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Reader comments closed for the holiday weekend

Friday, Aug 29, 2014

* Well, I decided to wait to close comments until after my errands. But I’m heading out now, campers.

Here’s Merle Haggard

Well, I keep my nose on the grindstone
Work hard every day

- Posted by Rich Miller   Comments Off      


Fracking rules finally unveiled

Friday, Aug 29, 2014

* IDNR released its new fracking rules today. Lawrence Falbe took a quick look for us…

Rich,

My take on the revisions is that IDNR seems to worked very hard to digest an enormous body of public comment, and revise the regulations as it saw necessary and appropriate. I think that few people will be able to argue that IDNR rushed the process or otherwise did not fairly consider the staggering volume of comments it received, even if the end result is not considered perfect by either pro- or anti-fracking proponents.

Here is my “quick hit” list of what I saw that was important in my first very quick run-through.

    • Requirement to disclose specific fracking chemicals is strengthened and burden to prove protection as a trade secret is more stringent
    • Radioactivity is now addressed and a Radioactive Materials Management Plan is now required, among other things
    • The carve-out for adverse effects to water bodies that are “wholly contained” is much more stringent, with any hydrogeological connections to off-site groundwater sources now enough to exclude this caveat
    • The permit applicant must identify efforts to mitigate the impact of HVHHF on local roads
    • Burden is on the applicant to show if local first responders have adequate training and equipment to respond to emergencies
    • Changes to the permit application to address deficiencies identified by IDNR may trigger a new public comment/hearing period on those changes
    • Tightens up rules for when an objector can demand a public hearing by requiring specific facts and regulations at issue to be identified, but softens requirement to identify witnesses at time of request for public hearing
    • Public hearings must be held WITHIN THE COUNTY of the well site when possible but in no event more than 30 MILES OUTSIDE of county of well site
    • Applicants MUST appear at the public hearing (if there is one) except in a case of documented emergency, in which case the hearing can be rescheduled but applicant must pay costs
    • Clarifies that Hearing Officer does not render a “decision” but now makes only recommended findings, and the IDNR (presumably the Director but it’s not specified) makes the decision.
    • The permit decision still has to be made within 60 days of application completion unless waived by the applicant
    • The standard for granting a permit now specifically includes consideration of potential harm to property, wildlife, aquatic life and the environment
    • The IDNR has to make specific findings in its permit decision on key input from governmental agencies and objectors that was presented by public comment/hearing
    • The permit decision must consider the incremental impact and CUMULATIVE EFFECT of past, present and future fracking operations in the same vicinity or county
    • Significant deviations to the original permit application (including changes in well dimensions, boring locations, changes to proposed containment, etc.) requires another $13,500 fee
    • IDNR can impose ADDITIONAL SETBACKS as necessary to protect public health, public safety, property, wildlife, aquatic life, or the environment
    • Baseline groundwater monitoring requires GPS coordinates
    • Burden for claiming technical or economic infeasibility of complying with requirements to manage natural gas and hydrocarbon fluids produced during flowback periods is more stringent
    • Excess fluid in a reserve pit must be removed within 7 days after it is deposited
    • SITE Restoration is MANDATORY and cannot be contractually waived between site owner and permittee

Note that the new requirement that a well permit application decision must consider incremental impacts and “cumulative effects” (Section 245.300(c)(4)(vii)) is HUGE and could have a major impact on incentivizing companies to rush to get permitted, for fear that an overabundance of wells in a certain area may make additional permits harder to get as time goes on.

- Posted by Rich Miller   17 Comments      


Question of the day

Friday, Aug 29, 2014

* From the Oberweis campaign…

During his 32 years in Washington, Dick Durbin has jumped in front of every TV camera in production. So why is he shy about doing televised debates against Jim Oberweis?

Durbin has agreed to only one Chicago televised debate.

Here are some possible reasons he suddenly is allergic to TV cameras:

    1) He infamously lied about Obamacare.

    2) Then, he did it again.

    3) His policies have devastated Illinois families. Since he last ran re-election, a typical Illinois family is making $5,053 less money in annual income.

    4) He pays women staffers $11,000 less than men in his Senate office.

    5) He asked the Internal Revenue Service to scrutinize a conservative organization on the eve of the 2010 congressional election and in the midst of illegal targeting of conservatives by the IRS.

    6) He refuses to release any other correspondence he had with the IRS during the IRS scandal.

    7) He tried to intimidate conservative donors in what the Chicago Tribune editorial described as “Durbin’s enemies list.”

    8) He publicly repeated a false story about a Republican leader being rude to the President.

    9) He refuses to return $38,550 in campaign contributions linked to one of the most infamous sexual harassment firms in U.S. history.

    10) He has said nothing about $4-a-gallon gas prices after spending years haranguing about the issue when prices were lower under a Republican president.

Before we begin, I strongly encourage you to vote and comment quickly because I’m probably shutting down early today ahead of the Labor Day weekend.

* The Question: How many televised debates do you believe Sen. Durbin should agree to? Take the poll and then explain your answer in comments, please.


survey software

- Posted by Rich Miller   47 Comments      


A big IDOT roundup

Friday, Aug 29, 2014

* AP

Last week, an Office of the Executive Inspector General review concluded more than 250 IDOT “staff assistants” got jobs in the past decade based on clout, when the positions should have been publicly available to any candidate and filled based on qualifications. Quinn’s administration announced last week it was laying off 58 people who still held those jobs.

But they didn’t get rid of others who have moved into other positions still on the state payroll.

Those include two former employees of ex-U.S. Rep. Philip Hare, a Democrat. The workers were hired by IDOT as staff assistants in 2010. Rather than follow typical state hiring procedures, IDOT gave them jobs using an exemption that is supposed to be used only when the job involves policymaking or confidential information. Their jobs involved planting trees and implementing training classes, the review found.

Quinn said his administration “acted promptly” to address problems at the department, including putting in a new transportation secretary who is conducting a full analysis of all positions. He wouldn’t answer a question about why some of the improper hires still have state jobs.

* The easiest explanation for why those folks weren’t laid off with the others is that they’ve been successfully burrowed into the bureaucracy, like these folks might have been

The Illinois Department of Transportation hired four former staffers of ex-U.S. Rep. Phil Hare, D-Ill., after he lost his re-election bid in 2010, according to an inspector general’s report released late last week that said the state DOT improperly hired more than 250 people over the past decade.

The inspector general’s report focused mostly on the hiring of “staff assistants” to get around hiring rules.

Hare represented the Quad-Cities after being elected in 2006 and again in 2008. But after Hare lost in 2010, three of his former staffers were hired on at the DOT as staff assistants, while a fourth was brought on as an assistant to the regional engineer in District 2 of the Division of Highways, according to the report by Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza.

The report doesn’t identify the employees by name, but it says one worked for Hare as a regional field organizer and two others as district schedulers.

A fourth person is referenced, too, though it doesn’t list the person’s position with Hare.

According to that story, nobody knows nothing about nothing and nobody. It’s just a series of coinkidinks. Nobody made a call, nobody reached out, nobody did anything to help out Hare’s people.

Yep.

Right.

* OK, remember this guy from yesterday?

Employee 140’s Duties Included Producing Spreadsheets And Planting Trees. “Employee 16 told the OEIG that as a Staff Assistant, Employee 140’s duties included producing spreadsheets and other computer-generated documents and assisting in the Services Development area. In that capacity, Employee 140 planted trees and performed other preventative maintenance tasks.” (“In re: Ann Schneider, Gary Hannig, Matthew Hughes and Michael Woods, Jr – OEIG Final Report, Office Of The Executive Inspector General, 8/22/14, p. 75)

IDOT Employee Andrew Waeyaert Was Employed By Phil Hare Until March 12, 2010, And Was The Only Hare Employee To Leave In March Of 2010. (Statement Of Disbursements Of The House – January 1, 2010 to March 31, 2010, U.S. House Of Representatives, p. 1266)

Waeyaert Does Not Appear On The List Of Illegal Hires Being Fired By IDOT As A Result Of The Inspector General Report. (IDOT Layoffs List, State Journal-Register, 8/27/14)
Andrew Waeyaert Is Still Listed As Being Employed By IDOT. (Employee Salary Database, Illinois Comptroller, Accessed 8/28/14)

* The Rauner campaign dug up this photo from a 2010 Illinois Statehouse News story

The newspaper’s caption

Standing in the back of the room Andy Waeyaert makes sure that Illinois Gov. Pat Quin can see his show of support for the Democratic incumbent during Gov. Quinn’s campaign stop at the Quad City International Airport in Moline on Monday afternoon, November 1. Mr. Waeyaert also held a sign supporting U.S. Rep. Phil Hare who is in a tight race a day before voters head to the polls.

* Meanwhile, is an unfortunate turn of events

Sean O’Shea, the deputy chief of staff to Gov. Pat Quinn who resigned just as his boss came under fire for patronage hiring, is going to be unemployed awhile longer.

Mr. O’Shea was going to become chief of staff to venture capitalist J.B. Pritzker but walked away from the job after his departure was reported earlier this week by Greg Hinz and became fodder for Bruce Rauner’s campaign. […]

Mr. O’Shea withdrew from the job with Pritzker Group earlier this week when it became clear he was going to be part of the campaign narrative.

“I met Sean a few months ago through our search process and was impressed that he was universally praised by every reference I spoke with as a man of high integrity with exceptional professional accomplishments,” Mr. Pritzker said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the kind of political blood-sport that smears a guy like Sean O’Shea is exactly what drives good people away from public service. I wish Sean nothing but the greatest success.”

I get why JB might not want to have been dragged into this mess, and I get that O’Shea is in an unflattering spotlight right now, but his life is really going to suck from here on out and, personally, I don’t wish it on anybody.

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      


Even Steven, for now

Friday, Aug 29, 2014

* Remember the other day when Bruce Rauner and his chief of staff were saying that Rauner’s campaign was being outspent 2-1 by Gov. Pat Quinn and his allies? No longer

Bruce Rauner’s campaign just doubled its near future TV ad buy, sources tell Early & Often.

The camp on Thursday doubled its new flight from the period of Aug. 28 through Sept. 8.

“I’ll apologize to everbody in this room. You’re going to see my face on television more in the next two months than you’ll ever want to see it,” the Republican gubernatorial candidate told the audience at the Metropolitan Planning Council event on Thursday.

I’m guessing that Rauner will do more than just catch up come September. We’ll see, though.

- Posted by Rich Miller   19 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Confirmed *** Report: Libertarians file charges

Friday, Aug 29, 2014

*** UPDATE *** The Libertarian Party has sent out a press release saying they have provided documentation to the Attorney General and plan to soon file a complaint with the state’s attorney. The release is here.

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* I had also heard this but have been so far unable to confirm

Republican News Watch has learned that the Libertarian Party of Illinois lodged complaints on Thursday with both the Office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and the Office of Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez over intimidation tactics employed in an attempt to prevent the Libertarian’s slate of statewide candidates from appearing on the November ballot. […]

“The Illinois Republican Party’s actions, by hiring a private investigation firm such as Morrison Security Corporation to engage in deceptive and coercive tactics against the Libertarian Party’s petition gatherers and signers, are beyond outrageous,” said Ben Koyl, Libertarian Party candidate for Illinois Attorney General. “The actions by the Republicans are calculated to deprive registered voters of Illinois of their right to free and open elections. These coercive and deceptive tactics have a chilling effect in that they discourage people from signing petitions and are in violation not only of Illinois election law, but also of our First Amendment rights,” added Koyl.
.

The party did highlight the above story on its Facebook page, however.

* Meanwhile

Bruce Rauner for the first time personally responded to Early & Often reports that private investigators were armed with guns while working for the Republican effort to remove the Libertarians from the November ballot.

Rauner said in a news availability that he was “outraged” and “appalled” by the behavior, but said it had nothing to do with himself or his campaign. […]

When asked about ties between the program and Rauner’s campaign, Rauner said: “One person did but that person as far as I know was not involved in the specific issue that was raised. That person who we paid for a specific project that was done, it was a discreet project, it had nothing to do with this other work that the state party had to do. That was completely disconnected. Our campaign has had nothing to do with the issues.”

* Video

* The Quinn campaign offered up a “fact check”…

On the 51st anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Republican billionaire Bruce Rauner found himself explaining yesterday why his campaign bankrolled armed operatives to intimidate voters recently at their homes, as first reported by the Chicago Sun-Times.

In the video… Rauner refused to apologize for his campaign’s unacceptable voter intimidation with guns, let alone take an iota of responsibility. Rauner also refused to say whether anyone was fired over this dangerous dirty trick.

Rauner’s responses range from false to evasive. Check it out:

    Rauner Claim #1: “That program that was run - that was run by the state party.”

    Reality: Seriously? You mean your so-called “voter integrity” program by your lawyer, with your staffer?

    Rauner Claim #2: Only “one person” from my campaign was involved.

    Reality: Uh, no. Rauner lawyer John Fogarty is the same lawyer leading the petition attack for the Illinois Republican Party. Furthermore, Morgan Kreitner - a notary for the Rauner-backed effort to knock the Libertarians off the ballot, is a salaried employee of the Rauner campaign. In addition, Rauner personally has donated $6,500 to the man carrying out this voter integrity initiative. And Rauner has donated millions of dollars to the Illinois Republican Party.

    That’s three, at least, by our count, including the candidate himself.

    Rauner Claim #3: “That person who we paid for a specific project that was done – it was a discreet project –it had nothing to do with this other work…it was completely disconnected.”

    Reality: Wait, what? What’s this “discreet” project, exactly? Who did you pay to do what?

    Rauner Claim #4: “Our campaign has nothing to do with the issues that you describe.”

    Reality: Only you do. You bankrolled it. You’ve gone all over Illinois bragging about your so-called “voter integrity” efforts, your campaign has donated more than $2 million to the Illinois Republican Party to carry out these efforts and you personally donated $6,500 to the political organization of the man carrying out the gun intimidation effort. But now that your cronies have been caught red-handed, it’s hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil. Is this the Rauner version of accountability?

* The Tribune editorial board also weighed in today

We know, we know: Politics ain’t beanbag. But politics doesn’t have to be rotten and nefarious either.

Yet oodles of people who run for office in this state will tell you of strong-arm tactics they endured, sometimes from their own party, to get their names on an Illinois ballot.

It’s shameful. Sincere candidates who believe in public service spend months walking door-to-door collecting signatures — one of the purest elements of democratic elections — only to get kicked off the ballot through dishonest means.

The latest allegation of skulduggery accuses Republican Party leaders of trying to remove Libertarian Party candidates from the Nov. 4 ballot, ostensibly to protect GOP candidate for governor Bruce Rauner. Rauner would compete more easily in a one-on-one race with Gov. Pat Quinn with no Libertarian candidate siphoning off votes. Rauner says he knew nothing of the alleged intimidation:

- Posted by Rich Miller   50 Comments      


Big guys dinged a bit, but little guys helped a lot

Friday, Aug 29, 2014

* For decades in this state, a small number of casinos had a complete, legal and state-protected monopoly on slot machine gaming. The public benefits of those monopolies have mainly been confined to a handful of communities, although the state has brought in money as well. Meanwhile, local bar owners have been hurt by the state’s smoking ban and by competition from the casinos in those areas, so legalized video poker has saved a whole lot of small business owners from ruin. Yeah, there’s some slippage at the former monopolies, but the little guys are benefiting, so I’m not sure I see a crisis or anything yet

Tony Mossuto, owner of the Double Play Saloon in the Chicago suburb of Blue Island, said bars have struggled to cope with higher liquor taxes and a 2008 smoking ban. His five slot machines have attracted a new, older clientele that is keeping his establishment open and 10 employees working.

“It’s saved our industry,” he said.

Casino revenue in Illinois fell 5.3 percent in 2013, the first full year with the new competition. Sales fell similarly in July, marking 11 straight months of decline, according to Bloomberg Intelligence data. The first casino opened in the state in 1991.

Las Vegas-based Boyd, which owns the Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino in East Peoria, cited the burgeoning competition as one reason for a shortfall in second-quarter profit. […]

Casino operators are now focused on keeping truck stops from having more than five machines and developing restrictions that limit the competition to places like bars and social clubs.

Your “position”?

- Posted by Rich Miller   36 Comments      


Today’s photo

Friday, Aug 29, 2014

* From a corn field in Tinley Park

Cool.

This is a Major League Baseball open thread.

- Posted by Rich Miller   43 Comments      


Stark contrasts on taxes, minimum wage

Friday, Aug 29, 2014

* On taxes

“It’s painful, I hate to put new taxes in place but it’s an important, pro-growth, investment policy,” Rauner said. “We shouldn’t tax investment and income, we should tax consumption.”

And

“A consumption tax hurts hard-working people raising families and living from paycheck to paycheck,” Gov. Pat Quinn said.

I’m not sure how taxes on consumption promote growth, but whatever.

* On the minimum wage and the upcoming referendum

“I wouldn’t support raising Illinois’ minimum wage without pro-business reforms. I would not support that,” Rauner said.

“There’s only one candidate for governor who supports raising the minimum wage without condition. It’s the right thing to do,” Quinn said.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   124 Comments      


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