Fracking hearings raise questions about IDNR’s allegiances

By Fair Economy Illinois

EFFINGHAM, Ill. — Tuesday, Dec. 16, marked the halfway point as the clock ticks down to determining the fate of fracking in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) called the third in a series of five hearings to gather public comments on rules that would enact the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act.

The overwhelming majority of participants in the hearings thus far are harsh critics of the rules, raising doubts about the IDNR’s commitment to writing meaningful standards for natural resource extraction.

The absurd inadequacy of the rules and the limited comment period are both unacceptable,” said Jessica Fujan, Illinois organizer for Food & Water Watch. “We cannot expect such a haphazard rule-making and approval process to protect Illinoisans or their water.”

A coalition of organizations including Illinois People’s Action, Fair Economy Illinois, IIRON and the Sierra Club has identified a “dirty “dozen” list of major loopholes in the proposed rules — ranging from minimal fines ($50-$100), non-disclosure of dangerous chemicals to first-responders, lack of local county control of permits, to failure to test for radioactivity throughout the fracking process. The coalition is demanding that IDNR extend the first notice period of the rule-making process to properly allow for consultation of community members, affected state agencies and independent scientific authorities. Currently, the comment period is set to expire Jan. 3, 2014.

Gianna Chacon, of the IIRON Student Network, attended the Effingham hearing and noted, “The power is in Gov. (Pat) Quinn’s hands to slow down this runaway train, and insist that the IDNR produce rules that can adequately safeguard Illinois citizens.”

The Effingham hearing drew witnesses from hundreds of miles away, some complaining that the lack of public hearing in their county required them to drive 150 miles to make their comments known.

One resident, Nancy Hediger, who relies on well water, said: “Just because a frack pad is not on my front lawn does not mean that it will not affect my home, my life or my livelihood. If our neighbors lease their land, or if forced pooling means that I am forcibly included in a drilling site, we are limited by the IDNR’s definition [of a person having an interest that is or may be adversely affected]. …”

The final hearings will all take place this week.

Fair Economy Illinois is a coalition of grassroots organizations, including the Illinois-Indiana Regional Organizing Network (IIRON), Illinois People’s Action, Lakeview Action Coalition, Northside People Organized to Work, Educate and Restore (Northside P.O.W.E.R.), Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL), and The People’s Lobby.

Posted Dec. 18, 2013

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