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Fracking opponents take their fight to Chicago

Proposed rules weaken key provisions of law, activists say

By Julie Wernau, Chicago Tribune reporterNovember 29, 2013

Hundreds of miles from the shale oil of southern Illinois, nearly 300 people jammed into a hearing room in Chicago this week in an attempt to turn the tide against horizontal hydraulic fracturing.

“This is where the majority of the people are. This is where the majority of the legislators are. There is a lot of political weight in this area,” said Tabitha Tripp, who drove six hours from southern Illinois to speak for two minutes at a pre-hearing news conference.

Though the law regulating fracking passed months ago, opponents hope to pressure the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to strengthen proposed regulations that they believe significantly undercut the law or to reject the rules altogether, in effect, forcing a moratorium on fracking.

On Nov. 15, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources posted its proposed fracking rules, the beginning of a public comment period of more than 45 days. The agency must respond to every comment, hold hearings, hash out new draft regulations and send them to the committee, which has the final say over wording of rules. None of the members of that committee lives in the southern part of the state, where fracking is expected.

Less than two weeks after the proposed rules were posted, downstate anti-fracking groups mobilized so many people from the Chicago area that some had to stand outside. Many who attended the hearing at the University of Illinois at Chicago admitted never having traveled to the areas where fracking would occur but carried banners and hissed at lawmakers who passed the fracking law. Most were affiliated with large activist organizations like the Sierra Club and National People’s Action.

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