Do you have some spare time over the holiday weekend? If you live in Illinois, I encourage you to spend that time talking to your state reps or taking a field trip to Springfield. What better way to celebrate Memorial Day than by participating in the democratic process and doing what you can to protect the people of Illinois from fracking?
Hydraulic fracturing, a.k.a. 'fracking', is a method used to extract natural gas by injecting a slurry of water, sand, and toxic chemicals into the ground at high pressure. There's already significant research on fracking indicating the many negative environmental, health, and economic impacts. The main purpose of bringing fracking to our region would be to benefit fossil fuel companies at the expense of local workers, local families, the local economy, local waters and lands, and the global climate. Therefore, like many people of conscience, I support a moratorium on fracking and encourage you to do the same.
A 1-2 year moratorium will allow the people of Illinois more time to review the evidence. It will also allow time for scientists in related fields to complete further research that is already underway. Even if you personally are not yet convinced that fracking is as risky as the activists say it is, this will give you more time to do your own research, hear from environmental groups, hear from scientists, and consider alternatives that can bring jobs to our region without as much risk to our health or our local waters and lands.
If you've been following the issue, you may have been confused or misled by the fact that some environmental groups actually supported this regulatory bill. The Illinois Environmental Council and almost all of their member organizations initially supported the bill because they believed that fracking was inevitable and wanted to be sure that there was at least some form of regulation.
However, their support for this bill is a green light to the fracking industry. So far, this form of fracking hasn't come to Illinois because there is no clear regulation governing how it can legally be conducted. The bill currently under discussion would provide regulation which is in many ways very favorable to the fossil fuel industry, thus inviting them to begin fracking as soon as possible.
Luckily, support for the bill is eroding. Grassroots groups like Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment (SAVE) already oppose the bill. Activists like Sandra Steingraber have presented strong arguments against the bill. I've also heard early reports from my activist friends currently in Springfield that the Sierra Club and the National Resource Defense Council have withdrawn their support for the bill, instead favoring a moratorium. Hopefully, other organizations will follow suit.
Regardless of what the "Big Green" groups do, the choice is ultimately in your hands. If you live in Illinois, your representatives in state government are there to serve your interests and respond to your concerns. If you have concerns about fracking, let your representatives know by giving them a call, sending them an email, visiting them in Springfield, or all of the above.
If they don't hear from us, or only hear from a few of us, they will assume that this isn't an important issue for the people of Illinois. But if they suddenly hear from a lot of us, they will know our concerns and may even respond to them, if only to save face.
If you live in Southern Illinois and support a moratorium, it's especially important for you to contact your representatives. Proponents of fracking claim that everyone in Southern Illinois is in favor of fracking because it will (supposedly) provide jobs. That is simply not true. There are many people in Southern Illinois who care more about the health and well-being of their families and neighbors than they do about empty promises from fossil fuel companies.
Tell the folks in Springfield that you support a moratorium. Call your state representative and senator at 217-782-2000. If you want to go the extra mile, there are also a few other people in state government you can contact:
Speaker Madigan 217-782-5350
Senate President Cullerton 217-782-2728
Governor Quinn 312-814-2121 or 217-782-0244
Attorney General Lisa Madigan 312-814-3000 or 217-782-1090
Let them know that you support a moratorium. By supporting a moratorium, you will be protecting the health and well-being of families and communities in Southern Illinois. To me, that seems like a very fitting way to spend your Memorial Day weekend.