Groups Send List of Requirements for Fracking Regulations to Illinois Officials
As absentee oil and gas companies register with the state of Illinois this month, downstate citizens groups are taking the lead among statewide environmental groups and laying out scientific and legal standards for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to consider prior to drafting the controversial horizontal hydraulic fracking rules.
In a letter sent this week to the key legislative committee and state IDNR agency officials, the groups representing rural communities targeted for fracking operations cite "several new scientific studies and academic research papers that have become available, which should be evaluated and considered before proceeding with allowing permits for hydraulic fracturing in Illinois," and conclude: "as legislators, the power to protect the citizens of Illinois rests with you. You have been armed with knowledge and research that would validate the need for an immediate halt to any drilling until the science was studied."
Or, as IDNR Director Marc Miller's conservation hero Aldo Leopold once admonished in his "land ethics": "a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise."
Leopold's own Sand County region of Wisconsin, in fact, has been so upturned by reckless frac-sand strip-mining that nearby besieged counties have recanted their fracking support and enacted moratoriums.
"We have reached out to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to alert them of the significance of the new research and science that has come forth since the regulations were signed into law and of catastrophes that laws have no control over, like the situation in Colorado, where horrific flooding in Weld county caused numerous oil spills," said Tabitha Smith Tripp, with the Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing our Environment (SAFE). "This law has no provisions or setbacks with regard to flood plains and watersheds."
Tripp also noted new scientific research released last month that indicated the mantle below the surface of the New Madrid and Wabash faults in southern Illinois is weaker than expected.
"Along with earlier research this summer directly linked fracking and injections wells to increased seismicity and earthquakes," Tripp said. "It would seem prudent that the IDNR would ban any permits in areas that are prone to earthquakes based on the science we provided."
At a recent meeting in Springfield between representatives of IDNR, Illinois People's Action (IPA) and SAFE, the key citizens groups expressed their concerns with the state's admittedly flawed legislation and the rule-making process.
"Upon inquires from IPA and SAFE, the IDNR representatives refused to acknowledge IDNR's broad authority to deny a permit application," said Vito Mastrangelo, an attorney and representative on SAFE's legal affairs committee. "Section 1-53 of the new legislation includes this provision: "(a) the Department shall issue a high volume horizontal hydraulic fracturing permit, with any conditions the Department may find necessary, only if the record of decision demonstrates that *** (4) the proposed hydraulic fracturing operations will be conducted in a manner that will protect the public health and safety and prevent pollution or diminution of any water source[.]"
Mastrangelo added: "And I asked the IDNR representatives pointedly whether, if we were to convince IDNR staff that the HVHF process was not safe, they would relay their concerns to the legislators on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules or to the legislature. They would not agree to do so."
Signed by SAFE, IPA and a broad range of southern Illinois groups including the Regional Association of Concerned Environmentalists, Shawnee Vineyard Indian Settlement, and the Friends of Bell Smith Springs, the letter reminds JCAR legislators and IDNR officials that they will be held "responsible to protect the communities being put in harms way." It concludes:
Our plea for public protection before corporate profit is based in science and research, past and current manifestations of cumulative health concerns and environmental issues such as earthquakes, flooding, or droughts that can not be predicted nor avoided once occurring. It would be prudent to consider all of the science before allowing such a questionable method of extraction be a legacy left behind during your term.
Please consider these standards and as they are pointing to insufficient regulatory framework that will fall short in the face of a disaster, as was the case in Colorado.
Along with the letter, citizen groups included a list of demands drafted by the IPA on Disclosure and Transparency, Regulations and Inspection and Enforcement. Notably in the current process of drafting administrative rules by the IDNR, the list includes:
Disclosure and Transparency
1. With regard to disclosures about the rule-making process, the Illinois Department of NaturalResources (IDNR) shall: (Creed #1, 3, 6)
a. Publish the names of those who drafted the rules governing hydraulic fracturing in the State of Illinois in a state newspaper and on the IDNR website, including the drafters’ qualifications or backgrounds pertaining to their work on the hydraulic fracturing bill, within thirty (30) days of their appointment to the hydraulic fracturing committee.
b. Publish in a state newspaper and on the IDNR website a list of the names of those public health and environmental scientists involved in rule-making process with a description of their qualifications or backgrounds pertaining to the hydraulic fracturing bill within thirty (30) days of their appointment to the hydraulic fracturing committee.
c. Name scientists and/or direct action leaders on the [hydraulic fracturing committee] submitted by Illinois People’s Action and/or other Illinois social, political or environmental groups who share the opinions of those Illinois citizens working to oppose hydraulic fracturing.
2. With regard to personnel responsible for approving or rejecting hydraulic fracturing permits, the IDNR will:
a. Disclose the qualifications of personnel responsible for issuing hydraulic fracturing permits and provide a list of the permits issued by said personnel.
b. Identify the qualifications of personnel responsible for inspecting, approving, or rejecting hydraulic fracturing and their capacity to verify information provided by the applicant.
c. Identify the capacity of personnel responsible for approving or rejecting hydraulic fracturing to access the necessary resources to conduct thorough background checks on the operators requesting permits including, but not limited to, current and past violations.
d. Increase public transparency regarding the hydraulic fracturing regulation process, disclose the number of inspectors hired as well as the nature and duration of the training they have or will have undergone before they undertake this assignment, and/or any qualifications said inspectors brought to the position before being hired by IDNR.
3. Require all hydraulic permit applications to publicly disclose the depth, direction(s) and length(s) of any and all drilling done in relation to a single well head, and make this information available on the IDNR website.
4. Public Disclosure: Real time reporting and transparency: IDNR shall not issue a permit until the following public information and emergency notification systems are in place: (Creed #2, 3, 4, 5,6)
a. A list of all chemicals to be used in the well, or in the vicinity of the well, potential adverse effects of those chemicals and treatment recommended if exposed to them.
b. A Public Information guide developed in consultation with Public health officials, seismologists, and emergency medical and rescue workers and published on the IDNR site and distributed in booklet form to residents within 1 mile of any part of a fracking operation (including any part of an underground horizontal leg).
c. The company Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for each chemical or product used in the well or its vicinity during any stage or for any action related to the hydraulic fracturing process.
i. The MSDS must also be distributed to local fire departments, and local and state emergency planning officials under Section 311 of the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act. This distribution must happen at least thirty (30) days prior to use of the product on the hydraulic fracturing site.
ii. With regard to chemicals used, the MSDS shall list all chemicals to be used in the well or in its vicinity, potential adverse effects of those chemicals, and recommended treatment if exposed.
d. Creation of an Operator’s Violations page on the website that is easy to locate and navigate. Violations and/or accidents are to be posted within 48 hours of an event, with easy-to-comprehend descriptions of:
i. what caused the event;
ii. what were the damages to property, life, environment, public health;
iii. closure of operation (even if temporary);
iv. license suspensions and/or license revocations.
v. the dollar amount of fine.
Items to be reported include but are not limited to: traffic accidents, well-casing failures, spills, dumping of produced water, frack pad fires, overflow of open pit storage, intentional or accidental venting of methane, increased levels of methane and/or other chemicals in surrounding groundwater, soil or air, explosions, radiation leaks/exposure, transportation spillage, and aquatic and wildlife kills.
5. If a hydraulic fracturing company contests a penalty, or negotiates with the State of Illinois or a private citizen to settle a dispute out of court, all such settlements and/or lawsuit decisions must be described on the IDNR web site. If a hydraulic fracturing company requires that a settlement or details of a court decision be kept confidential in order for settlement to be reached, the IDNR will refuse to grant any future drilling permits to said company until the settlement details or court case details are publicly disclosed as required by the IDNR.
6. Corporate Liability: (Creed #2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
Recognizing that many of hydraulic fracturing’s effects on public health have yet to be determined, and further recognizing that only the open sharing of health data will allow such detrimental health effects to be discerned, the IDNR hereby calls for a completely transparent approach to all health records likely to be related to hydraulic fracturing. In the event that IDNR learns through its inspectors or citizen reports of a public health occurrence or occurrences reasonably believed to be connected with a hydraulic fracturing site, IDNR will publish the details of such events, though not the names of the affected individuals unless permission is secured from citizens affected negatively by exposure to the hydraulic fracturing process. The IDNR further requires that any non-disclosure agreements as related to disputes, settlements or court cases between physicians and industry or patients and industry are forbidden.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
After decades on the political periphery, the climate movement is entering the mainstream in 2020, with young leaders at the fore. The Sunrise Movement now includes more than 400 local groups educating and advocating for political action on climate change. Countless students around the world have clearly communicated what's at stake for their futures, notably Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, who just finished her yearlong school strike for climate. Youth activists have been praised for their flexible, big-picture thinking and ability to harness social media to deliver political wins, as Sunrise recently did for U.S. Sen. Ed Markey's primary campaign. They necessarily challenge the status quo.
A Convergence of Issues<p>The unequal impacts of a changing climate have become extremely clear in 2020, so equity has come to the fore of climate conversations in every corner of the country. A global deadly pandemic continues to rage out of control in the U.S., heat waves are setting new temperature records, wildfires are scorching American Western states, and the hurricane season has already made it to the end of the alphabet for naming storms. In all cases, low-income, Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities are bearing a disproportionate amount of the impacts.</p><p>"Today, the scab is off, the ugly reality of injustice is hitting us up close and personal, made more realistic by this COVID pandemic," Bullard says.</p><p>This year the decidedly youthful focus on intersectionality is a big part of what defines the transformation of the climate movement. Climate is not just an environmental issue, according to youth activists. It's also a racial justice issue, an economic issue, and an access-to-health care issue.</p><p>"Environmental justice is really seeing the intersection of these issues," says Alex Rodriguez, a community organizer with the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters, which aims to make environmental issues a priority for the state's elected leaders. The group is now focusing their efforts on the coming election and recently succeeded in persuading the state to allow absentee voting in November. "We want people to be safe when casting their vote," says Rodriguez, 26, whose fellow grassroots committee members range from age 16 to 60.</p><p>Rodriguez, who also serves on the equity and environmental justice working group for the Governor's Council on Climate Change, says, "We see our programmatic work as a way to help lawmakers see what they can do to improve the dignity of those suffering from environmental racism, systematic racism, and economic oppression."</p><p>Seeing the overlap and bringing these issues together is a strength that Bullard says was missing from the civil rights organizing he was involved with in the 1960s. He says 2020 is unique in many ways.</p><p>"The number of marchers is unprecedented, from different economic, ethnic, and racial groups—an awakening unlike any that I've seen on this Earth in over 70 years," Bullard says. "Today, the different movements are converging, and I think that convergence makes for greater potential for success."</p>
Young and Old<p>But young people are one essential demographic among many when it comes to climate action. With all that's on the line for climate in the coming elections, up and down the ballot, collaboration becomes key. Bullard says previous generations of climate activists can now play the critical role of mentoring, assisting, and supporting. Standing with, not in front of, youth.</p><p>"Youth are leading us and taking on frontline activity," says Jayce Chiblow, the community engagement lead for Indigenous Climate Action, a Canadian organization that works for Indigenous-led climate justice solutions. But in doing so, she says many young Indigenous activists are experiencing the trauma of violence, getting arrested, and being taken away from their land. "All of our older people are supporting those youth: Elders, mentors, people trained in nonviolent action," Chiblow says. "The youth aren't alone."</p><p>That support can go a long way. "There's a lot of anger and a lot of fear, and that's understandable," says Wazer of Sunrise Connecticut. "I definitely feel those things, too, just considering the ways that our future has been threatened and kind of trashed by older generations."</p><p>Under the Trump administration, the number of environmental rollbacks alone can be disheartening, not to mention new <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/video/arctic-national-wildlife-refuge/" target="_blank">drilling permits in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge going up for auction</a>.</p><p>Wazer is frank about the risks of burnout, depression, and anxiety from the stress of it all, but draws inspiration from the example of the late U.S. representative and lifelong civil rights activist John Lewis. "That forgiveness and that ability to keep fighting and stay motivated … I think that that is something really powerful to learn from older generations."</p><p>An intergenerational approach can leverage the individual strengths of youth and older people in all their diversity.</p><p>"The elders hold our stories," says Chiblow, who is Anishinaabe from Garden River First Nation, Ontario. Those stories include lived experiences, culture, history, and generations of adapting to changes in climate. Such collective experience continues to inform Indigenous knowledge and connections to the land, as well as how people manage and govern themselves in relation to it. This knowledge is passed on through relationship-building and storytelling.</p><p>"Every time you hear that story, you're at a different point in your life, and you'll pick up something else … something new," Chiblow says.</p><p>Changes in perspectives that come with time and experience are among the reasons why intergenerational learning and coalitions are critical to the climate movement. To combine that living and learning is to expand the reach and meaning of the message exponentially. As part of her research for her master's degree, Chiblow brought together youth, community leaders, and knowledge keepers in her community to workshop climate action. "Those relationships are vital to keep that movement going," Chiblow says.</p>
The Unique Value Proposition of Elders<p>Older activists bring unique strengths to the table, according to gerontologist Mick Smyer, who designs strategies to move people from anxiety to action on climate. He calls himself "the aging whisperer to climate groups" and "the climate whisperer to aging groups." He is quick to point out that the learning can go in both directions.</p><p>"I think older adults are untapped resources," Smyer says. "Older adults bring several resources, one of which is their circles of influence. Just by virtue of having lived longer, older adults are going to have denser and richer networks," Smyer says. "The second is, when it comes to voting and civic engagement, older adults, as an age group, outperform all other age groups."</p><p>He uses the 2016 presidential election to illustrate his point: "The older age groups, 70% of them voted. Nobody [else] came close." He is cautious about making sweeping statements about older people broadly, but he says that ageism is alive and well. And that can deter the kind of collaboration that would beget necessary progress on climate action.</p><p>As the twin global patterns of an aging population and a changing climate continue arm in arm, Smyer says a good place for starting this work is within one's family.</p><p>"We each have that power to use in our circles of influence, particularly in our families, and we don't realize it," Smyer says. Whether it's via Zoom or FaceTime or a phone call or a chat in the living room, Smyer says, family members have a superpower: They will listen to each other, and they'll at least start the conversation.</p><p> "Intergenerational collaboration around climate issues, particularly in this election season, starts at home, and then goes to the polling booth," he says.</p>
Speaking the Same Language<p>As an individual's network of family, friends, and connections becomes wider and more diverse, the more work will need to be done to have them all working toward the same goals. That is equally true for the climate movement at large.</p><p>In bridging the gaps among baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials, Bullard says, "Each generation will have some idiosyncrasy and uniqueness about it that another generation will not understand or comprehend."</p><p>If everybody in a group or institution is similar, then there's no need to explain a lot, Bullard says. There's usually a fair amount of shared knowledge and values. But the more diverse that group gets, in age, race, gender, or culture, he says, the greater the potential for making mistakes, stepping on people's culture, and causing pain. But the potential for learning also increases exponentially.</p><p>Chiblow says successful collaboration comes down to being able to speak in shared concepts. The term "justice," for example, is an English word that's hard to translate into the Anishinaabe language. Chiblow says that because her community sees itself as belonging to the land, and being part of the land, the Anishinaabe worldview, and therefore their understanding of justice, is necessarily more holistic than the mainstream.</p><p>"Indigenous people have been feeling [the effects of climate change] for so long," Chiblow says. Today, as wildfires rage across the West, the mantra of "I can't breathe" is being driven home on a grand scale. For better and worse, climate justice is finally a front-page story.</p><p>"It's affecting the broader society," Chiblow says. "We're finally at the turning point where we could start to make real change because … people are really starting to feel that urgency."</p><p>The urgency will be tantamount in the coming election. A lot is at stake, says Chiblow: "Incentives, funding, all-around agreement, and also the way we're able to manage our lands and ourselves as people."</p><p>Bullard, too, is insistent on urgency. "This election is one of the most important elections of a generation, because there's so many things at stake," he says. "We can't wait another 40 years on climate. We don't have that much time. We don't have 40 years to get justice."</p><p>Issues of climate justice will be on the ballot in state and local elections this fall, such as Nevada's proposed renewable energy standards and Louisiana's proposed disaster funding. And the topic has finally made it onto the national stage. Joe Biden called Trump a "climate arsonist" for not acting on or even admitting that the wildfires in California are clearly climate-related. The frequency and intensity of such disasters is indisputable.</p><p>"Hurricanes don't swerve to avoid red states or blue states. Wildfires don't skip towns that voted a certain way," Biden <a href="https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/biden-address-west-coast-fires-confront-growing-threat/story?id=73000218" target="_blank">said in a speech on Sept. 14</a>. "The impacts of climate change don't pick and choose. That's because it's not a partisan phenomenon."</p><p>In many ways, the results of the upcoming elections will reflect the ways youth activists and older activists are able come to a common understanding of what climate justice means and what they want the future world to look like. </p><p>"There's a lot of knowledge built up in experience, and there's a lot of energy that's stored in young people," Bullard says. "When you put those two together, you have … an excellent recipe for potential success."</p>
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By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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