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SIU to host one of three additional IDNR fracking hearings

Posted November 21, 2013 by Joe Rehana in News

Residents in Johnson County will now have easier access to voice their opinion in person on the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ proposed regulations for high-volume oil and gas drilling.

Southern Illinois University in Carbondale was one of three additional sites added to the list of locations for public hearings on the proposed regulations with the first of those hearings held Tuesday in Chicago and the second to be held Dec. 3, at Rend Lake College in Ina.

Carbondale SIU is scheduled to host its hearing Thursday, Dec. 19, for two hours beginning at 6 p.m. in the Student Center, Ballroom B, with doors opening at 5 p.m.

The IDNR said in an email to the Gazette Monday that they had always left open the possibility of adding more public hearings and that they invite the public to attend the hearings or send their comments either by U.S. postal service or online at www.dnr.illinois.gov.

“While people have the right to make any comment they wish, comments which are the most helpful to the agency are those that focus on a specific portion of the draft administrative rules which have been shared with the public,” IDNR director of communications Chris McCloud said.

A copy of the proposed regulations is available for download from the Illinois’ DNR website.

The grass-roots organization SAFE (Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment), which opposes high-volume horizontal fracturing due to their claim that it would endanger residents and the environment alike, said they appreciate the additional hearings.  Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment has been working with the Illinois People’s Action group and together the two have issued press statements charging the IDNR with shutting the public out of the rule-making process.

“The IDNR has worked overtime to prevent public participation in drafting the administrative rules that will enforce the Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Act,” Bill Rau, IPA leader and spokesperson said last week in a press release. “It has, for example, refused almost all requests that IPA has made to open up the rule-making process.”

Both SAFE and the IPA have argued the rules are too relaxed when it comes to providing safeguards against seismic activities in an area prone to earthquakes.  According to SAFE, “In the proposed new regulations for the Oil and Gas Act, IDNR has established the traffic light system required by the regulatory statute. According to the proposed rules a fracking site can create 4 earthquakes up to a magnitude of 4.9, ‘yellow alert,’ before IDNR issues a shut-down order, ‘red alert.’”

Community Bill of Rights petition drive underway

In Johnson County, Community Rights coordinator Natalie Long has been working with IPA and SAFE to help propose and initiate a Community Bill of Rights that would “return control to local government.”

The group has proposed a ballot initiative that would provide the voters of Johnson County an opportunity to decide in March if they would like to see their county commissioners act on approving the proposed bill. A signature drive has already started to put the question on the ballot.

The question that the citizens’ group wishes to place on the ballot reads as follows:  “Shall the people’s right to local self-government be asserted by Johnson County to ban corporate fracking as a violation of their rights to health, safety and a clean environment?”

“This question’s wording does two things,” Long said.  ”First, it measures public sentiment in Johnson County on the issue of fracking. Second, it empowers the county commissioners to act to protect the health, safety and environment of the citizens of Johnson County by banning fracking. While the referendum is non-binding, and does not obligate the commissioners to take action, the vote on this question will inform the commissioners about the will and aspirations of the people, and it will let them know how the people expect them to protect their rights.”

Long encouraged all registered voters in Johnson County to sign the petition and/or help with the petition drive. For those wishing to sign or help, Long requested they contact Adriane Koontz, from River to River Farm out in Tunnel Hill, at 724-986-1115.

UPDATE: This article has been updated from its original online version to its printed published version.

Proposed Administrative Rules for the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act

Screen shot of Illinois Department of Natural Resources' hydraulic fracturing Web site.

Screen shot of Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ hydraulic fracturing Web site.

From the IDNR Hydraulic Fracturing information Web site:

Public hearings regarding the proposed Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act administrative rules have been scheduled on the following dates at the following locations:

Updated November 20, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
6:30pm-8:30pm (Doors open at 5:30pm)
University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)
726 S. Halsted Street, Student Center East, Room 302
Chicago, IL 60607
View Map

Tuesday, December 3, 2013
6:30pm-8:30pm (Doors open at 5:30pm)
Rend Lake College Theater
468 North Ken Gray Parkway
Ina, IL 62846
View Map

Thursday, December 5, 2013
6:30pm-8:30pm (Doors open at 5:30pm)
Holiday Inn Effingham, Hotel Ballroom
1301 Avenue of MidAmerica
Effingham, IL 62401
View Map

Tuesday, December 17, 2013
6:30pm-8:30pm (Doors open at 5:30pm)
Decatur Civic Center, Auditorium
#1 Gary K. Anderson Plaza
Decatur, IL 62523
View Map

Thursday, December 19, 2013
6:00pm-8:00pm (Doors open at 5:00pm)
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC)
Student Center, Ballroom B
1255 Lincoln Drive
Carbondale, IL 62901
View Map

Procedures for the Public Hearings:
The purpose of the public hearings is to facilitate the submission of views, and comments, regarding specific aspects of the proposed administrative rules implementing the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act. The Proposed Administrative Rules are available on this website for your review.

The hearing will be conducted by a Hearing Officer. Staff from IDNR will be present to listen to comments, but staff probably will not be able to respond to each comment due to time limitations.

The Department will have a sign-up sheet at each location for people who would like to make a public comment. The Hearing Officer will use a lottery system to determine the order of the speakers.

In order to listen to as many comments as possible, the Hearing Officer will limit each person to four minutes. The Department recommends that commenters reference the section of the proposed rules that relates to their comment so that the Department can better understand the recommendation.

Each person who intends to provide comments should bring a written copy of his or her remarks so that the Department has a record of the testimony. If anyone is unable to speak due to time constraints, the Department will accept written comments at the end of the hearing.

If you cannot attend either public hearing, the Department will continue to accept comments through Friday, January 3, 2014, via mail to the Department’s Headquarters in Springfield, or through an online submittal form. Written comments carry the same weight as oral testimony at a hearing, and IDNR staff will consider both equally during the rule-making process.

If you have questions regarding the rule-making process, please visit the website of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules of the General Assembly.