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Southern Illinois asks legislative committee to reject weak fracking rules

Yesterday Illinois was facing an environmental and economic crisis from fracking that was greenwashed by a Democratic Governor who told us regulation can make it safe. Voters were asked to choose between two pro-fracking candidates for Governor. Bruce Rauner won after many downstate voters decided they didn't like either choice and stayed home.

Illinois is now faced with an environmental crisis to be overseen by a Republican Governor who's unlikely to strictly enforce regulation. There's no more greenwashing fracking in Illinois. No politician can credibly claim they're protecting the environment with the weak law passed by the legislature. It's the state's top environmental threat.

The next politicians who may claim they can make fracking safe are legislators on JCAR. After delaying action until after election day, they're expected to vote on fracking rules Thursday. They must reject the rules to prevent poorly regulated fracking from moving forward under Bruce Rauner. Even strong rules would be meaningless if overseen by state regulatory agencies captured by industry. Passing the rules now, even with improvements requested by a few pro-fracking green groups in Chicago, would guarantee environmental disaster.

After JCAR rejects the rules, Pat Quinn has one last chance to fix his mistake by asking the legislature to pass a ban or moratorium on fracking during the upcoming veto session. It can still be done before Bruce Rauner takes office as Governor.

Southern Illinois grassroots environmental leaders sent the following letter asking JCAR to reject the rules.

November 4, 2014
Dear Members of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules:
The undersigned Illinois residents urge this committee to reject the Proposed Rules for the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act. We have identified numerous procedural deficiencies in the rulemaking process for these proposed rules, each of which is serious enough to have tainted the whole process. This Committee has the authority to reject the Proposed Rules, and we respectfully request that you do so at your November 6, 2014 meeting.

We have identified the following violations of Illinois statutory law committed during the rulemaking period for HFRA:
• IDNR failed to publish a summary of the 135 page proposed rulemaking in the regulatory agenda. (5 ILCS 100/5-60).
• IDNR failed to give sufficient notice of public hearings throughout Illinois; one hearing even received zero notice in the Illinois Register. (5 ILCS 100/5-40)
• IDNR failed to make an agency representative available to answer questions at any of the public hearings held in Illinois. (5 ILCS 100/5-40)
• IDNR refused some citizens admittance to the Chicago hearing. (5 ILCS 100/5-40(b))
• IDNR did not allow some citizens to speak at the Ina (Rend Lake College) hearing. (5 ILCS 100/5-40(b))
• IDNR provided an inadequate opportunity for the public to address the factual basis for its rulemaking depriving members of the public of complete participation in the rulemaking process. (5 ILCS 100/5-60)
• IDNR prejudiced the public's opportunity to comment, by making patently false statements in its first notice. (5 ILCS 100/5-40)
• IDNR failed to comply with the requirement of HFRA section 1-97 by not submitting the required report to the General Assembly by February 1, 2014, thereby depriving citizens the opportunity to evaluate that report during the limited time for public input on rulemaking. (225 ILCS 732/1-97)
• IDNR’s Delay in Publishing the Transcripts of the Public Hearings Prejudiced the Public’s Ability to Evaluate IDNR’s Rulemaking (5 ILCS 100/5-35)

In total, the statutory violations described here have deprived the public of its rights under the Illinois Administrative Procedure Act, and when considered cumulatively, the violations also amount to a violation of IDNR’s rulemaking duties under HFRA.

The rulemaking process failed in its essential purpose; the proposed rulemaking violated mandatory statutory and administrative rulemaking procedures and prejudiced the public’s right and ability to participate in this important rulemaking. If JCAR finalizes these rules, then these rules will be incomplete, inadequate, and invalidly enacted to the detriment of Illinois residents who are landowners, mineral interest owners, and members of the communities where high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing would occur.

The undersigned below also believe it is critical for this Committee to realize that at the present time, IDNR does not have an adequate budget nor staff to supervise high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing under the HFRA or to monitor compliance with HFRA permits and HFRA.

We have been concentrating on the procedural deficiencies of the rulemaking, as described above, but we also have the following concerns about the health and environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing that have been recorded in scientific research: contamination of water supplies, displacement of wildlife, noise and light pollutions, earthquakes and seismic risks, silica dust hazards, low level radiation exposure, and increased burdens on infrastructure, especially in rural communities.

Now is the time for JCAR to acknowledge the procedural deficiencies of this important rulemaking in our State’s history and to do the right thing in the best interest of Illinois residents. Please deny approval of the proposed HRFA rules.

1. s Ms. Natalie M. Laczek
2. s Ms. Penni S. Livingston
3. s Mr. Vito Amastrangelo
4. s Ms. Tabitha Tripp
5. s Mr. Sam Stearns
6. s Mr. Mark Donham
7. s Mr. Nathan Czuba
8. s Annette McMichaels on behalf
of Southerners Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment SAFE

If you'd like to send your own message to members of JCAR by Wednesday morning you can find their contact information here.

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