 and has been holding on each year, even when the coal company appeals.

This particular conference was different from all the other ones I was at over the course of the summer and of interning with SAMS. The only way I can put it simply, is that it was “court style.” There were three sides: The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy; A & G Coal; and our side, in which the lawyer was technically there on behalf of the Sierra Club. There were witnesses, and the whole works. Essentially, this formal conference was held because A & G coal appealed the DMME’s decision on denying the permit. We don’t know that outcome yet, but should know within the coming months. I have my fingers crossed, because I have faith that SAMS can continue to win this battle!

Overall, I can honestly say that I have learned a lot this summer. I met amazing people doing amazing things in far southwest Virginia, and I am so happy for that experience! I lived in a communal space with three other people and we grew some of our own food, harvesting as we could and making home cooked meals as we could. I have learned a great deal not only about what grassroots organizations are doing and winning, but I have also learned a lot about myself. It was a big step for me to move away for a summer to a place that I have never been, with people I have never met. Now I know I can do that, again even, and I know that I really enjoyed the work I did this summer, the exploring and experiences I had, and the people I met!

Beeka Quesnell, submitted 14 August 2014

Posted in conservation, education, internships, parks and public land, policy, Roosevelt, service, social justice, students

SETF Offers Waste, Recycling, and Landfills Tour this Saturday, August 9th

Visit waste, recycling, and landfill operations and related sites of environmental interest on Chicago’s far South Side with the Southeast Environmental Task Force this weekend on Saturday, August 9th. Learn how Chicago’s solid waste does (and does not) get recycled, and explore the various ways waste and recycling connect to environmental justice in urban neighborhoods.

See the image below for details! Registration runs through today, Thursday August 7th, and the cost is $25 (which covers transportation from the Loop and a guided tour). Register here online or call the SETF at 773-646-0436 for more info!

SETF Brown Bag Eco Tours 2014-08-09

Posted in cities, ecology, events, field trips, pollution, recycling, social justice, waste

Microcosm Heads to the San Juan Islands in Washington State

This summer the adventure into the microscopic universe with the ocean continues as SUST Adjunct Professor of Sustainability Studies Michele Hoffman Trotter and crew hit the road to pursue more interviews and information for her upcoming documentary Microcosm.  Michele and her team have headed to the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Lab in the beautiful San Juan Islands of Washington State.

Hoffman portraitWhile there, Michele (pictured at right) will interview leading researchers studying the impacts of ocean acidification, evolutionary biology, and food web interactions as it relates to the base of the food web. In addition, she will visit a local shellfish farm to film the very sustainably grown oysters and clams feeding on the microcosm as they naturally filter the waters of the Puget Sound (she plans to bring Tabasco sauce).

A trip to the San Juan Islands would not be complete without an attempt to see the endangered killer whales, so Michele and crew plan to voyage out for three days by kayak in the hopes of a life altering encounter. Be sure to follow the Microcosm travel blog here!

Posted in arts, biodiversity, ecology, education, faculty, Roosevelt, science, water