Illinois' most embarrassing Congressman, John Shimkus, faced an outraged backlash for pro-fracking statements he made on facebook. He's already well known as a climate change denier and conspiracy theorist on the fringe of the energy debate. Although there's a long tradition of coal mining in his district, fracking is very controversial.
Shimkus has a steady stream of constituents who regularly respond to his misleading and foolish facebook posts. But several posts supporting fracking attracted unusually strong pushback.
The first recent post linked a radio interview in which Shimkus says fracking, "isn't really new. Its been around since the 40's." This is a common talking point industry propagandists use to confuse people.
Some forms of vertical fracking have been around for decades. Recent debates and regulation are focused on horizontal, high powered fracking, which people in the industry know was developed in the 90's. Shimkus then says with no irony that "it's difficult to separate what's fact from fiction these days." That's especially true when someone's Congressman is lying to them.
Shimkus then posted a picture of a fracking operation with the comment, "Looking forward to seeing this in Southern Illinois" that generated 85 mostly brutal responses from downstate residents.
- Great idea! Let's frack away our future! Goodbye geological stability. Hey...we're going to need more lawyers, doctors, and environmental remediation services in the area to deal with all of the negative impacts of fracking. What a short sighted plan.
- Southern Illinois has beauty beyond compare. Crystal clear water to drink. Clean air to breath. Why in the world do you think God would want you to do anymore to this area than has already been done by strip mining and underground mining? Piling shale on the ground making our highways nasty. Please rethink this highway of thinking. You've been there for us in the past, please think of our future.
- Proof we have the best congressman money can buy.
- I'm not looking forward to such ruin of our region. Ban fracking. Put your support behind wind, solar and energy efficient design please, Otherwise, you do not have my vote.
- Can we put one next to your house?
- Yeah, because that well is so much more beautiful than Shawnee National Forest and the surrounding land. Idiot.
- They are fracking in Central Illinois bypassing the Regulatory Act by staying under the volume that would cause them to wait for the rules to be finalized and by using fluids other than water to frack. See what they can get away with in this state! The Regulatory Act is going to be useless against these companies.
- In 2012 the State of Texas reported $1.5 billion in revenues from all fracking activities. That same year the Texas Department of Transportation determined that fracking truck traffic was causing $4 billion in roadway damages statewide annually. http://www.FrackingRoadDamage.com
- You support this you will condemn us all .It is your obligation too get the facts. Remember John we live on two fault lines.
- "this" should be NO where near Southern Illinois. Trashing the land, air and using precious water to frack the earth? Oh also fracking near New Madrid fault....are you so out of touch you don't see that?
- So, will the first "test" sites be in YOUR backyard, contamination affecting YOUR family? Most folks boosting southern Illinois look forward to seeing forests, rock formations, lakes, and... Wineries... This picture does none of those justice. It also makes me want to move for the sake of my baby boy!!!!!!!
- You are totally wrong about this issue; Illinois is one of the most beautiful states in the union with some of the best water anywhere. Now you want to ruin it? What the hell is wrong with you? We intend to fight this fight to the end!
- You can't restore ruined buildings from earthquakes, and you can't restore polluted water once it has made people sick. You are gambling with people's lives, to make a few dollars for a few people, most of whom don't need it. Shame on you.
- Fracking destroys. Fracking destroys wildlife. Fracking destroys tourism. Fracking destroys drinking water. Whoever is for Fracking has no empathy for our planet.
- You are either incredibly stupid, incredibly uncaring, or a combination of both if you look forward to seeing this in Southern Illinois. Do you also look forward to the earthquakes that will devastate Southern Illinois? Do you look forward to the land and water being destroyed? What is WRONG with you politicians? Is that almighty dollar that you're getting from all of these people destroying our planet going to be worth it when you also don't have decent air to breathe, water to drink, or constituents to vote for you? I hope all politicians supporting fracking are ousted from office as soon as possible. Fracking in Southern Illinois is a terrible, terrible thing and the fact that you don't know this makes me sick.
- With all due respect, Congressman: ABSOLUTELY NOT! No way are the people of southern Illinois prepared for the noise, traffic, and pollution this will create. Take fracking to Chicago!
- NO! This is not a sight I want to see in Southern Illinois, now or EVER! We live on two active faults. I have friends in many areas that have allowed fracking. They have constant earthquakes. No job, no income, is worth endangering millions of lives. Please re-think this.
- why weren't we considered for the Tesla Plant, you have any idea what 6500 decent jobs would mean to this district, well are you trying to bring long term development here? oh and talk to folks in Ohio about fracking jobs, transients living in hotels and apartments leaving on Friday, lots of work for restaurants, bars and gas stations and when the crews move on so do those crappy jobs...
I could copy dozens more.
Shimkus got cute with his response and posted a graphic of outdated and out of context quotes from former and current Obama administration officials. Then another of academics who have worked for the industry claiming there has been no water contamination from fracking.
I added my own comment this time that got 13 likes.
243 cases of drinking well water contaminated in Pennsylvania. Does it bother anyone else to have their Congressman lie to them?
Plenty of others chimed in with more stories, studies, and facts to correct Shimkus' attempt to mislead his constituents.
I understand this scientific compendium is not covered in money, and therefore you are not likely to read such things, but you might try reading a peer reviewed medical research that provides a significant body of evidence that fracking is inherently dangerous to people and their community.
Why don't you ask these people! Dennis and Tamera Hagy and sons, Jackson County, WV (Equitable gas wells 1,080 feet away)
Exposure: Water – arsenic, lead, barium and Bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, radon levels were 1,233 pCi/l with the maximum contaminant level set at 300.
Symptoms: Neurological symptoms, headaches, rashes, and vomiting, eyes burning, oddly tired; one son spitting up blood
or Danny and Sharon Kinney
Location: Salem, WV
Gas Facility: Antero Resources gas well
Exposure: Water – arsenic at .060
Symptoms: Unknown, replacement water or relocated; cracking house foundation
Plus this powerful personal response:
My parents are ranchers. They have lost water pressure at their ranch for the first time in twenty years because three of their neighbors are selling off their water to fracking companies. They were also involved in an auto accident a few years ago because the traffic has gotten progressively worse on the little state highway they retired on. We don't have the cancer clusters mapped out yet, but we will in a few decades time, we'll have the epidemiological connections with silicosis understood to a greater degree too by then; cold comfort to the people who will be suffering from it, and silicosis is a pretty awful way to die. The companies won't disclose the contents of the chemicals they inject into the ground, but they do use known carcinogens. Local communities vote to keep fracking out, yet are over-ruled by state judges, like what transpired in Fort Collins, Co. earlier this year. You quoting EPA and Energy officials is probably not the most disingenuous thing you've done (how many of them are now working for energy companies I wonder?), but sincerely if it were your family, and their livelihood was at stake, would you still call fracking safe?
Shimkus has an incumbent protection district but he's facing a serious Democratic opponent for the first time in his new district, Eric Thorsland. Besides taking a reality-based position on climate change, Thorsland's family owns an organic farm. His website says he "believes food security and water quality issues are top priorities and has witnessed firsthand the effects of a changing climate on his farm."
There's a clear choice between Thorsland, who supports building a long-term sustainable economy, and Shimkus who would sacrifice the regions' future for a few years of transient temp jobs.