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Fracking opposition group calls ‘foul’ on IDNR Fracking Task Force

Posted November 13, 2013 by Goreville Gazette in News

The Illinois People’s Action group recently issued a press statement calling out the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) saying it shut out the public and scientific community from the Statewide Hydraulic Fracturing task force.

The Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act, which was signed into law by Governor Quinn on June 17, calls for a task force with representatives from environmental groups, the oil and gas industry and labor.

The Illinois People’s Action group released the names of the environmental appointees; all of whom they said represented groups supporting fracking.

The appointees include:

Ann Alexander; Senior Attorney NRDC

Jenny Cassel; Staff Attorney, Environmental Law and Policy Center

Terry Treacy; Conservation Field Representative, Sierra Club

Brian Sauder; Policy Director, Faith in Place

“The ‘environmentalists’ are all lawyers and policy people. Not one represents the scientific community,” said Annette McMichael, a member of both Illinois People’s Action and its member group SAFE, Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment. “We’re extremely disappointed that we haven’t been consulted anywhere along the line. The individuals and groups they chose are the very ones who gave us a weak regulatory bill in the first place. Shouldn’t the task force include credible scientists and members of the public who might have a different opinion? How good can the task force be if it’s all ‘Yes men’?”

According to IPA, in three of its meetings with the IDNR, the group encouraged the agency to involve grassroots people, groups that were critical of fracking and the scientific community in its process.

Illinois People’s Action said it is on the steering committee of Americans Against Fracking and has access to nationally renowned scientists, including Sandra Steingraber, Biologist and Illinois native, who testified before an Illinois House subcommittee about the dangers of fracking and the problems with the Illinois law.

“The IDNR said that it would use IPA as a resource, but IPA has learned that the rule-making process is coming to an end without IDNR ever reaching out to the group,” McMichael said. The IPA group has challenged IDNR to take the side of the people and the environment on the issue of fracking, McMichael added.

“Our leaders are only looking out for what is in the best interest of Illinois residents and the environment,” said Dawn Dannenbring, IPA Organizer. “ Section I-75(2) of the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act states that, ‘All phases of high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing operations shall be conducted in a manner that shall not pose a significant risk to public health, life, property, aquatic life, or wildlife.’ But if the rules mirror much of the legislation, public health, life, property, aquatic life and wildlife will all be at risk.”

Illinois People’s Action said it demands more transparency and public participation in the rule-making process, including public hearings throughout the state in centralized locations on days and at times that the public is able to participate.

“The IDNR has worked overtime to prevent public participation in drafting the administrative rules that will enforce the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Act,” said Bill Rau, IPA leader and spokesperson. “It has, for example, refused almost all requests that IPA has made to open up the rule-making process. Now rumor has it that IDNR intends to locate a public meeting on these rules in Champaign, IL at the far eastern end of Central Illinois, rather than in a centrally located city, like Bloomington. Its next move may well be to schedule the ‘public’ meeting at the most inconvenient time–during the holidays. The IDNR is making a mockery out of the General Assembly’s efforts to create a publically transparent process for the Hydraulic Fracturing Law. What is happening is disgraceful.”

According to Illinois People’s Action, the group is a faith and community based organization with chapters in Bloomington/Normal, Springfield, Decatur, Peoria and Southern Illinois. Its mission is to work on the causes of social, economic, and environmental justice issues. It is a member of National People’s Action.