Quick Hit Ashlee Rezin Wednesday March 13th, 2013, 5:49pm

Anti-Fracking Protesters March On Statehouse, Madigan Supports Moratorium

More than 100 protesters descended on the Illinois Statehouse in Springfield yesterday to rally against a regulatory bill and call for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing in Illinois.

Opponents to hydraulic fracturing say it has a negative environmental impact, including extreme water and air pollution. Demonstrators yesterday spoke with legislators and passed petitions that urged lawmakers to support a two-year moratorium on fracking in Illinois.

The bill, HB 2615, attempts to regulate hydraulic fracturing, often called fracking, in Illinois by establishing a new permit program within the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), and requiring a permit be obtained before conducting high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing activities.

Sponsored by State Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion), the bill was assigned to the House Revenue and Finance Committee on March 4. Gov. Pat Quinn endorsed the legislation during his budget address on March 6, touting fracking as a job creator and saying the bill has the “strongest environmental regulations in the nation.”

Fracking releases Earth’s natural gas by an oil and gas drilling technique that injects a mix of water, sand, and chemicals into the ground to create cracks in deep rock layers.

“We need lawmakers to not buy into the hype of this regulatory bill,” said Dr. Lora Chamberlain, organizer for Stop The Frack Attack On Illinois, a member of the Illinois Coalition For a Moratorium on Fracking (ICMF).

“We want (lawmakers) to see that this regulatory bill is woefully inadequate, premature, insufficient and unenforceable and instead favor a moratorium on fracking so an investigative taskforce can investigate the effects of fracking fully before it comes to Illinois,” she said.

When asked how many legislators the demonstrators were able to reach yesterday, Chamberlain said “all of them.” She said she personally spoke with Senate President John Cullerton and State Sen. Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago).

The petitions, which received more than 1,000 signatures, called for support of companion legislation SB 1418 and HB 3086, which would establish a Hydraulic Fracturing Task Force to “conduct a thorough review of the regulation of hydraulic fracturing operations in Illinois and to gather information, review, evaluate, and make recommendations regarding the regulation of hydraulic fracturing operations in Illinois.”  Fracking in Illinois would not be permitted for two years until the task force conducted its investigation and was able to give recommendations. Both pieces of legislation have been assigned to committees in their respective chambers.

Petitions were delivered to the offices of Gov. Quinn and House Speaker Michael Madigan. Today, Madigan announced his support of the moratorium.

“Read about what happened in Pennsylvania,” Madigan said during a press conference, as he discussed his position on fracking.

The Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Water and Air has released a “List of the Harmed” that includes depositions from residents who have experienced firsthand the negative effects of hydraulic fracturing.

Pam Judy, a Carmichaels, PA resident who is included on the “List of the Harmed,” lives 780 feet from a compressor station. She said she experiences headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and nosebleeds and she said her blood tests show exposure to benzene and other chemicals.

There are 884 people included on the “List of the Harmed.”

Illinois' regulatory bill requires fracking companies to disclose the chemical formula of their fracking fluid; requires all waste be store in closed tanks; bans the use of diesel in fracking fluid; requires that companies report the source of water and the total volume of water anticipated to be used during fracking; prohibits fracking within 500 feet of any residence, church, school, hospital or nursing home; and prohibits fracking within 1,500 feet of a surface water or groundwater intake of a public water supply.

The bill's provisions were negotiated by legislators and representatives from various state agencies, the oil and gas industries, and environmental organizations.

But even though Bruce Ratain, state policy associate for Environment Illinois, sat in on those negotiations, he thinks fracking can not be done safely, and Environment Illinois supports the moratorium on fracking.

“Yesterday was a powerful step forward and sent a clear message that the citizens of Illinois, and people from the regions where fracking would be more likely, don’t want this dirty drilling in our state,” he said.

Although Ratain previously agreed Illinois’ regulatory act was a compromise, he said Environment Illinois has “always thought there’s no way for fracking to be done safely.”

“No state has come close to fracking safely and regulating it properly and we just think that Illinoisans deserve better,” he said. “When we’re talking about our health, our environment, and some of the most toxic chemicals known to man, we can’t afford to let this practice come to Illinois.”

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