* It’s been my experience in Illinois that environmentalists have long been divided between the screamers and the doers. It’s a symbiotic relationship. The far more radical screamers make sure that the doers don’t give away too much, but in the end the screamers are nudged aside and the doers cut the deal. The deals are never perfect, which upsets the screamers to no end, but after the deal is done the screamers are marginalized.
It’s probably going to happen again now that there’s a fracking deal…
A coalition of Illinois residents opposed to high-volume gas and oil drilling is criticizing Gov. Pat Quinn for supporting a bill that would establish regulations for the practice.
A group called “Stop the Frack Attack” issued a statement Friday urging Quinn to instead support a 2-year moratorium on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
On Thursday, two downstate lawmakers introduced a regulatory bill drafted with the help of industry and some environmental groups. The governor released a statement hours later, praising the bill and saying it could help create jobs.
Fracking uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack open rock formations and release oil and gas. The industry is eyeing southern Illinois’ New Albany shale.
* From the anti fracking group’s Facebook page…
Some in the environmental movement are confused, they seem to think that fracking can somehow be made safe by “stricter” regulations.
* From the Illinois Sierra Club, which has tried to walk a line between the antis demanding a moratorium and the realistic expectation that fracking is coming one way or the other…
Can we stop the industry from bringing fracking to Illinois? When legislators proposed a two-year moratorium on the practice last year, we strongly supported that proposal, and we support continued calls for a moratorium today. However, we also need to acknowledge that fracking is legal today in Illinois, and for all we know, may already be occurring as you read this. We also need to recognize that our current laws regulating oil and gas drilling, originally passed in 1941, are totally inadequate to deal with the range of issues raised by injecting millions of gallons of chemical-laced fluid deep into the earth only to come surging back with gas and potentially oil. In short, Illinois citizens and our environment, at the moment, are virtually defenseless against against the problems experienced in other states.
That’s why it is essential that Illinois move quickly to get the strongest possible safeguards in place to protect citizens and their water supplies. Fortunately, discussions in Springfield have produced a basic agreement on what would be the strongest set of protections of any state in the country. The open pits for wastewater in use in other states will be banned here, and there will be none of the dumping the water into wastewater treatment plants, which has overwhelmed sewage plants elsewhere. The discharge of any fracking wastewater into surface water will be a felony offense. The industry must disclose what chemicals are used, and the most toxic ones will be banned. Ann Alexander from the Natural Resources Defense Council, who helped represent environmental groups in the negotiations that produced the proposal, has a good rundown on the major provisions of the bill here.
* From Ann Alexander’s NRDC blog…
This legislation is the product of an unprecedented stakeholder process that brought together representatives from all of the concerned state agencies, the drilling industry, and the environmental community, as well as legislators from both sides of the aisle. No compromise is ever perfect, and this bill is certainly no exception. But in its current form, it would represent the strongest and most comprehensive law governing hydraulic fracturing – or “fracking” – in the nation. While some other states have put in place bits and pieces of the kinds of protections that are essential to protect the public, no state has yet put together as many of the essential elements of a strong regulatory scheme. In most other states where this problematic process has taken off, regulators have been swamped by a gold rush mentality, convinced by the extortionist rhetoric of industry lobbyists that even modest attempts to protect the public will drive away their chance of prosperity.
* Back to the antis…
“The gas industry got just about everything they wanted,” said Rau. “Please, everyone: label this monstrosity properly. It’s a DE-regulation bill.”
* To the NRDC, which compiled a list of the bill’s benefits…
* Extensive regulation of the drilling process, mandating numerous best practices.
A requirement that all waste – which includes “flowback” of all the chemical-laced water pumped into the ground – be stored in closed tanks, rather than the pits that chronically leak and overflow elsewhere.
* Restrictions on venting and flaring of natural gas (which contains the potent greenhouse gas methane, as well as other harmful constituents, and turns to smog).
* A ban on the dangerous practice of injecting diesel (which contains carcinogenic hydrocarbons).
* Required disclosure of all fracking chemicals to the public before operations commence (and limits on industry’s ability to claim that this information is a trade secret).
* Citizen rights to public hearings concerning proposed permits, and to appeal permits that are granted.
* Citizen enforcement against violations of law or permits.
* Provisions to protect the state’s water supply, including authority to deny permits as necessary during drought conditions.
* Baseline and post-frack testing of potentially affected waters to help identify instances in which contamination may be associated with fracking.
* A presumption of liability for contamination that appears post-fracking in proximity to operations.
* A detailed application, containing information about planned operations, that must be posted on a state web site.
* Setbacks (albeit not always as large as we believe are necessary) from population centers – including schools, residences, and nursing homes – as well as water resources and nature preserves.
* Mandatory plugging of nearby abandoned wells that can serve as pathways for contamination.
* Regulatory authority to address the problem of earthquakes induced by underground waste injection.
* Bonding and insurance requirements to enhance financial accountability.
I don’t have the scientific background to judge who is right on this, but I’ll take the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council over a group of local NIMBYs any day of the week. And to call this, as the screamers are doing, a “de-regulation” bill is utter nonsense on its very face. Screamers never understand why they’re not taken seriously, even when they make goofy comments like that one.