Sierra Club sends a strong message–fracking rules must be strengthed

IDNR legal staffer carting away our 3,515 comment letters.
IDNR legal staffer carting away our 3,515 comment letters.

Friday, January 3rd, marked the deadline to submit comments regarding draft rules governing the Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act. At 4:00 pm on Friday the Illinois Chapter’s comment letter along with the 3,515 comments you, our membership generated, were hand-delivered to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) in Springfield.

Sierra Club joined citizens and organizations from across the state calling for tougher measures to protect public health and the environment. IDNR received nearly 20,000 comments from a diverse group of faith, community, student and environmental groups that included Faith in Place, the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), Illinois Environmental Council (IEC), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Respiratory Health Association, Illinois People’s Action, Fair Economy Illinois, IIRON and IRON Student Network, and Food & Water Watch.

-1During the 50-day comment period five public hearings were held. And, despite the fact that many were held during the holiday season, approximately 1,000 citizens attended the public hearings. The overwhelming majority of attendees expressed serious concerns that the proposed rules do not reflect the minimum required by the regulatory Act, and will not provide the basic protections needed to protect the public and environment.

fracking pad and impoundmentHigh-volume horizontal fracturing, or “fracking,” is a dangerous practice that, unfortunately, is currently exempt from some of our most important federal environmental protections. This puts a great burden on states, and here in Illinois on the Department, to be the lead regulators of this dangerous practice.  The safest and best approach for Illinois would be to enact a moratorium on the practice so that we can learn more from other states’ experiences, and ongoing scientific and health research.  However, we realize that, if fracking is to occur in Illinois, we must adopt the strongest possible regulations to protect ourselves.  We view the new protections required by the Act not as the ultimate, or even sufficient regulations, but a bare minimum that should be strengthened over time.

IDNR will now review the comments it has received on the draft rules and will have the opportunity to offer revisions before unveiling final rules, which ultimately go before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) for final approval.

Given the grave risk fracking poses to Illinois, we need the strongest possible protections from IDNR. Illinois must also make it very clear that those who would bend or break the law would face severe penalties and fines, not a slap on the wrist. These rules need to be stronger, and the penalties for breaking them must be strict enough to punish those who would cut corners and jeopardize our water supply.

oil-drill-hiRather than rushing through the rule-making process, we urge the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to take the time needed to make sure the administrative rules provide the highest protection for the people and environment of Illinois. Our future and our families depend on it.

To stay informed please join the Sierra Club Fight Frack Team. You will receive timely updates on the fracking issue as it unfolds in Illinois, and be called upon when necessary to submit comments, attend public hearings, etc.