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*Greens to participate in March 12 lobby day to support fracking moratorium bill (SB 1418)

Green Party leaders blasted Gov. Quinn’s claim, in his annual budget address, that hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — “is coming to Illinois,” as if it were inevitable, disrespecting the efforts of thousands of activists and concerned citizens struggling to prevent fracking operations here.

Quinn repeated the falsehood that a fracking bill now before the General Assembly (HB 2615) would create “the strongest environmental regulations in the nation,” and touted it as a jobs bill and source of revenue, with “the potential to create thousands of jobs in Downstate Illinois.”

“Illinois officials are promoting fracking as a solution to the state’s financial crisis, but this type of short-term thinking is what got us into the mess to start with,” said Illinois Green Party Secretary Vito Mastrangelo, one of a number of Green Party members in SAFE (Southern Illinoisans Against Fracturing Our Environment). “The government is desperate for the fracking revenue but does not account for all the costs: the increased medical costs from the adverse health effects – both short-term and long-term – that will result from the pollution of our air, water, and soil; the extraordinary wear and tear on infrastructure; the increased cost for scarce water in periods of drought; and the costs to clean up the soil and water contamination when (not if) it happens. And to frack in disregard of geologists’ warning of an overdue major earthquake in Southern Illinois is downright reckless.”

“Quinn sometimes likes to posture as being a ‘green’ governor, claiming to be supportive of environmental measures and clean energy,” added Illinois Green Party Vice Chair Gini Lester. “But in coming out in favor of fracking, and supposing that regulations can adequately protect our air, water and land, Quinn is ‘green’ only in the sense of ‘naive.’ With current technology, fracking is inherently unpredictable and unsafe. The only responsible course is to ban the practice, or at least enact a moratorium unless and until the energy corporations can demonstrate that all serious risks have been eliminated.”

While Quinn touts the proposed regulations as adequate to protect public and environmental health, his new budget cuts appropriations for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Along with SAFE, Illinois Greens support a moratorium in Illinois rather than the seriously flawed regulatory bill, and will be participating in a lobby day at the State Capitol on March 12th in support of a moratorium bill (SB 1418).

Illinois Greens also blasted Quinn’s budget proposal as a whole. Despite prior claims to be “the education governor,” his proposal imposes huge cuts in appropriations to public education, including every public university in the state. The basic theme of Quinn’s address was that the State’s ongoing pension crisis makes regrettable sacrifices necessary, and that, until pension reform is enacted, the best that can be done is to save some programs and accept painful cuts in others. Illinois Greens challenge this premise.

“Governor Quinn is correct in recognizing that the unfunded pension crisis is a millstone around the neck of our State government,” stated Illinois Green Party Chairperson Rich Whitney. “He even correctly acknowledged that one cause of the problem was the bi-partisan failure of past governors and General Assemblies to adequately fund the system. But now his only ‘solution’ – other than illusory gimmicks like more gambling – is to make educators, other public sector workers, retirees, students and all of us who depend on public services bear all the painful consequences. Short of outright union-busting, Quinn is the Democratic version of Scott Walker.”

“Quinn’s proposals are utterly reprehensible when you consider that there are common-sense public policy solutions to both the budget crisis and the pension crisis that neither the Democratic nor the Republican leadership see fit to mention. For example, another major cause of the pension crisis is Wall Street speculation, which led to a collapse in the trust funds in 2008. Yet we don’t make the big financial speculators pay their fair share of tax revenues. Working people pay sales taxes of 6 percent or more on necessary consumer goods. A much smaller tax on speculative trading could play a major role in restoring fiscal health to our state government.”

Whitney pointed out that a Speculation Sales Tax on trades at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board Options Exchange, of just $1 on every contract traded, would generate over $6 billion for the Illinois budget, based on trading volume in 2010 and 2011. The Illinois Green Party advocates other policies that could help balance the State’s budget and adequately fund its pension system, education and social services without imposing austerity on the people. These include instituting a fee-and-dividend system on greenhouse gas emissions, the creation of a state-administered public bank, and measures to make the Illinois tax system more progressive.

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