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Red Light Green Light: Sierra Club Says No to Fracking in New York, Yes to Fracking in Illinois

By Editor Filed in News February 27th, 2013 @ 7:00 pm

Last year, Sierra Club members were in an uproar after they found out that Chesapeake Energy had donated $25 million to Sierra Club and that Club President Michael Brune had misled membersabout the donations.


Brune vowed to turn over a new leaf.

Brune said that Sierra Club would not be taking any more natural gas industry money.

(They’re taking $50 million from the Bloomberg Foundation instead.)

Just this week, Sierra Club members got a mass e-mail from the Club’s Deb Nardone urging members to call the White House and tell President Obama to “stop the fracked natural gas rush.”

But Sierra Club members were taken aback again this week when news came from Illinois that Sierra Club was publicly joining hands with the natural gas industry and getting behind legislation that would green light fracking.

Problem is, the Illinois legislation is weaker than the New York legislation that Governor Andrew Cuomo has proposed and the environmental groups there have rejected.

(One example: The Illinois legislation allows fracking on state land, the New York legislation doesn’t.)

But more importantly, Sierra Club is now showing a hard red light in New York (moratorium) but flashing a green light in Illinois (regulation).

Sandra Steingraber, founder of New Yorkers Against Fracking, was born in Champaign and grew up in Tazewell County, Illinois.

“It’s unconscionable that the Sierra Club would conspire with industry to sell my beloved state of Illinois down the river,” Steingraber said. “Sierra Club has dealt us a bad hand.”

For the past four years, the Atlantic Chapter of Sierra Club has successfully pursued a moratorium on fracking in New York.

And Steingraber supports that position — for New York,  for her native Illinois and for the country.

Sierra Club insiders say there was heavy e-mail traffic yesterday blasting Brune for “talking out of both sides of his mouth.”

Former Sierra Club member Lisa Wright, who quit the Club last year after Brune misled her and other Sierra Club members about the $25 million from Chesapeake Energy to the group, wrote to Brune yesterday about the Illinois decision.

“Sierra Club’s role in fast-tracking fracking in Illinois is shameful,” Wright wrote to Brune. “Please save yourself the effort of defending your involvement with supporting the Illinois fracking bill as trying to help ‘protect’ anyone. You are plainly giving away Sierra Club’s seal of approval and trying to play both sides. The only rational response for an environmental group is to support a ban on this practice in areas where it is not already occurring, and to work to stop it where it is already occurring.”

“Deb Nardone’s email at this time is ridiculous,” Wright said. “Your Sierra Club wants us to tell Obama to stop fracking? Really? While Illinois frackers are in bed with you?”

“My advice, save yourself, and us, the cognitive disconnect and  just come clean as a fracking supporter. Go back to (Chesapeake CEO) Aubrey McClendon and ask his forgiveness for spurning him. Take his darn money — except now you may have heard that he hasn’t so much.  Still,  with Bloomberg’s money you may be able to hire even more Sierrans who can skillfully talk out of both sides of their mouths.”

“Apparently, the money tree is endless, so Sierra Club no longer needs any support from ordinary people like me.”

After learning last year of the $25 million from Chesapeake Energy to Sierra Club, Steingraber dumped Sierra Club in an article titled “Breaking Up with Sierra Club.”

This was no small matter.

In 1999, Sierra Magazine published a glowing review of Steingraber’s first book — Living Downstream — and called her “the new Rachel Carson.”

But no more.

“So, Sierra Club, call some other writer your new Rachel Carson,” she wrote last year. “I’ll be erasing your endorsement from my website.”

“I’m a downstate Illinois girl through and through,” Steingraber said yesterday.

“I know all the backroads between Rock Island and Paris, I’ve detassled half the corn in Tazewell County, and grew up on the east bluffs of the Illinois River.”

“And as a biologist who has studied the health effects of fracking for two years, this is what I want the  Illinois legislature to know: there is no such thing as safe fracking.”

“Here’s what I want the people of Illinois to know: don’t believe them when they say fracking is inevitable.”

“That’s what they told us in New York State, too, and we’ve kept it out for four years.”

“We are fighting for a ban, and we are fighting to win. Illinois, join us. You are bigger and better than fracking.”

“Your soil and your rivers and your underground aquifers of fresh water are worth so much more than the fossilized vapors in your rocks.”

“No regulations can prevent cement from cracking and well casings from leaking.”

“No regulations can keep methane from migrating through underground fissures and faults.”

“No regulations can keep formaldehyde and benzene from rising out out of boreholes or trucks from crashing or pit ponds from spilling.”

“Fracking is an accident-prone, carcinogen-dependent, climate-destroying enterprise that uses our land as its factory floor and turns our communities into industrial zones.”

“Wherever fracking goes, air is polluted, water is contaminated, roads clog with trucks, property values plummet, and people get sick.”

“The jobs that fracking provides are temporary and toxic. So is the gas.”

“Your children will be left with a shattered bedrock and toxic mess — by the time they are your age, there will be no jobs and no gas.”

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