I finally have all the video up from the Effingham public comment hearing on Illinois' proposed fracking rules. Below are the five videos I haven't already posted, and at the end is a playlist of all seven videos together if you'd like to see everything. I didn't get the entire hearing, but the playlist covers most of it.
In the above video, Tyler Rotche spoke for Prairie Rivers Network. He focused on how the proposed regulations are even weaker than the already weak law passed by the legislature. He says fracking wells begun prior to the enactment of the law should not be exempt. Then my video card ran out of room so I had to stop filming to delete old files. Sorry PRN!
Erin from Makanda spoke about Volatile Organic Compound emissions and climate change. “It was brought up earlier that this fracking process exacerbates climate change. We're beginning at the federal level to regulate carbon pollution and that's not in any way included in this bill. We ought to be considering that as a public health and safety risk.”
Dominic spoke on the weak requirements related to abandoned oil and gas wells. “$50 for a minimum fee. I have a $150 parking ticket!”
Central Illinois environmental leader Joyce Blumenshine said the fracking law established a regulatory floor that doesn't make fracking safe and the proposed regulations are even weaker than the law. The rules narrow the types of modifications that require a public process. “It opens the doors for fracking permit holders to skirt public participation and for the DNR to not hear from local citizens.” This has already been a problem with coal mine regulation by DNR. I've attended several DNR hearings regarding coal mines with Joyce where we saw how lax the agency can be.
In part 4, Kelvin Ho, of Chicagoland Against Fracking, said DNR clearly doesn't have the time or resources to protect public health and safety. The rules don't protect people from radioactivity in water. Next, Gianna spoke about radioactivity in water and parks like Starved Rock.
Video 5 starts with a pediatric oncologist. He's worried about chemicals being released into the ground by fracking without the public knowing what they are or what health impact they may have. Another speaker wants fracking to stop at nighttime due to noise and light pollution. Mary Swanson says there's no such thing as safe fracking. She was one of several speakers who commented on the fact that medical personnel would only have access to what chemicals people may have been exposed to by calling DNR during regular business hours. “I have worked in the medical profession. You can't wait until Monday to find out what you're treating your patient for.”
Joseph, of Bloomington, was one of several people who pointed out that municipalities can limit fracking, but not counties or townships. That's problematic because most fracking is expected in rural areas where the county would have jurisdiction. Allowing cities (but not counties) to limit fracking was one of several meaningless concessions industry made during negotiations over the fracking law.
Jo Ann Conrad spoke for Frack Free Illinois saying, “this isn't your daddy's fracking.” Industry spokespersons try to confuse people by claiming that fracking has been going on for decades. That's true of vertical fracking. But, the high volume horizontal fracking developed in the 90's is a significantly different process with new risks. Jo Ann spoke about how the fracking law was rushed through the legislature without enough study or public discussion.
Angel spoke about the health impacts of fracking on children, including birth defects and cancer. She ended with another call for nonviolent civil disobedience to stop fracking. That has been a recurring theme of the hearings but I haven't noticed news outlets acknowledge it yet.
An Effingham local spoke about his concern that the regulation says IDNR “may” assess penalties for violation, which means no fines at all may be assessed. Next, Matthew spoke about the treatment of radioactive water waste.
Effingham had the lowest turnout of the hearings after being rescheduled on short notice to a night with dangerous driving conditions. Consequently, there was time left after everyone who signed up had the chance to speak. A clever person asked if she could speak aagain, and at that point several people started making more spontaneous comments they hadn't planned on. A Chicago resident promised to contact his legislators for the repeal of the law that allows fracking. Tabitha asked for an extension of the comment period so people can spend more time with their families during the holiday season.
Finally, I included one person who spoke in favor of fracking at the end of the hearing. He described himself as a local “mom and pop” oil driller and complained that regulations are so burdensome he's ready to “sell out and quit.” The audience applauded his decision to quit drilling. He said small operators can't afford to comply with regulation, but the unintended implication of his claim is that he likewise can't afford to drill safely without harming the public. Can he also not afford to pay a judgement against him if his operation causes a cancer cluster? Who will be left picking up the tab?
Rushed scheduling of the hearings and comment period during the holidays seems designed to suppress public participation but there has still been a huge response at all five hearings. The public are saying loud and clear they don't believe Illinois' weak law will make fracking safe. The public can still submit comments online through January 3.