Less than one month after the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) opened registration for individuals and firms interested in applying for hydraulic fracturing permits, a group of protesters gathered in Chicago on Friday to say they don’t want the oil and gas drilling technology in their state.
“We want Marc Miller and all of the people at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to be sure they hear our message,” said Jessica Fujan, an organizer with Food & Water Watch. “There is no such thing as safe fracking. For our water, for our air, for our farmers and for our future, we want to ban fracking now.”
While the IDNR has opened registration for the application process, permits for fracking in Illinois will not be issued until state administrative rules—which the agency is charged with drafting— have been submitted and approved by the Illinois General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR).
But some environmental groups and activists are doubtful the drilling can be done safely.
Chanting "Hey Marc Miller, we demand a meeting," more than 50 protesters who gathered Friday outside IDNR offices at the Thompson Center, at 100 W. Randolph St., targeted the agency's director and advocated for a moratorium on fracking until further research has been done on the effects of, what they call, the “dirty drilling.”
“The fracking fight in Illinois did not end when the industry’s regulatory law was signed last year,” said Fujan, addressing the crowd at Friday’s protest. “Illinois lawmakers thought they could write the rules to make fracking safe, and are passing the buck to the IDNR, which is supposed to give away drilling permits, but we know that there are no rules that can protect us from underground waste water leakage or from the climate change due to venting methane gas.”
Hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," releases Earth’s natural gas by combining horizontal drilling with injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand or gravel, and chemicals into the ground to create cracks in deep rock layers to release oil and natural gas.
According to lawmakers, the bill could create up to 47,000 jobs in Illinois and carries the nation’s strongest environmental protections.
Meanwhile, Beverly Walters, who was born and raised in Murphysboro in Jackson County, said “it is absolutely insane” to drill in areas in downstate Illinois that are susceptible to fracking, like “beautiful, natural” portions of her home county and the Shawnee National Forest.
“That act does not protect the state, it does not protect the citizens and it does not protect the water,” said Walters, who is a co-founder of Citizens Act to Protect Our Water (CAPOW). “It is absolutely insane for us to pursue fracking. Do we have alternatives? Yes. Renewable energy? Yes. Solar? Yes. Wind? Yes.”
Here’s more from Walters and Fujan at Friday’s protest:
The IDNR does not have a timeline for issuing permits and implementing the fracking regulatory act. Before JCAR considers the final draft of the agency’s rules, which will expand upon regulations already included in the bill, the IDNR must first host a 45-day public comment period.
Kelvin Ho, an organizer with Chicagoland Against Fracking, called on protesters to “flood” the IDNR with comments in an attempt to delay or altogether halt the fracking permit process.
“The IDNR has to review each and every one of our public comments, we can completely overwhelm the system,” said Ho, addressing the crowd at the Thompson Center. “We need to tell them about the dangers of fracking, tell them about the radioactive water that fracking generates, tell them about potential seismic activity, the extremely high failure rates for well casings."
Chicago's protest was part of the "Global Frackdown," a day of renewable energy advocacy and protests in more than 200 actions across six continents, according Chicagoland Against Fracking.
"This fight is not over and we need to stand up against fracking in our state,” said Ho.