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)
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.
Meanwhile, 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.
Yonah 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).
Freemark 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
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.
While 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!