After lengthy private negotiations, a pro-fracking regulatory bill finally saw the light of day in the Illinois legislature last week. Unsurprisingly, it's being rushed through the legislature faster than a vampire escaping the first rays of morning sunshine.
Under the direction of Illinois Gov. Quinn, this bill, which will give rise to shale gas extraction of oil and gas in a state that has not yet seen large-scale fracking, had been crafted in the shadows for many months. But what has caught everyone in Springfield unawares is the equally swift and ferocious citizen opposition, which has arrived on the scene with a wooden stake and the fury of Van Helsing.
Four days of sit ins and arrests at Gov. Quinn’s office mark the rapidly growing momentum of the grassroots movement to stop fracking in Illinois. As an intense series of actions last week demonstrate a deep level of commitment among concerned citizens, the national spotlight turns toward Illinois and has captured the attention of powerful progressives, environmentalists and national anti-fracking forces.
"Residents in the areas targeted for fracking have been denied any meeting and any voice in the backdoor negotiations," said Dayna Conner, a Southern Illinois landowner and mother of three who was arrested for sitting in at Gov. Quinn’s office last Wednesday. "Gov. Quinn and Attorney General Madigan have negotiated away our health and well being to the gas industry for fracking that will devastate our homes and put our families at risk."
At the heart of the issue is the regulatory bill. Although the bill has half-hearted support from some environmental groups who argue that compromise regulation is better than none at all, the grassroots believe it will pave the way for widespread fracking in two-thirds of the state. They are stalwart in advocating for a moratorium on fracking and vow to ramp up their fight until fracking is stopped.
Pointing to serious inadequacies in the proposed regulations, they note that the bill was crafted with the participation of industry and legislators taking thousands in campaign contributions from fracking interests. The invitation-only meetings included no input from scientists and health professionals. Many downstate environmental leaders believe that residents and organizations in the areas of the state targeted for fracking would have agreed to far fewer compromises had they been included in negotiations.
Activists point to dangers from water contamination, air pollution and fracking in Illinois' active earthquake zones. They question whether fines will be large enough to deter violations, and doubt rules will be adequately enforced by a badly underfunded, understaffed department that's notoriously cozy with extracting industries. Several counties already passed anti-fracking ordinances, but the state bill would stop them from setting many local restrictions. With little or no scientific basis for the regulatory bill, they believe that Attorney General Madigan, Gov. Quinn and others who brokered the deal are sacrificing their communities for the oil and gas industry's hypnotizing promises of jobs and revenue.
Those arguments were the basis for escalating protests last week. Friday was the fourth day-long sit in at Gov. Quinn’s office as activists demanded a meeting with the governor to urge him to support a moratorium. They pointed to countless requests for a meeting over the previous 18 months and called this a last resort. The sit in on Thursday ended with three arrests as the Capitol building closed, with many more concerned citizens there in support throughout the day.
Springfield resident Melody Lamar was arrested Thursday and spoke to a rally Friday to deliver the message that Illinois politicians would be held responsible for what she called the inevitability of sick families, ruined farms and environmental devastation from fracking.
The sit ins and arrests began Tuesday after citizens packed the Illinois House Executive Committee’s hearing on the regulatory bill, demonstrating strong opposition and erupting in chants of “shame!” when it passed.
Joining residents from across the state in speaking against the bill were Academy Award-nominated Gasland filmmaker Josh Fox and Sandra Steingraber, PhD, a nationally acclaimed environmental health expert, biologist and author who grew up in Illinois. Steingraber testified that the proposed regulations failed to protect public health and the environment, and called the process for creating them "anti-scientific decision making."
Earlier in the week in Normal, IL, Josh Fox launched a grassroots tour for his sequel documentary, Gasland Part II, which comes out on HBO in July. More than 400 packed the theater, giving the film a long standing ovation and staying late to learn how to take action.
As grassroots groups such as Illinois People’s Action and Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing increase pressure for a moratorium, the national anti-fracking, environmental and progressive movements are focusing on Illinois. Actor, director and leading anti-fracking activist Mark Ruffalo was among those urging the state not to allow fracking, tweeting on Thursday that, "Fracking cannot be done safely, don't poison Illinoisans."
National environmental organization 350.org sent an email blast to their membership in Illinois on Thursday, joining the grassroots in targeting phone calls to Gov. Quinn and Attorney General Madigan. Other national organizations including CREDO Action, Greenpeace, Food & Water Watch, Breast Cancer Action, Center for Biological Diversity and Americans Against Fracking have previously weighed in.
After escalating action by the grassroots, both the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Sierra Club clarified their organizational positions on the compromise regulatory bill and the moratorium. Both note that the regulatory bill will not protect public health and the environment and that they would prefer a moratorium. The NRDC wrote last Monday, "make no mistake, there are still deficiencies and this bill won't make fracking safe." Sierra Club Illinois echoed the sentiment later that same day, writing that the new regulations "will not make fracking safe."
Yet, politicians and industry representatives have used the support of two national environmental groups for the regulatory bill to marginalize residents from fracking regions who continue fighting for a moratorium.
It’s clear that citizens want the regulatory bill laid to rest and that now no problem resulting from fracking will go unnoticed or unchallenged. The newly emboldened grassroots warn that the regulatory bill will not only spell disaster for Illinois but that it will come back to haunt those who created and supported it. As concerned citizens testified last Tuesday, they intend to hold those who paved the way for fracking Illinois responsible for every accident and every poisoned well. Given their increasing momentum—and agreement in the environmental and progressive community that the regulations are grounded in political expediency rather than science—elected officials would be wise to take heed.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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