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Fracking opponents meet with Quinn aide

SPRINGFIELD — Several opponents of hydraulic fracturing Wednesday visited the office of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, bearing letters — and a train ticket to Pennsylvania.

Jeff Biggers, a southern Illinois native, historian and journalist who has written on the effects of coal mining, told hydraulic fracturing opponents outside Quinn’s Capitol office Wednesday that he had a train ticket for Quinn or for his aide, so that someone from the office could see first hand what high-volume hydraulic fracturing really does to communities.

Hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — is a process that uses high-pressure mixtures of water, sand or gravel and chemicals to crack rock formations to release oil and natural gas.

State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, is sponsoring a proposal to permit and regulate fracking in Illinois. Bradley has called the proposed fracking regulations “historic” and “the strongest regulations in the state of Illinois and in the history of the United States,” a potential model for the rest of the nation.

The proposal is one of a few issues the General Assembly is trying to address in the final days of its spring session, which ends Friday.

Earlier Wednesday, Biggers and southern Illinoisans Tabitha Tripp and Dayna Conner met with Raghav Murali, Quinn’s assistant chief of staff of legislative affairs, who testified last week in favor of the proposed legislative measure.

Biggers, whose family has lived in southern Illinois since 1805, joined fracturing opponents to try to persuade both Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan to change their minds and support a moratorium.

Opponents have been requesting a meeting with Quinn for months, and since a House hearing last week, some opponents have been sitting outside Quinn’s Capitol office, trying to catch his attention.

Both Biggers and Tripp were disappointed by their discussion with Murali.

Although fracking proponents claim it will bring jobs to Illinois, “I have just left a meeting with a governor’s aide who could not give me one projection of economic benefits,” Biggers said, “who could not tell me how many jobs there are per well. It was outrageous.”

“The governor has solely used the economic figures from the Chamber of Commerce,” Biggers said.

Instead, Biggers argued, Quinn, the attorney general and legislators should study data from states such as Pennsylvania — even visit in person.

“People in southern Illinois are looked at as expendable,” Tripp said, “like it is OK to make us a sacrifice zone because we have already been.”

A spokesman for Quinn said the governor still favors the proposed fracking regulations.

The legislation is Senate Bill 1715.

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