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Get the Frack out of Illinois – Chicago Independent |

“Get the Frack out of Illinois!” That was the title of Monday’s announcement by the consumer and environmental advocacy group Food & Water Watch. The organization has teamed up with other volunteers, local municipalities and county governments to ban the controversial oil and gas drilling technique. So far, fracking has been successfully opposed by cities and towns across the state. Now, their effort moves toward a state-wide ban.

Fracking in Illinois

Last week, the downstate home to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale became the latest local Illinois municipality to officially call on the state legislature to ban fracking. They join their neighbors in Carlyle, Anna, Alto Pass, Union and Jackson counties to call for a ban on the environmentally devastating drilling practice.

“In the last few weeks, rallies across Illinois brought together hundreds of people demanding a stop to the frack attack on our land and water. The oil and gas industry plans to spend millions leasing land in our state, but if we all speak out, it’s not too late to stop the enemy at our doorstep!” Food & Water Watch’s Midwest Organizer Jessica Fujan wrote in an email to supporters Monday, “Stand with us in demanding a halt to this fracking madness, and ask your state representative to pass a moratorium to keep fracking out of Illinois.”

Explaining further, Fujan says, “Without a moratorium, fracking could begin in Illinois any day. This dangerous drilling practice has ruined the lives of families across the country, and there is no reason we should expect fracking in Illinois to be any different.”

293 passed measures

Along with environmental groups like Greenpeace, Food & Water Watch has taken the lead in opposing the oil and gas industry’s use of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’. As the organization details on its website, ‘Within the past decade, technological advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have enabled the oil and gas industry to extract large quantities of oil and natural gas from shale formations in the United States. However, the practice has proven controversial. Pollution from modern drilling and fracking has caused widespread environmental and public health problems and created serious, long-term risks to underground water resources.’

While the drilling method known as fracking is well-known to residents in states where it is already widespread like Montana and the Dakotas, states in the nation’s farm belt like Illinois – the country’s number one producer of corn, pumpkins and a number of other agricultural necessities – are less familiar with the industrial practice and its aftermath.

Promoting the fact that no less than 293 legislative and municipal measures have been passed around the country against fracking, Food & Water Watch is stepping up the pressure to increase that number in the Land of Lincoln.

Hydraulic Fracturing – Fracking

‘Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing,’ Food & Water Watch explains on its website, ‘It’s an extremely water-intensive process where millions of gallons of fluid – typically a mix of water, sand, and chemicals, including ones known to cause cancer – are injected underground at high pressure to fracture the rock surrounding an oil or gas well. This fracking releases extra oil and/or gas from the rock, so it can flow into the well.’

One of the biggest red flags for skeptical residents is the lack of honest disclosure regarding the hazards and long-term dangers of hydraulic fracking. For instance, government officials, university professors and industry experts alike have all known and admitted since the 1960’s that fracking causes earthquakes. But a black-out among the news industry and denials from modern day oil and gas companies have all but buried that well-known fact.

Just ask the residents of Youngstown, Ohio. On Christmas Eve last year, they experienced a 4.0 magnitude earthquake. Just one week later, on New Years Eve, the state banned fracking at 5 different drilling sites. In doing so, Ohio officials refused to exclusively blame fracking for the natural disaster. But they also admitted that it may be the cause and was immediately halting the drilling to avoid future quakes.

As a result of the reminder that fracking causes earthquakes, Colorado legislators began raising the issue only days after the Youngstown Christmas Eve quake. “When you have an earthquake in an area that is not known to be earthquake-prone, certainly that gets people’s attention. There has been so much discussion about the fracking process. This sort of adds just another dimension,” said Colorado State Representative Su Ryden (D-Aurora), “Now, here’s something else we need to look at, that we need to be sure we’re dealing with in a proactive manner. A lot of conversations are going on to make sure what happened in Ohio doesn’t happen here.”

Read the article ‘States knew Fracking causes Earthquakes’ for more information.

Other studies have shown that the process of fracking has additional environmental consequences. While industry spokespeople and government officials emphatically deny it, residents near fracking sites have videotaped their kitchen faucets dispensing fire instead of water. Activists blame escaped natural gas for infiltrating the water supply in many regions with fracking mines.

Fracking ban in Illinois

Other negative side effects of fracking include deadly chemicals and waste water left-over from fracking saturating the land and water sheds surrounding the drilling operations. That, in Illinois, may be the biggest concern. The state is one of the nation’s largest producers of agricultural food products like corn and soybeans. Gambling with the nation’s food supply is what is causing many local Illinois counties and towns to explore a ban the environmentally harmful practice.

What chance does a state-wide ban have in Illinois? As of this month’s General Election, the state now has a Democratic Party super-majority. So the groundwork is set for a state ban. But when it comes to the power and wealth of the oil and gas industry, political affiliations usually go out the window. While Illinois’ Governor Pat Quinn is a staunch consumer advocate and a likely supporter of a fracking ban, Democratic leaders in the State Legislature like the Madigans and Cullertons are much more open to dealing with the business community, especially if there are patronage jobs and financial contributions in the mix.

It will be interesting to see if Food & Water Watch will be able to recruit any Representatives and Senators in Springfield to write and sponsor a Bill to ban fracking in the state. If they are successful, Illinois residents may be in for the battle of the legislative session. While the state is one of the most bankrupt in the nation right now and could use the additional revenue and jobs, the nation’s food supply may just be too important to gamble.

For those that have seen the after-effects of a fracking operation, they know that the landscape is often left a lifeless, colorless, swamp of poison. Changing South Dakota’s or Montana’s thousands of miles of unpopulated, barren wasteland into similarly unpopulated, barren wasteland is one thing. But the thought of transforming Illinois’ endless green fields of corn and soybeans into something that resembles the grayed, crater-filled surface of the moon, may be too much for Illinoisans to bear.

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