On a dark and foggy night, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources held a public hearing in Effingham to take comments on proposed fracking regulation. It was less well attended than other hearings after being quickly rescheduled to December 16 due to a snowstorm. I'm not kidding about the fog. The deer hanging out along the side of the highway didn't make the drive more fun either.
Despite the dangerous driving conditions and late rescheduling, citizens still came to speak out against fracking and weak regulation proposed in Illinois. Only three people spoke in favor of fracking and two of them admitted to working in the oil extraction industry.
In this first video, Nancy spoke about the restrictive rules on who has standing to request a public hearing for fracking permits. Since fracking fluids travel far, her water well could be poisoned by a fracking site for which she has no right to request a public hearing. “Of course Illinoisans can expect the oil and gas industry to badger the hearing officers tasked with deciding whether or not individuals have standing to request public hearings.”
Bob, a Bond county resident, is worried about how much water fracking companies will use and where it will come from. The regulations place no limits on water usage and won't protect the depletion of streams and drinking water supplies, as happened in Texas fracked towns. “I have to haul water. Will I go to town and will there be 20 tanker trucks in front of me? I don't know.”
Girwana spoke about the failure of the rules to regulate fracking operations that use water below specified levels. She also pointed out that DNR doesn't have to answer questions at public hearings. “How is the public to be assured that their concerns will be addressed if IDNR only has to sit and listen to them without responding.”
Then a monkey owned by Gene from Makanda, Illinois made some of the most thoughtful comments of the evening about how extraction economies target and harm poor people. “We're between two major seismic zones. There's scientific evidence to show that fracking causes earthquakes and we are between two major seismic zones. It is scandalous that you would even consider doing this here. You all wear ties and I wear a monkey suit. I look like the weirdo, but no, look, you are the irresponsible ones here that are even considering doing this. …This can't be made safe and it has to stop in Illinois.”
Vito Mastrangelo spoke about his concern that, despite owning the mineral rights to his property in southern Illinois, horizontal fracking could happen underneath his land without his consent. Noise, light and other pollution from large scale fracking could dramatically change the region. “We're not talking about a few wells. This could look like a large city.”
Jessica Fujan spoke for Food and Water Watch about Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and toxic open pits of fracking waste fluids. “DNR should disallow all permits until fracking is proven safe and risk free.”
I'll post more video from the Effingham hearing tomorrow. Comments can still be submitted to DNR through January 3.