Environmentalists and public health advocates at today’s demonstration against fracking at the Thompson Center say the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act, which has earned the support of Gov. Pat Quinn, doesn’t go far enough to protect the environment or ground and drinking water. Progress Illinois was there to learn more about why they are calling for a two-year fracking moratorium.
Dozens of environmentalists gathered at the Thompson Center today to urge state lawmakers to pass pending legislation that would place a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”. The enviornmental advocates say a moratorium would allow time for the proper study of any potential health and environmental impacts that may be associated with the natural gas and oil extraction process.
Legislation in Springfield, HB 2615, is looking to pave the way for horizontal fracking in the state, and it’s being touted as having some of the strictest water and air protections, among other regulations, in the country.
Even some environmental groups that previously opposed fracking view the regulatory bill, which would require those looking to frack at a high volume to apply for a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, as a compromise.
“When you hear that the regulatory bill that is proposed is the best in the nation, and is one of the best compromises out there, those of us who have been doing activism for 32 years know what that’s called ... the ‘cream of the crap,’” said David Kraft, director of the Nuclear Energy Information Service.
Those opposed to fracking say the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act, which has earned the support of Gov. Pat Quinn, doesn’t go far enough to protect the environment or ground and drinking water.
Kraft added that the state has not studied fracking, and there needs to be a two-year research period before lawmakers “give away the state” to the energy industry.
“How can you possibly regulate what you don’t know anything about?” Kraft asked.
Fracking is a method of freeing oil and gas by combining large amounts of water, sand and chemicals and forcing the mixture underground to fracture shale rock.
The New Albany Shale formation in southern Illinois, stretching into Kentucky and Indiana, is said to be ripe with oil and gas, but is only accessibly via horizontal fracturing.
“Here in Illinois, we have a backroom deal with the industry, and our governor, our Speaker Madigan, our Illinois lawmakers all have fracking fever,” said Dr. Lora Chamberlain, a long-time environmental advocate and an organizer with the Stop the Frack Attack on Illinois. “It’s all about the money for them.”
House Speaker Michael Madigan did announce his support for a fracking moratorium March 13, but it was seen moreso as a means to get industry on board with the regulatory act as opposed to anything meaningful. The moratorium bills are SB 1418 and HB 3086.
At least one representative from the energy industry told Chicago Tonight yesterday that there could be up to a billion barrels of oil in southern Illinois, adding that fracking would create jobs and spur economic growth.
One concern of environmentalists is the possibility of chemicals seeping into the water supply, but industry representatives say they will protect Illinois’ freshwater, according the Chicago Tonight interview.
Progress Illinois checked in with Angie Viands of Rising Tide Chicago to ask her why she’s in opposition of fracking and her response to the industry’s economic claims. Here’s what she had to say:
One crucial aspect the bill does not address, those at the event said, is the proper handling of radioactive wastewater that is produced in the fracking process.
“If you look at the 92 page bill on regulations, you’ll find the word radioactivity or radiation in it once in 92 pages,” Kraft said. “That doesn’t exactly inspire confidence that they know what the hell is going on with fracking.”
Opponents of fracking also said there’s evidence that the process can induce earthquakes, wells can leak harmful methane gas and the process releases large amounts of both radium and radon gas, the latter being a major cause of lung cancer in the U.S.
“Disposal of the millions of gallons of toxic flow-back causes earthquakes,” Chamberlain said.
She added that some research shows that the shale in Illinois is too shallow to frack.
“Have you even heard that on any media report,” she said. “Have you heard it from any Illinois lawmaker?”
Although the bill is said to have tough regulations, it’s still “full of holes,” she said.
Listen to Chamberlain explain more about why:
Check out Progress Illinois’ story with more details about the regulatory fracking act here.