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7 Things You Need to Know About Illinois's New Fracking Rules

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In this age of climate destabilization, including record bouts of drought, flooding and severe storms in the heartland, it seems almost unreal that the Democrat-controlled state of Illinois is leading the charge for a fracking and coal mining rush.

And this week, as central and southern Illinois folks pick up the pieces from a horrific series of tornadoes, environmentalists and citizens groups are scurrying to respond to the unmitigated disaster of the state's newly released fracking rules.

"Behind the story you hear is the one I wish I could make you hear," my dear friend Dorothy Allison wrote in her book, Two or Three Things I Know For Sure.

While the news headlines now tell us that "environmentalists feel betrayed by proposed fracking rules," the truth is -- as one southern Illinois resident told me -- the "criticisms are peanuts compared to what environmentalists gave away to industry in the negotiations that led to the statute."

Two or three things we know for sure: Southern Illinoisans have a long, long, long history of betrayal over environmental and community rights issues. Still deeply entrenched in poverty and unemployment, southern Illinois has been plundered for two centuries by the logging industry for its forests, plundered by the coal industry for its coal reserves, and is now on pace to be plundered for its oil and gas reserves (after a similar oil rush in the 1940s).

"The four organizations who betrayed Southern Illinoisans on the fracking bill -- Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Faith in Place -- are now whining that the legislation which they so loved last Spring has putrefied by Winter," said Sam Stearns, a former oil rig worker, coal miner and long-time Shawnee National Forest activist in southern Illinois. "They might as well save their hand-wringing histrionics. We here in Southern Illinois have seen this show before."

Stearns added a quick history lesson:

It was the "professional" environmental organizations back in the 1970s who signed on to a watered down Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA). SMCRA paved the way for the abomination of mountaintop removal mining. Here in Southern Illinois in the 1980s it was the Sierra Club which signed an agreement with the U. S. Forest Service allowing for logging on tens of thousands of acres of our Shawnee National Forest. This logging has been stayed for a couple of decades now thanks to the efforts of grassroots environmental activists; but in the interim this same Sierra Club has acquiesced to other environmental degradation on the Shawnee, including commercial development of Wilderness areas and the application of synthetic chemicals in designated Natural Areas on the Shawnee.

And now, suddenly "betrayed" by Gov. Pat Quinn's Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), Chicago-based environmentalists like NRDC's Ann Alexander think the fracking regulations just "need fixing," to stem any concern about potential water contamination, earthquakes, air pollution, well abandonment and fracking.

Here are two or three more things we know for sure -- at least from environmentalists and citizens groups that live in the fracking-targeted region of southern Illinois, unlike those quoted in the various news articles:

1) Over the Next 40 Days, We Need to Bury the IDNR in Comments About the Loophole-Riddled Fracking Rule -- And Jump Start the Fracking Moratorium Movement: As Illinois native and renowned scientist Sandra Steingraber has admonished -- and done well in New York -- the only way to keep Illinois from fast-tracking the incredibly flawed rules into law is to bury the understaffed IDNR officials during the public comment period, who are required to respond.

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